Joe’s Picked A Hog In Rookie Camp

April 30th, 2009
He blocked for Shonn Greene and captained Iowas offense, center Rob Bruggeman is in Bucs camp as a free agent rookie.

He blocked for Shonn Greene and captained Iowa's offense, center Rob Bruggeman is in Bucs camp as a free agent rookie.

The annual list of rookie free agents coming to Bucs camp always has some intrigue. There’s always a diamond or two among them.

In the spirit of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, Joe has been handicapping the field of rookies for today’s kickoff of rookie mini-camp at One Buc Palace.

One guy with some good odds is Iowa Hawkeyes’ center Rob Bruggeman, a walk-on who later earned a scholarship and captained the Iowa offense his senior year in 2008.

A knee injury years ago made Bruggeman’s senior year his only healthy, full season at Iowa. He started every game in ’08, and was a 2nd team, all Big-10 selection and an academic all-American.

At 6-3, 290, Bruggeman’s a weight room fiend who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds at the combine. With experience in the zone blocking scheme run by Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, Bruggeman might just be a viable replacement for Sean Mahan, who served as center Jeff Faine’s backup last season.

Plus, Bruggeman’s got a fired up dad in Cedar Rapids who is certain his son will make the Bucs roster.

“Frankly, I’d be more surprised if he doesn’t make the roster than if he does,” said proud dad Chuck Bruggeman from his home on Wednesday night. (Yes, Joe hunts down sources at all hours.)

The elder Bruggeman said the Bucs talked to his son at the combine and “they acted like they wanted him.”

“I really think his experience in the zone blocking scheme in Iowa is a big reason.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a former offensive line coach with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, told The Gazette, in Iowa, that Bruggeman is better than guys he coached in the NFL who played nine or 10 years.

Rob Bruggeman told The Gazette that Bucs offensive line coach Pete Mangurian was the difference-maker for him in choosing the Bucs versus his many suitors in the free agent market.

Bruggeman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 293 pounds, fielded several calls from teams immediately following the draft. Bruggeman spoke with both head coach Raheem Morris and offensive line coach Pete Mangurian before picking Tampa Bay.

“I really liked their offensive line coach (Mangurian) when I was down at the combine, and I liked the way he handled himself, how he talked to me,” Bruggeman said. “He seemed like a guy with integrity. I really liked him. Their head coach seems like a guy I could really get along with, too. So it’s exciting to go down there and just have an opportunity to compete.”

Joe’s had enough playing real reporter for one day. The kid looks like a real player who flew a little under the radar, and second-tier centers are only drafted in the lower rounds anyway, especially one-year starters.

Joe gives Bruggeman a better than 50-50 shot at making the training camp roster.

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