Keith Tandy Prepares for Increased Role with Tampa Bay - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Keith Tandy Prepares for Increased Role with Tampa Bay

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MORGANTOWN -

Members of the West Virginia football team passed in and out of the doors to the Mountaineers' indoor practice facility in late June, working out in anticipation of the 2013 season. The faces streaming through the weight room were mostly those of players unproven, preparing themselves for a shot at an increased role when camp rolls around.

But one was quite familiar and accomplished and, well, not a current teammate to those around him.

Keith Tandy was back in Morgantown after celebrating former WVU walk-on Charlie Huffman's wedding in the southern part of the state earlier that week. The cornerback, who once starred on Mountaineer Field, has just wrapped up his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His offseason schedule gave him time to check in with his old staff and do work on his own body while he waits for year two in the NFL to really get going with training camp.

"I think it was just different. I didn't expect the way it was going to be," Tandy said of his first year with the Bucs. "The physical part was tougher. That's one reason I keep coming back to West Virginia. We've got a really tough strength program and it gets you to where you want to be."

Tampa Bay picked Tandy in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, joining WVU teammate Najee Goode as the two Mountaineers who Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, formerly of Rutgers, selected with his first draft class.

Almost immediately upon making it to Tampa, Tandy says the Bucs staff looked at his build and told him he would be abandoning his college position of cornerback and adopting a new way of playing and thinking as a safety for the team. Having played some safety in third down packages at WVU, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound defender felt prepared for what awaited him, though he knew the transition to the professional game would be a difficult one.

"The main thing I noticed is communication, especially when you're back there playing safety," Tandy says of the switch. You've got to communicate with everybody. You pretty much start our defense and you set the play up.

"You've got to alert guys to certain routes and certain formations, so it's a lot more communication at safety than at corner. I've noticed that my communication has gotten a lot better going into my second year and my head's not spinning as much, so the game's slowing down a little bit for me."

Learning his new job in the secondary was made easier with the help of an experienced safety like 16-year veteran Ronde Barber, who retired from football in May. One of the game's more respected players at his position who still managed to play at a high level after all of his time on the field had been an example to Tandy as he adapted on the fly.

Everything from the way Barber played the game to how he carried himself in meetings and how he operated in a cafeteria has helped Tandy in his transition.

"He's the ultimate professional," Tandy says of Barber. "You see him coming in with his briefcase, he's got rulers and different colored highlighters and he's highlighting things to stick together all this in green and all this in yellow. That's the way he carries himself. I eat with him at lunch, breakfast and I'm watching what he eats, how healthy he eats. He always jokes with me about how he can't eat hot dogs and hamburgers because they stick with him for days. The stuff about being a professional are the main things I learned from Ronde."

Now Tandy finds another veteran in his secondary after the team traded for one of the league's top cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis, in the offseason. The position battles have become more intense from what he experienced as a rookie, but he also anticipates playing a much bigger role in how they play out.

Tandy says he dressed for nine of the 16 games Tampa Bay played last season, appearing on each of the special teams units when he did so. Those duties will likely continue in year two, but he would prefer to find himself on the field in nickel packages as he works to position himself as a reliable part of the Bucs' secondary.

"We've got a lot of competition back there in the secondary, because they brought in new guys," says Tandy. "Right now, we're focusing on everybody competing, because competing raises everybody's game. Going into camp, it's going to be a competition, it's going to be a fight, but that'll make our team better."

Coach Schiano, like Tandy, enters his second season with the team. The former Mountaineer says there was plenty of banter back and forth between the longtime Rutgers coach and Tandy and Goode while the college schedule played out as Schiano harped on the last time the two teams played each other in the driving snow in Piscataway.

Having Goode, his college teammate and roommate, by his side, made the entire move to the NFL easier and more enjoyable.

"He's like my brother," Tandy says of Goode. "When times get tough and you're down there in that Tampa heat and it's tough in practice, we'd be our there tired and worn out and I'd look at him and he'd look at me, he'd be like, ‘Tighten up, boy.' And I'd be like, ‘All right, tighten up.' That gave us the extra motivation we needed to get through practice."

It gave them the extra motivation to get through the season and to look forward to another opportunity to be counted on as the Bucs look to improve heading into the fall. 

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