The player: Sabby Piscitelli, S, Oregon State University
The measurables: 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, 4.47 40-yard, 2.54 20-yard, 1.49 10-yard, 34-foot- 1/2 vertical, 10-foot-2 broad jump, 3.90 shuttle, 6.84 cone drill.
The resume: An all-Pac 10 first-team selection in 2006, and a two-time Pac 10 honorable mention selection in 2004 and 2005. NFL Draft Report named him the top safety prospect in the West in 2006. Was fourth on the Beavers last year with 64 tackles (44 solo) as a free safety. Allowed six receptions for 80 yards and no touchdowns, while also deflecting 12 passes, picking off five and covering 31. He finished with 15 career interceptions and reputation for making clutch plays at key moments.
Sabatino Carmine Piscitelli — or “Sabby” — had to go clear across the country to play college football. So karma smiled on him when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him in the second round (64th overall) in the NFL Draft.
Piscitelli is a Florida native, by way of Boca Raton High School. Few schools gave him even a look coming out of high school, as he played just two years of high school football. The Beavers were the only school in Division I willing to give him a chance.
“I just had to get my foot in the door and show the teams what I could do with my capabilities,” Piscitelli said. “I don’t regret it, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
If scouts ignored him in Boca Raton, they didn’t in Beaverton, Ore. Piscitelli’s senior year included two pass-breakups that stopped potential touchdowns in OSU’s upset victory over then No. 1 Southern Cal. That sort of game-breaking play earned him an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game in Houston.
That sort of season might not have happened his senior year, if not for simplifying his game.
“Last year I think I got myself in trouble by trying to do too much,” Pistcitelli told Beaverfootball.com’s A.C. Coleman. “This year I’m … focusing on doing my assignments and making my plays. When you start worrying about other things, that’s when you are going to get yourself in trouble.”
That attitude helped him earn a spot on the Thorpe and Nagurski award watch lists.
Growing up in Florida Piscitelli developed an appreciation for former Bucs safety John Lynch, now in Denver. He even went so far as to model his hard-hitting reputation after Lynch in high school.
I high school I played Cover 2,” Piscitelli said. “I kind of mimicked the Tampa 2. I always watched John Lynch play. He was one of my favorite safeties to play the game.”
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn’t compare to Piscitelli to Lynch on draft day. But it’s obvious he believes Piscitelli can step in soon and be a productive member of the secondary.
At the least, Gruden expects Piscitelli to be heard. As he and the rest of the coaching staff learned during the scouting process, he’s not shy.
“He’s not going to be a house mouse, that’s for sure,” Gruden said. “He’s going to be a guy that is very confident in his abilities. He loves to play; he loves to compete.
“He will hit you. He seems to enjoy it and he plays the game with speed. … He’s been a physical tackler and he’s intercepted and recovered a lot of balls. He’s an opportunistic guy that we need back there.”
Scouts made a big deal out of Piscitelli’s tackling acumen, or lack thereof. Gruden mentioned it on draft day. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said that after he did his homework, he wasn’t concerned.
“A lot of the guys (scouts), they look at a couple of tapes and they see the guy miss a tackle, and then they’ve got to figure out something bad to say about the kid,” Morris said. “The kid missed one tackle last year, or something like that, and it was a standout deal and they said he had a problem missing tackles. If you watch his highlights he’s out there banging people and some really nice form tackling.”
And Piscitelli doesn’t lack confidence.
“He’s a fired up guy and he’ll come here with a lot of energy,” Morris said. “He thinks he’s the best safety in the draft, and he should think that. Right now, he’s gonna be because I’m coaching him.”
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