After hitting it big on a pair of offensive linemen in 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went back to the draft to further bolster a unit that exceeded expectations last season.

Caleb Benenoch (6-foot-5, 305-pounds) comes to Tampa Bay via UCLA as a somewhat raw but versatile lineman experienced playing tackle and guard positions. Drafted in the fifth round, the Nigerian-born, Texas-raised rookie is beginning his NFL career in an ideal situation.

Tampa Bay took UCLA T Caleb Benenoch in the 5th roundTackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet were expected to prove their second-round draft selections quickly while joining an offensive line in shambles. Both delivered in impressive fashion, cracking the starting lineup out of the preseason. Combined with the late additions of center Joe Hawley and guard Gosder Cherilus, the O-line transformed itself into an asset after years of being a damaging liability.

Tampa Bay continued its mission of securing the trenches this offseason with a free-agent signing of veteran guard J.R. Sweezy prior to the draft. Now Benenoch is added to the mix and he has the opportunity to learn the ropes and develop behind a solid core group as he competes to make the active roster and compete for playing time.

Offensive line coach George Warhop included Benenoch in a group of offseason additions that will improve the unit’s productivity and depth while speaking to the media this spring.

“You know, I have to take my hat off to [general manager] Jason [Licht],” Warhop said. “We went and signed some free agent guys that are competitive guys. They’re just not guys who are taking up a roster spot, so it’ll be competitive and it’s up to them from that standpoint. But we just added guys that we thought would bring competition and be legitimate guys in the end, if they can develop. He just did a great job of adding good players.”

This year’s selection of Benenoch continues a trend of looking to the draft for offensive line help that can be traced back to Licht’s arrival in 2014. The Bucs made Benenoch their fifth lineman picked in the last three drafts, joining Smith and Marpet last year and Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile in 2014. That run comes after four straight years of ignoring collegiate linemen. The last O-lineman drafted by the Bucs prior to Edwards and Pamphile was Xavier Fulton in the fifth round in 2009.

Benenoch missed a little time this offseason to return to Los Angeles and earn his degree at UCLA. He returned in time for the Bucs’ three-day minicamp this month and couldn’t wait to get to work.

“I’m so excited. It’s been the most fun I’ve had in a while. I’m back to football, so I’m happy,” the 21-year-old said on the final day of minicamp, adding his frustration about a rule that required him to return to school rather than stay with his new team. “The crazy thing – I’ve learned more in these three days on the field than I did in the five weeks just going over it over the phone and stuff. That’s the biggest thing for me is just getting out here and getting to run the plays with the guys.

“That’s what the thing about this rule is, that it’s just so unfair having guys who get a job, who just want to live their dream out and [don’t] let them come out here and work with their teammates. So I’m glad I was able to pick it up as fast as I did out here on the field. Every day I got better, so I’m happy about that.”

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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scubog
scubog
5 years ago

What, no comments? Next time Eric should mention something about the player’s political views or his religious beliefs. That will sure open the floodgates.

Dbuc63
Dbuc63
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Love the humor!

johnnybuc1
johnnybuc1
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

LOL
Hate to say it, but after Scott’s Fab 5, you’re pretty much spot on.
I can’t wait until training camp starts!

inspecto
inspecto
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

scubog for starting this line of material say 3 Hail Marys and 1 Our Farther
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—–
Go Bucs !!

georgehicks
georgehicks
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Iam glad that this young man has a bright future for Tampa Bay with the future ahead of this young man-Go Bucs

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

I have no clue why this is even a rule, let alone why the NFL abides by it. I don’t believe any students in any other fields wait for their class to graduate before taking jobs. Even sillier when player is leaving school early.

jme0151
jme0151
5 years ago

You should be drafting OL and DL every draft. Licht knows this and will continue to fill the ranks.

johnnybuc1
johnnybuc1
Reply to  jme0151
5 years ago

This is true, if there are players you’ve got on your board, and you’re not reaching for them like the Falcons do every year.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

If it is meant to be, the young man will make the team.
All of this has been predetermined by God.
How am I doing?

johnnybuc1
johnnybuc1
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

LOL drdn

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

That’s the thing that used to always drive me nuts – when guys thank God for their sports team winning a championship, as if God ordained who would win. So what, God’s been a huge Pats fan for the last 15 years, and the one before that he was all about the Cowboys, and in the 80s he was a die hard Niners fan? What about all of the faithful followers of Christ that never won a championship? Did they just not DO it right? Was that it? — If God is real, I feel very confident in saying –… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

That a way to keep the comments momentum going my friend.

johnnybuc1
johnnybuc1
5 years ago

Good One.

jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

God bless everyone and may Jesus be with you

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

jongruden, may the light of Buddha’s smile shine on your life:) LMAO

e
e
5 years ago

Holy giblets! The old Bucs regime ignored the O-line for four years?? I guess that never caught my attention…

Iabucfan
Iabucfan
Reply to  e
5 years ago

Yea, I agree e. Amazing.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

I hope Benoch is in town working out with Jameis, Ali , Donovan. He needs to get use to the humidity as quickly as possible. Go Bucs!

WinstonMVP
WinstonMVP
5 years ago

Inspecto: lol

toofamiliar17: Most Christians thank God for the blessings in there life in all area’s you just hear them when there in front of a camera. Just trying to explain why it seems that way.
I love how Licht is building this team. GO BUCS!!!

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Wow, 17 comments about an obscure 6th round offensive lineman. Pretty good.

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scubog the cheer leader!!!

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Toofamiliar17, I have always thought the same thing. Actually, I have no problems with players expressing their faith momentarily, but when it goes overboard like with Tim Tebow, it gets annoying. If you want to proselytize, find a church and go to work or become a minister. But don’t try to shove your religion down my throat. When I watched Tebow it was like I was watching a football game and a revival meeting would break out. As for Gods favorite team, I always thought he was a closet Saints fan or didn’t you see that off sides kick to… Read more »

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

drdneast, it makes sense that God would favor the Saints:) Howevcer, there was a hole in the roof of the Cowboys stadium for a reason. I hate the cowboys as much as I love the Bucs.

JW4Lyf36
JW4Lyf36
5 years ago

Dang I didn’t know about no o-line picks for that long. Sheesh…go bucs!