TAMPA – One of the best things HBO’s Hard Knocks does is shed light on the personalities of players at the bottom of the depth chart. In Episode 1 of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, HBO did exactly that with third-team linebacker Riley Bullough.
Bullough is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Michigan State whose long scraggly hair makes him look a lot like Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. As it turns out, Bullough just might have some of Matthews leadership qualities as well.
In one of the more revealing segments of Tuesday’s debut episode, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is seen telling quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian before a position group meeting how impressed he is with Bullough’s knowledge and the fact he’s always talking on the field
“That guy is talking constantly,’’ Koetter tells Bajakian. “He knows everything. He’s always telling everyone around him what to do. When it’s dragging in our drills, he’s the one – he talks more than anybody in our linebacker drills. It’s impressive.’’
Koetter is then shown acknowledging Bullough’s leadership qualities during a team meeting.
“The best leaders of all time on the best teams of all time have not necessarily been the star players,’’ Koetter explains. “Many times, they come out of the glue guys. Now, I’m no trying to embarrass anybody but No. 49 here, Riley Bullough, that’s the third-team Mike (linebacker) on our depth chart right now, but he’s a pretty good leader. He’s a pretty good leader. You need to watch him sometime.’’
Bullough may be more than just a good leader. He’s shown in one drill sticking to rookie tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs first-round draft pick, like glue and breaking up a pass. It turns out he can sing a little bit as well. Certainly, he can sing better than rookie safety Justin Evans.
Evans is one of a couple of rookies who gets swept off the stage by custodian Doug Martin when they fail to meet the team’s vocal standards during part of the rookie hazing process. The highlight of that segment may be Canadian-bred tight end Antony Auclair singing the Canadian National Anthem – in French.
Hard Knocks also took us to the boyhood home of quarterback Jameis Winston and the Tampa homes of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and DeSean Jackson and gave us a peek at the challenges rookie running back Jeremy McNichols has had learning the playbook and proper blocking techniques.
McNichols, who calls Snoop Dogg for advice after a particularly tough day and is told that the “guy who knows the most plays the most,’’ has apparently earned the nickname McWeapon for his vast skill set. In Episode 1 of Hard Knocks, though, he just does a lot of McMessing up.