If it’s up to Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line coach George Warhop, nearly all his men in the trenches would have “OL” next to their rostered names as opposed to the position-specific “C” or “G” or “T.”
At least that’s the message the veteran O-line coach conveyed during a media session Thursday at One Buc Place when asked about the worth of players who can slide around the unit – notably backups.
“How valuable? I think it’s crazy valuable,” said Warhop, who also functions as the team’s run game coordinator.
Two linemen who can be expected to see time in camp at multiple positions are Kevin Pamphile and Caleb Benenoch.
Pamphile is entering his third pro season and Bucs fans are already familiar with seeing him play tackle and guard in addition to hearing No. 64 announced as an eligible receiver over the PA system at Raymond James Stadium in certain schematic packages.
Tampa Bay selected Benenoch out of UCLA in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft and Warhop said he’ll be handled in a similar fashion to Pamphile.
“[Pamphile’s] starting to figure out that the more you can do, the more value you have – not only to us but to other teams in the future,” Warhop said. “In this business you never know who you’re auditioning for and that’s the same with Caleb. He’s a guy that has flexibility. He already knew how to snap once he got here. They did that with him at UCLA, so it just gives us flexibility in the future getting the best five on the field.”
Bucs C Joe Hawley – Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Center is one position Warhop said he wants to have multiple linemen training at regularly. Joe Hawley, a 2015 early season pickup, will come to camp as the incumbent, but it’s a role that’s not completely locked down.
“We have Evan [Smith] and he’s right in the thick of it for the [starting] center position, too, but anybody who plays guard [will work at center],” Warhop said. “Any of our guards – they are all learning how to snap. Kevin Pamphile, Caleb can snap, Ali [Marpet] can snap, and the guys that haven’t been able to snap – who haven’t snapped yet – will learn to snap by the end of the year. That’s always a process. There are never enough guys who can pull the ball and most guys in college are undersized, so you have to develop your centers.
“At the end of the day we’ll probably have five guys that can snap. By the time we get through the preseason, once they become capable, you’ll see them all in the game at some point in time playing center.”
As it stands now, left tackle Donovan Smith, Hawley at center and guards Marpet and newcomer J.R. Sweezy have firm, but not guaranteed, grips on starting roles. Veterans Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus are frontrunners to start at right tackle.
Competing to fill out the depth chart are Pamphile, Benenoch, Evan Smith, Garrett Gilkey, Josh Allen, Ben Gottschalk, Dominique Robertson, Taylor Fallin, Kelby Johnson and Leonard Wester.