The Buccaneers added their first offensive player in the 2016 NFL Draft, selecting UCLA tackle Caleb Benenoch in the fifth round, No. 148 overall.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Nigerian-born lineman spent his first two seasons with the Bruins primarily at right tackle, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 as a sophomore while starting all 13 games. Benenoch showed his versatility during his junior year as he moved inside to guard for four games and proved good enough to get consideration at both positions at the next level. For the second year he started all 13 games in 2015, finishing as the team-leader with 35 consecutive starts.
Known more for his athleticism – a former youth soccer player – than his size and strength, Benenoch still managed 25 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine.
While the Bucs appear to have a promising left tackle in Donovan Smith, last year’s No. 34 pick, as well as the fact that Dirk Koetter already proclaimed Demar Dotson the starter on the right side, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tampa Bay was looking for depth along the offensive line.
Dotson, who turns 31 in October, suffered a bad knee injury last preseason that sidelined him through most of the year. And while Gosder Cherilus filled in well, he, too, is getting up there in age as he turns 32 before the season. Both veteran tackles are also in the final year of their contracts. The Bucs likely value Benenoch’s versatility and nimble feet in an offense that often features a swing tackle.
Shortly after his selection, Benenoch spoke to the Tampa Bay media over conference call and explained his unique beginning into football. When he first told his mother, also from Nigeria, that he wanted to play football she thought it meant soccer and said, ‘OK, I’ll sign you up.’ It started as a way for Benenoch to make friends but when the Division I offers started coming in, he was there to stay. Though he continued to play soccer in the offseason, explaining the quick feet and agility.
“I met with Coach Warhop (at the Combine) and he came up and worked me out, did floor work with me during the pre-draft process,” Benenoch said. “We had a good time so I’m happy I get to play for them.
“I think I could be just as good at either (guard or tackle). I played a lot of tackle in my career, so that’s where I have more experience, but they both come natural to me so I’m looking forward to going out there and playing football.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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