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Gerald McCoy has been waiting five long years to get the chance to play next to Roy Miller. Now that Tampa Bay made the junior defensive tackle from Oklahoma its first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, McCoy and Miller will have the chance to finish what they both thought they were going to start after their senior year of high school.
“When I first started getting recruited I would get on Rivals.com and Roy was the number five ranked defensive tackle,” McCoy said. “I was the number one guy, and even though he was a number five-ranked guy in high school, he was my favorite in the group. He’s very explosive and dynamic. He has some great highlights. I met him when we both went on a visit to the University of Oklahoma.”
The two defensive studs hit it off on their recruiting trip to Norman, Okla. and it was at that point that Miller deviated from the plan.
“He was originally supposed to come to Oklahoma,” McCoy said. “I was looking forward to it. Then when he flipped on us. My daddy and I were so mad. It was either going to be Miami, USC or Oklahoma. I said if he’s there and I went there – we’re going to do something good. Then he flipped on me. It’s cool. We’re going to get to play together now.
“I’m very excited. We always talk about it. He said, ‘Man, I never got to play with you.’ I said, ‘That’s because you were a fool and went to Texas!’ Ever since then we’ve been cool. He always gives me a hard time because his team beat my team a few more times [than I would care for]. We always stay close and he’s a very cool guy. We have a good relationship.”
Miller, who didn’t redshirt at Texas and was drafted by the Buccaneers in the third round a year ago, is thrilled to finally have the opportunity to team him with McCoy.
“To have the opportunity to finally play with him and build on our friendship is real special,” Miller said. “It feels good to be able to play with him because we had planned to play together during the recruiting process coming out of high school. We both have a great deal of respect for each other on and off the field, to be able to finally play with him is special.”
In an unselfish display of friendship, or perhaps a gesture to say, “Sorry for going to Texas instead of Oklahoma,” Miller offered up his number 93 jersey to McCoy, who wore that number during his Sooners career. Usually new players that want specific jersey numbers currently occupied by veterans have to negotiate and buy the number. Needless to say that Miller’s move really touched McCoy.
“My man Roy was generous enough to just give me the number,” McCoy said. “He just gave me the number, but I’m going to take care of Roy. I really appreciate that.”
Miller, who wore number 99 at Texas but can’t wear that number in Tampa Bay because it belonged to future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, doesn’t care what number he wears.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Miller said. “Number 93 was the number I was given, but I knew it would mean a lot more to Gerald to have that number so I just extended that to him. I just told him to take number 93 and he said, ‘Wow!’ That number doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to him. I think it means something for him to be able to carry that number with him from college to the NFL so I’m glad he has it again.”
Keep in mind that players from Texas and Oklahoma usually don’t get along due to the little thing called the Red River Rivalry, which is the annual Longhorns-Sooners match-up played in Dallas that has been going on for over 100 years. Texas holds a 59-40 advantage and has won four out of the last five. The only year McCoy’s Sooners claimed a victory over Miller’s Longhorns was in 2007 when McCoy was a redshirt freshman.
No longer on-field foes, Miller and McCoy’s rivalry will boil down to just one Saturday this fall now that they both represent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We’ve already started the little talk about the Red River Rivalry game,” Miller said. “Coach Will Muschamp, my defensive coordinator at Texas, told me to teach Gerald how to win down here in Tampa, so it’s already started!”
Not only is Miller unselfish about giving away his jersey number, but the second-year nose tackle has welcomed his new competition – second-round pick Brian Price – with open arms. Some young players, especially high draft picks like Miller, who is coming off a 54-tackle, two-sack in 2009, might feel disrespected with the team drafting a top-rated player to play the same position right after his rookie season. But that’s certainly not the way Miller feels.
“I’m a team guy,” Miller said. “Whoever is going to make this team better, we need Brian Price. He definitely has talent. Have you seen him play? Man, his talent is going to help us out a lot. I definitely want him on this team. I like the way he plays. I saw some highlights of him and I really like him as a player. He’s relentless. He’s a chaser. That’s what we need here. We are going to need several good tackles because it does get hot and we need a breather. There is so much talent on the line now. You have to be excited about that.”
Miller also knows that head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris likes to rotate his defensive tackles due to the Florida heat and humidity. That was certainly the case last year as Miller saw nearly as much playing time as veterans Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims did during his rookie season.
“We could use three tackles on the same front because we’ve done that before because of the heat,” Miller said. “It’s hot down here sometimes into November. Raheem can use us all in so many different ways. We even used a five-man front last year at times, especially against the Jets.”
The departure of the 32-year old Hovan, who was a three-year team captain, and 30-year old defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson has suddenly created a leadership void in the defensive line room at One Buc Place. Defensive end Stylez G. White is the only player over 30, but is not regarded as a leader.
Even though he is in his second year in Tampa Bay, Miller, who was a team captain at Texas in 2008, has emerged as a leader in the weight room during the offseason workouts. That’s what the Buccaneers expected when they drafted Miller last year. Leadership is also a big reason why the Bucs selected McCoy with the third overall pick in April and Price with the team’s first second-round selection.
“I believe that we have great players now and the kind of character that we have in guys like McCoy and Price, who looks like a hustler and a baller, we definitely have some great talent and character in our room,” Miller said. “Leadership starts up front with the big guys and then it can catch on fire and spread to other parts of the team. I’m definitely going to do my part to lead this team.”
Bucs director of college scouting Dennis Hickey revealed that one of Miller's best traits – aside from his strength and technique – is his team-first attitude.
“What you see [in Miller] is a guy that wants to win and understands the team concept and that it’s not about him,” Hickey said. “It’s about the team and I think we’ve brought in guys just like Roy Miller. Our experience with Roy Miller made us want to bring in more guys like Roy Miller, to be honest with you. He has the class, the unselfishness, the toughness, the grit, the determination you are looking for. We feel like that’s how you build championship teams and we needed more of those guys. It’s going to be great to have those guys feed off each other and compete with each other. They’ll make everyone better.”
• During his rookie season, Roy Miller added over 20 pounds to play in Jim Bates’ defensive scheme, which called on Tampa Bay’s defensive tackles to be big, bulky two-gap defenders. At the University of Texas, Miller played in a penetrating, one-gap style similar to Raheem Morris’ hybrid Tampa 2 scheme at 295 pounds. When Bates was demoted and Morris installed his defense after 10 games last year Miller was out of shape for that style of play and couldn’t move his hips like he could when he was a Longhorn. Miller has shed some of the excess weight this offseason and already feels quicker. “I weigh 309 right now,” Miller said. “That’s 16 pounds lighter than I was last year. I’ll probably lose another 10 pounds and see how that feels in the mini-camp and the OTAs. I guarantee you I’ll play better at a lighter weight.”
• With Dekoda Watson’s arrival via the draft, the Bucs might shuffle their linebacker corps a bit. Watson is expected to compete at Sam (strongside) linebacker this year along with Quincy Black and Angelo Crowell. The addition of the Florida State product could mean that the 246-pound Crowell might cross-train at middle linebacker as there is no starting-caliber backup behind Barrett Ruud at one of the most important positions on the defense. Currently Niko Koutovides and Lee Robinson serve as backups at the Mike (middle) linebacker spot.