Special-teams terror

Former Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy's chances to make the Tampa Bay Bucs' roster as an undrafted rookie free agent can be summed up in two words ... special teams.

Few teams in pro football emphasize special-teams play the way the Bucs do. Moreover, almost every linebacker on their roster excels in kick coverage. Check it out:

- Geno Hayes, a 6-1, 226-pound three-year man, started 13 games at weakside linebacker last season - recording 136 tackles and a team-high 14 tackles for loss - but enhanced his value by blocking two punts.

- Quincy Black, a 6-2, 227-pound four-year veteran, started 13 games at strongside linebacker last season but also starred on special teams, according to Buccaneers.com, the team's official website.

- Niko Koutouvides, a 6-2, 238-pound seven-year veteran, rarely contributed at linebacker but stayed on the payroll by notching a team-high 18 special-teams tackles.

- Adam Hayward, a 6-1, 240-pound four-year man, also provided limited help as a 'backer but contributed 15 special-teams stops.

- Rod Wilson, a 6-2, 230-pounder with four years of NFL experience, has posted 32 of his 44 career stops to date on special teams.

- In addition, Tampa Bay's linebacker corps features free-agent Jon Alston, who led the Oakland Raiders with 20 special-teams tackles in 2008.

Just about the only Buc 'backers who aren't considered special-teams demons are Angelo Crowell, a 6-1, 246-pound eight-year veteran, and Barrett Ruud, a 6-2, 241-pound six-year man.

Crowell started for the Buffalo Bills from 2005-2007 but missed the '08 and '09 seasons due to injury. Ruud, who recorded a mind-boggling 205 tackles as Tampa Bay's middle linebacker last season, is productive enough from scrimmage without providing a whole lot of help on special teams.

In addition to all of the players mentioned above, Tampa selected Florida State linebacker Dakoda Watson (6-1, 226) in Round 7 of the recent NFL Draft. A dynamic blitzer, he recorded 6 1/2 sacks for the Seminoles last fall.

The Bucs' linebacker prospects also include Lee Robinson (6-2, 256) and Matt Featherston (6-2, 253).

Robinson is a second-year player who spent most of his rookie season on the Tampa Bay practice squad. Featherston attended Texas A&M and, like McCoy, recently signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Given the glut of 'backer prospects and the obvious emphasis on special-teams play, Rico McCoy's best bet to make the Bucs' roster is to prove himself invaluable on kick and punt coverage.

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