COMMENTARY | It's no secret that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has an affinity for Rutgers Scarlet Knights. But the fact of the matter is that the college pipeline to Foxboro, Mass., extends beyond Piscataway, N.J.
New England's 90-man roster consists of two or more products from 19 schools. For some alumni, the connection back to the Patriots is not crystal clear. Yet for others, there's a definite admiration and correlation between coaching styles.
Which institutions made the list and which players are on it? Let's take a look.
Rutgers University: Eight
Belichick is close friends with former Rutgers and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. The two have continued to exchange players at the NFL level, and Schiano even spent time coaching Belichick's son Stephen, who walked onto the Scarlet Knights football team as a senior in 2011. The Patriots' Rutgers products include safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, defensive end Justin Francis, wide receiver Mark Harrison and offensive tackle Kevin Haslam.
University of Florida: Four
When current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was leading the way down in Gainesville, Belichick couldn't get himself enough Florida Gators. He drafted three in 2010 and signed another this offseason. The list includes linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hernandez and, of course, quarterback Tim Tebow.
Ohio State University: Three
Wideout Michael Jenkins and tight end Jake Ballard were Buckeyes during the Jim Tressel days. That said, Patriots safety and special teamer Nate Ebner caught the beginning of Urban Meyer's era in Columbus, Ohio. And with the good word of former Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel -- Ohio State's current defensive line coach -- Ebner is now in New England.
University of Illinois: Three
In 2012, the Patriots drafted under-the-radar free safety Tavon Wilson in Round 2. Then early on in the regular season, veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was signed as a free agent. And lastly, in 2013, the team nabbed another Fighting Illini via the draft in seventh-round defensive end Michael Buchanan. All three were once coached by Ron Zook.
University of Iowa: Three
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz served as offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns when Belichick was the head coach there in the early 1990s. Their kinship has netted the Patriots three Hawkeyes. The group includes linebackers A.J. Edds and Jeff Tarpinian as well as offensive tackle Markus Zusevics.
University of Arkansas: Two
The Patriots have drafted two Arkansas Razorbacks over the last three years. In 2011, that pick came in the form of quarterback Ryan Mallett. And in 2012, the selection was defensive end Jake Bequette. Both spent part of their collegiate tenure under the tutelage of Bobby Petrino.
University California: Two
New England used a second-round draft pick on running back Shane Vereen in 2011. Then this May, the team inked former Tennessee Titan and Cal Golden Bear wideout Lavelle Hawkins to a deal. Both were coached by Jeff Tedford, who visited the Belichick during OTAs in 2012 to discuss philosophies at the tight end position.
University Cincinnati: Two
The Patriots picked up two undrafted rookies this offseason. Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was signed in April and running back George Winn was signed this June. Both Thompkins and Winn were coached by Butch Jones. But unlike Thompkins, Winn was recruited and coached by Belichick confidant and current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly in 2008. Kelly recently visited Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium.
Fresno State University: Two
Interior offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell were both coached by Pat Hill at Fresno State. Prior to being the Bulldogs head coach, Hill was the tight end and offensive line coach under Belichick with the Browns.
University of Kansas: Two
Cornerback Aqib Talib and linebacker Mike Rivera were coached by former Kansas Jayhawks head coach Mark Mangino.
Kent State University: Two
Slot receiver Julian Edelman and offensive guard Josh Kline were both recruited and led by former Kent State head coach Doug Martin. Martin succeeded Dean Pees, who went on to become Patriots defensive coordinator in 2004.
University of Michigan: Two
Quarterback Tom Brady learned under the watchful eye of revered Michigan coach Lloyd Carr in the late 1990s. The only other current Patriots player to hail from Ann Arbor is punter Zoltan Mesko, who was a Wolverine during the final years of Carr's coaching career.
North Carolina State University: Two
Five-time Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson and undrafted offensive lineman R.J. Mattes both attended North Carolina State, but not the same coaching regimes.
Penn State University: Two
With former Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien leading the way for the Nittany Lions, it was no surprise to see two undrafted Penn State products sign pacts with the Patriots this April. The two to do so were cornerback Stephon Morris and center Matt Stankiewitch.
Purdue University: Two
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich and special teams linebacker Niko Koutouvides were both coached by Joe Tiller during their time with the Boilermakers in the early 2000s.
Syracuse University: Two
Patriots safety Steve Gregory attended Syracuse during the end of the Paul Pasqualoni era and the beginning of the Greg Robinson era. Later on, New England's 2012 first-round defensive end Chandler Jones attended Syracuse during the end of the Greg Robinson era on into the Doug Marrone era.
University of Tennessee: Two
For what it's worth, undrafted rookie fullback Ben Bartholomew and 2008 first-round linebacker Jerod Mayo were both brought into the Tennessee fold during Phillip Fulmer's time as head coach.
Texas Christian University: Two
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon was taken in Round 5 of the 2011 draft out of Texas Christian University. The Patriots added another Horned Frog this April in wide receiver Josh Boyce. Gary Patterson coached both Patriots draft selections.
University of Virginia: Two
The Patriots chose Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling with the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. A few months later, Cavaliers long snapper Danny Aiken signed on as an undrafted free agent. Dowling and Aiken began their college careers under head coach Al Groh. Both Belichick and Groh were New York Giants assistant coaches under Bill Parcells. The two went on to work together with the Browns, Patriots and New York Jets.
You can follow Oliver on Twitter@OliverBThomas.
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