UDFA Antony Auclair has Buccaneers GM Jason Licht and his coaches believing in his upside. So much so, the tight end that played his college ball in Canada has earned himself a spot on the 53 man roster.
Today is the day (Saturday, September 2nd) that NFL teams tell over 1,000 players they are not good enough to make their squad. Per Greg Auman, Tampa Bay Times Buccaneer beat reporter, Antony Auclair will not be among them.
Auclair played collegiate football north of the border with the Canadian football powerhouse Laval College. He’s considered to be more of a mauler while blocking at the point of attack rather than a technician. Auclair does have the speed get separation from linebackers in coverage, but the obvious jump in competition was going to be his biggest hurdle to overcome.
The Buccaneers got an extended look at Auclair during the draft process, when the 6’5″ 256 lbs tight end was invited to play in the East West Shrine Game. The college All-Star exhibition is played in St. Petersburg, just a short drive from Bucs headquarters. So their scouts and Jason Licht were able to get an up close look at Auclair against some of the best competition in the country.
Licht and company came away with a draftable grade for Auclair. Per NFL.comAntony was projected to be selected in round 5 or 6. When tight end OJ Howard fell to the Buccaneers in the 1st round all hopes for Auclair being drafted by Tampa went out the window. However, the Canadian went undrafted and Jason Licht moved quickly to get Auclair signed as a UDFA. The rest would be up to him.
Tough cut was the phrase being thrown around Buccaneers training camp when discussing this years tight end group. Back were three players that made last years club. Cameron Brate, who led the league in touchdown receptions for his position. Luke Stocker, the savvy vet who knows the offense inside and out and can block as well as any NFL guard. Alan Cross, was a UDFA a year ago, who made the team with his balance of run blocking and pass catching ability. Add in a top 10 player from the entire draft OJ Howard and Tevin Westbrook, who has spent the past two seasons on the practice squad learning head coach Dirk Koetter’s playbook. Antony had his worked cut out for him. It was most definitely going to be a tough cut.
As some of you may know I attended all of the Buccaneers open practices, minus Veterans Appreciation Day and I kept my eye on Auclair. To make a long story short as they say. Antony looked like a big physical tight end that played his college ball in Canada and was making a big jump up in competition, but he was putting in the work.
Several times I witnessed Auclair being told exactly where to lineup presnap. Either a step up on the line or being waved out further to the sideline by the quarterback. It wasn’t uncommon to see Koetter pull Auclair to the side after a rep and correct a minor route mistake. After practice Ryan Griffin could be seen walking Antony through some of the more intricate nuances of redzone route running.
Personally I never saw Antony Auclair flash, or have a stand out practice, but Jason Licht is always looking towards the future. With Luke Stocker getting up there in age and the Buccaneers planning to use the two tight end sets for the foreseeable future. Tampa will need a versatile player such as Auclair, that can block like an offensive lineman and get separation against NFL linebackers. Also with college football offenses’ being dominantly spread, good to very good blocking tight ends are becoming harder and harder to find.
Make no mistake Antony Auclair made the Bucs roster on hopeful potential not contributing ability. I think the Buccaneers keep five tight ends on this years roster, with only Tevin Westbrook not making the team. (Westbrook was cut yesterday) I don’t expect Auclair to be dressed for many games either. Showing up on the list of seven players that are inactive for every NFL game.
That being said Antony Auclair had the odds stacked severely against him. He faced them head on and overcame them to make his American dream come true. Hoe many of us can say the same.
Original Article by: Douglas O'Connor via the Pewter Plank