The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved quickly to sign Virginia Tech guard Sergio Render after he went undrafted. Render was told that he could compete immediately at backup guard. Render spoke with Pewter Report about going up against the best of college football and why he went undrafted.
After the Detroit Lions announced their decision to draft Mr. Irrelevant (Weber State wide receiver Tim Toone), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers front office moved quickly to bring in another targeted player. Virginia Tech guard Sergio Render was considered by many to be a mid-to-late round draft prospect, and many were surprised that Render was available as an undrafted free agent. After hearing what the Bucs had to say it was an easy decision about which team Render was going to sign with.
"They were the first team to call me," said Render. "After the seventh round. It was a good position because they were telling me they don't have backup guards, so it was a good fit for me. I was excited about it. I'm ready come down there and showcase my skills and show that I can play in the NFL."
After being a four-year starter at Virginia Tech and being named as a second-team All-ACC selection the past two seasons, it was unexpected to see Render not get drafted by a team.
"Honestly I was surprised, I've never had a major injury," Render said. "I was surprised when I fell to the sixth and seventh round, and beyond, but everything happens for a reason. I'm happy to be a Tampa Bay Buc. I just have to prove it now."
Before his senior year Render was moved to left guard after playing years at right guard, due to the position change Render said that his junior season was more productive. The position change took some getting used, and the transition kept him from maxing out in his senior season.
"I hadn't played left guard since I was a junior in high school and then had to switch to left guard in my senior year," said Render. "I had to adjust to it because it is a lot different going up against a three technique at right guard versus at left guard.
"Honestly I feel more at home at right guard. At left guard I still have a lot to learn. I can play it but I have a lot to learn to be a better player."
While Render feels more comfortable at right guard, the flexibility to play both is a big bonus for him with making the Bucs 53-man roster. Tampa Bay is set at starting right guard with Davin Joseph. At left guard Jeremy Zuttah is the starter, but he could face some competition if one of the backup competitors has a strong preseason. Render will be competing with Marc Dile for the backup guard spots after Tampa Bay cut Shawn Murphy and Arron Sears on Monday.
The Bucs offense runs some zone blocking schemes and some power man blocking schemes. Playing in a hybrid offense like Tampa Bay's won't be a problem for Render.
"It sounds very similar to what we did here at Tech," said Render. "We did a lot of power plays but also were a zone team. We were in zone since our early games, so I think I'll be a good fit."
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Render has a lot of power as a run blocker. The scouting reports on Render said that was the strength of his game. Perhaps Render could help the Bucs improve on the 23rd ranked rushing offense in the NFL if he is able to break into the lineup in 2009. One of the criticisms of Render was that he needed to improve on his pass blocking.
"I love to run block, and that is something I've always been good at," said Render. "I've had problems in pass protection sometimes so that is one of the main things that I want to work on."
One thing is for certain, after starting four years at Virginia Tech Render is battle-tested, especially considering he went up against some of the best defensive tackles in college football. LSU's Glenn Dorsey, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, and the Boston College duo of B.J. Raji and Ron Brace were some of the standouts that Render played against. The first three were top-10 picks over the last three drafts and Brace was a second-rounder.
"Dorsey I only went against for one series and then they put him on the other side," said Render. "Ndamukong Suh in my junior year I did all right with him. I split with him a little bit, and hit him pretty good. I watched a lot of film of others that played against him, and I think I did one of the best jobs against him. My senior year we played against him and I was at left guard and he was over the right guard."
Render held Suh without a sack in the game in 2008, while Suh had a total of six tackles with a tackle for a loss. Suh wasn't the only one to be held without a sack. Render shut out Raji and Brace in his junior season.
"One of my best games was against Boston College my junior year when I went against B.J. Raji and Ron Brace," said Render. "My junior year was my best season. Raji was a great player and he could move. Brace couldn't move as well as Raji, but he was strong, powerful, and tough on the run game."
Preparing to play Dorsey provided a Render with a model for success that he used later when he played against Suh and the Boston College tackles.
"I tried to pattern my game after Ben Grubbs," said Render. "My sophomore year when I was preparing to block Glenn Dorsey, I watched a lot of film of Ben Grubbs when Auburn played LSU. He was a great player and I try to pattern my game off his."
Grubbs was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 NFL Draft, and has started 44 of 48 games since entering the league. One thing that will help Render get acclimated to the Buccaneers is having two familiar faces in camp with him. Tampa Bay drafted Virginia Tech punter Brent Bowden and safety Cody Grimm late in the 2010 draft.
"I'm real excited. Cody is one of my fishing buddies," Render said. "To have him there and someone to talk to, and help motivate each other and hustle in practice is a blessing.
"Brent and Cody their work ethic is great, and they're good guys. For Cody Grimm, somebody his size in college playing linebacker, you look at his stats and they are better than half of the guys who went in front of him. Cody is a great player. He makes a lot of plays and has a nose for the ball."
Considering the departure of Sears and Murphy, Tampa Bay is planning on Render having an early impact in making plays blocking for the ball carrier.
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