Bucs running back Jeremy McNichols out to forge own identity

Running back Jeremy McNichols put up similar numbers to Doug Martin at Boise State. Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA, Fla. -- They both played the same position on the big blue field at Boise State and are now members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But don't confuse rookie Jeremy McNichols with Doug Martin. The fifth-round draft pick is out to create his own identity at the next level, not emulate the two-time Pro Bowl running back.

"I want you guys to look at me as Jeremy McNichols. But of course everyone is gonna compare the numbers and the height, the weight, things like that, same school, so I really don't get bothered by that," McNichols said. "I feel like me and him are different and the same on certain levels.'"

McNichols is 5-foot-9 and 214 pounds. Martin is also 5-foot-9 and weighs 223 pounds. They both have thick, powerful builds, although Martin's legs are rounder and have more bulk. Martin also runs low to the ground.

Their numbers are strikingly similar.

In four years at Boise State, Martin rushed for 3,431 yards on 617 carries (5.6 average) with 43 rushing touchdowns. In three years, McNichols rushed for 3,205 yards and 44 touchdowns on 571 carries (also with a 5.6 average).

"What strikes us the most or what jumps out at you the most is his ability on third down and in the receiving game," general manager Jason Licht said of McNichols. "But he is a good runner, too."

Martin had 67 catches for 715 receiving yards and four touchdowns in college. McNichols, a former receiver in high school who played the position for a year in college, finished his Boise State career with 103 catches for 1,089 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

"I'm pretty confident in catching," McNichols said. "I think me playing receiver really helped me to transition to running back, just because I feel like I can line up anywhere on the field and have an impact."

His other strength is pass protection, something most rookies struggle with coming out of college. That stood out to Licht and his staff.

"He’s a really good pass protector," Licht said. "He was one of the best pass protectors in the draft from that position."

Do the Bucs believe McNichols could blossom into an every-down back like Martin?

"On film, he’s got excellent hands, just rare hands," Licht said. "He’s a very well-rounded guy, runs well -- he’s got three-down value."

For right now though, McNichols is focused on learning the playbook and healing a torn labrum in his shoulder. He underwent surgery shortly after the NFL combine, sidelining him for Bucs rookie camp.

McNichols' timetable is four months, and he hopes to be ready by training camp. Then he'll have to compete for a roster spot with Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber.