Adjusting to NFL & Extending RU OL Tradition

Former Rutgers standout offensive tackle Jeremy Zuttah, a four-year starter at RU, is making an impact in his first year of pro football. The native of Edison, N.J., was selected in the third round (83rd overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of last April's college entry draft and has quickly adjusted to the fast-paced National Football League game.

"This is the reason you play football all these years. You have aspirations of playing on this level," said Zuttah in a telephone interview with "So far the adjustment to the NFL life is going pretty good. It's a new playbook and new schemes."

The Bucs targeted the 6-foot-4, 303-pound lineman as a versatile player and immediately went to work moving Zuttah from his college offensive tackle position to his more natural guard and center. Switching back to interior line hasn't been difficult for Zuttah, who played every offensive line position at Rutgers.

"I'm just getting back to being comfortable playing in a confined area," said Zuttah on the difference between tackle and guard. "

The product of Edison's JP Stevens High School is currently second on the depth chart at right guard behind third-year guard Davin Joseph out of Oklahoma. Zuttah has appeared in each game except for Tampa Bay's 16-13 loss to Denver Oct. 5 and started four games heading into the Bucs' Oct. 19 game against Seattle at Raymond James Stadium. As of this filing either Zuttah or Arron Sears will start at left guard.

While he is beginning to make a name for himself with the Bucs, Zuttah said he is learning plenty from veteran players on the squad.

"I learn from just about everyone. They just try to harp on you about the little things," said Zuttah, referring to the quest for perfection on the pro level. "A great player on this level knows his strengths."

It also helps as a professional lineman to know areas where you need to improve because other teams are going to pick

"It's always a work in progress. You always find details in your game to improve," said Zuttah, who is enjoying life in sun-drenched Tampa. "Up here they always exploit the littlest weaknesses."

Zuttah said he has had to undergo his share of rookie hazing by his teammates, but he didn't say that he had to do anything out of the ordinary. He was expected to pick up the tab at dinner, but he did not tip his hat as to whether he was taped to the goalposts or any other such activities that are rumored to occur in NFL training camps.

The transition was made easier by some professional schemes that Rutgers ran on the offensive line, and Zuttah credits line coach Kyle Flood for preparing him and his teammates for the next level. He also said playing for a head coach like Greg Schiano has eased the transition to Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden's intensity.

"They demand a certain level of attention to detail, and they are very similar," said Zuttah. "It wasn't too hard to make that adjustment."

Tampa Bay is off to a hot start and leads the NFC South with a 4-2 record, including a 27-3 victory against Carolina last Sunday. Zuttah is contributing to the Bucs' success, but he is one of several former Rutgers linemen who are garnering significant playing time in the NFL. Center Shaun O'Hara captained a New York Giants offensive line to a Super Bowl victory last season, and Darnell Stapleton has moved into the starting slot at right guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Zuttah sees a definite trend of Rutgers gaining a reputation for turning out professional-caliber offensive linemen, including players on the current squad.

"I think it's something that Shaun started," said Zuttah. "There are a couple of players down the line that have the offensive talent to come along. With an offensive line coach like Kyle Flood, they'll keep improving."

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