Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: The Times if Israel

FSM Presents: Zo Huddle – Super Bowl LV Will Feature Key Players Who Were Once Under Recruited – Pt. 3


Franchise Sports Media


Part three: The Zo Huddle finds the Tampa Bay offensive players who at one time fell into the category of being under-recruited or undrafted but are now considered an unsung hero of this Super Bowl LV pursuit. Two starters on this Buccaneer offense can remind folks it’s OK to attend a non-NCAA Division I program…


You often hear the attitude “D-1 or bust” from numerous recruits and their parents the moment they taste college football recruiting.

Let the Buccaneers offensive line show that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not making it to a D-1…

Because for three Bucs players, they thrived at a Division II or III before protecting Tom Brady.

Those guys along with other key offensive reserves spearhead part three of this Zo Huddle series: The Bucs players who were also under-recruited or undrafted but have made a significant impact on the 2020-21 NFC Champs:


Ali Marpet, left guard


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Bucs Nation

How it started: Unrated by any recruiting services and un-offered by Division I and II programs

Somewhere in the middle: Played at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a D3 in Geneva (N.Y)

How it’s going: Six-year veteran who didn’t allow a sack in 849 snaps this season

The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Marpet will now join the likes of Pierre Garcon (Mount Union) and London Fletcher (John Carroll) as D3 standouts who will play in a Super Bowl.

Reportedly, part of Marpet’s reasoning for his quiet recruitment out of Hastings-On-Hudson (N.Y) was his lack of size, as he was measured at 250-pounds out of high school. Marpet, though, went on to become a D3 All-American and received an invite to the 2015 Senior Bowl. He didn’t allow a single sack during his final year at Hobart while manning left tackle.

Bear in mind, Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but reward prospecting prospects with a financial aid package for academic reasons that can help pay for their schooling. Hobart was the only reported school that took an interest in Marpet.

Since then, he’s worked his way to an NFL second round draft selection and is one of the league’s best pass blockers. But he’s not the only standout offensive linemen on the Bucs who thrived at a non-FBS/FCS program…


Ryan Jensen, center


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Pewter Report

How it started: Unrated by recruiting services and un-recruited by FBS/FCS programs

Somewhere in the middle: Colorado State University-Pueblo

How it’s going: Seven-year veteran who has allowed only five sacks in last 35 games played, plus played 1,061 snaps this season

Like Marpet, Jensen was considered undersized out of Fort Morgan (Col.).

But at CSU Pueblo, he went on to become a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award his senior season – which honors the best lineman in DII.

Jensen then became a sixth-round choice by the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. He’s since been lauded for his leadership and pass protecting prowess.

The lineman of Danish descent grew up not even two hours away from FBS programs Colorado and Colorado State, plus was an hour and a half drive from FCS program Northern Colorado. Yet, Jensen has since helped create a rare NFL and Super Bowl pipeline for the Thunderwolves.


Alex Cappa, right guard


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Bucs Nation

How it started: Unranked by recruiting services and un-offered by FBS and FCS programs

Somewhere in the middle: Played at Humboldt State

How it’s going: Became a high third round selection by the Bucs and became a starter on the line

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Cappa isn’t expected to suit up on Feb. 7 after being placed on injured reserve. Yet, he plays a big part in the Bucs’ trench success when healthy.

In fact, he was lauded by Bucs fans and football pundits for his mean streak – and was regarded as the top tone setter in the offensive line.

Before the Bucs, Cappa was a four-time Great Northwest American Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year winner. He, too, was a Gene Upshaw Award finalist in his last season of college football. Coming out of Dublin High in California’s Tri-Valley, Cappa originally starred on the defensive line before moving to offensive tackle – where he became a First Team Selection in the All-Diablo Foothill Athletic League.

Unfortunately, the Lumberjacks football program shuttered in 2018 due to budget issues. But Cappa has become the last NFL representative of HSU.


Aaron Stinnie, right guard  


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: The Daily Progress

How it started: Unranked recruit and un-offered by FBS programs

Somewhere in the middle: James Madison University

How it’s going: Hasn’t surrendered a sack in last 30 snaps

The Bucs are 2-0 when Stinnie starts on the O-line.

And it just so happens those wins came against the Saints and Packers in the NFC playoffs.

The 6-foot-3, 312-pounder has kept Tampa Bay’s pass blocking momentum going. He recently had to pick up blitzes against a Packers defense that brought an array of pressure from their linebackers.

Before starting for the Bucs, Stinnie was an undrafted free agent picked up by the Tennessee Titans. He’s since provided valuable depth.

Not bad for the Charlottesville (Va.) native who wasn’t offered by hometown school Virginia or rival Virginia Tech – and his only reported offer came from the FCS power James Madison.


Cameron Brate, tight end


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

How it started: Two-star by recruiting services with only two DI opportunities

Somewhere in the middle: Harvard

How it’s going: 223 career receptions for 2,438 yards and 29 touchdowns in a seven-year career

For a guy who splits TE duties with a future Hall of Famer in Rob Gronkowski, Brate is still highly thought of in the Bucs’ offense.

In fact, of his 34 targets this season, Brate has hauled in 28 catches – meaning he has caught 82.35% of the passes Brady flings to him. Most recently, he zipped past two Green Bay defenders who originally read the run for the wide open 8-yard TD reception that put the Bucs up 28-10.

Brate told the Boston Globe on Jan. 14 that he once idolized “Gronk.” Now he forms a hard-to-cover TE tandem with him.

And to stay with our current theme of the under-recruited and undrafted, Brate only received two four-year opportunities from Northern Illinois and Harvard (Ivy Leagues only offer an academic financial aid agreement for prospecting student-athletes) and the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder went undrafted in 2014.


Justin Watson, wide receiver


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How it started: Three-star by 247Sports with two FCS opportunities

Somewhere in the middle: University of Pennsylvania (Penn)

How it’s going: 23 catches, 258 yards, two touchdowns in 39 games played

When called upon, Watson adds a tall possession target dimension for Brady and the Bucs.

And he’ll join Brate as the only Ivy League representatives in the big game.

After starring at South Fayette Bridgeville (Pa.), The 6-foot-3 Watson only heard from nearby U of Penn and Bucknell University, ultimately choosing the former.

And he went on to rewrite the receiving record books at Penn – shattering school records in receiving yards, in receptions and single-season receptions. His last two seasons with the Quakers saw back-to-back 80-catch seasons. The Bucs drafted him in the fifth round in 2018 and will be involved in the wideout rotation with this blazer…


Scotty Miller, slot wide receiver


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How it started: Two-star by 247Sports with one FBS offer

Somewhere in the middle: Bowling Green

How it’s going: 46 catches, 701 yards and four touchdowns in the first 26 games

From relative unknown out of the MAC to a Julian Edelman-type target for Brady, Miller is the latest MAC WR representative to win over the six-time Super Bowl champion.

And Miller’s reported 4.3 40-yard dash time came in handy toward halftime in the NFC championship game.

Before becoming beloved by the Bucs’ brass, Miller became one of the most decorated Falcon wideouts of all-time with 215 career receptions, 2,867 yards and 23 touchdowns. In 2018, his final season at BGU began with producing season highs of 13 catches, 166 yards and two touchdowns against nationally ranked Oregon. He also caught 10 catches for 117 yards against another Power 5 program in Georgia Tech.

The former two-star and sixth rounder will now be counted on to provide the deep element against the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. He’s already caught the defending champs’ attention by saying he can beat Tyreek Hill in a foot race.


Next week: Zo Huddle takes a glimpse at the Chief offensive players who were either unranked, under-recruited, undrafted but are now the unsung cornerstones of their pursuit of back-to-back titles.


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Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: @LJ_Reyna


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