Getting a Bucs shot

The capability of playing two positions doubles a guy's chances of making an NFL roster, and one former Tennessee Vol is banking on that.

DeAngelo Willingham started eight games at cornerback in 2007 and all 12 in '08. After being overlooked in the recent NFL Draft, he signed a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Bucs. His best bet to make the team is as a guy capable of contributing as a safety, a cornerback or a nickel back.

Willingham played almost exclusively cornerback at junior college and at UT but has the size (6-0, 200 pounds), strength and toughness to play some safety in the pro ranks. In fact, it's probably his best position.

Tampa Bay has three safeties with starting experience. Three-year pro Tanard Jackson has started every game since joining the Bucs two years ago. Eight-year veteran Jeremaine Phillips has 71 career starts and third-year pro Sabby Piscitelli started five games in '08.

Other veteran safeties competing for spots on the Buc roster are five-year pro Will Allen and three-year man Donte Nicholson. Both excel on special teams, increasing their value.

Tampa Bay selected a safety in the recent NFL Draft but waited until Round 7 to peg Western Michigan's E.J. Biggers. The Bucs also signed Georgia safety C.J. Byrd as an undrafted free agent.

Tampa Bay has a glut of cornerback candidates, as well. The best are Ronde Barber and Agib Talib. Barber is a 13-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl participant. Talib, the team's No. 1 draft pick a year ago, started two games last season and registered a team-leading four interceptions.

The other cornerback prospects are a nondescript bunch – Greg Fassitt, Kyle Arrington, Torrie Cox and Elbert Mack. Fassitt spent 2007 on the Bears' practice squad and 2008 on the Bucs' practice squad. Arrington was signed as an undrafted free agent but didn't play last fall. Cox is a seven-year pro who contributes more as a kickoff return man (22.8-yard average last season) than as a defender. Mack recorded 8 tackles and a pass breakup as a rookie last season.

The Bucs didn't draft a cornerback this year but signed Florida International's Marshall McDuffie as an undrafted free agent.

Bottom line: If Willingham can show the versatility to contribute at both corner and safety, he just might show up on the Bucs' Game 1 roster.

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