Psyched for scouting combine Ravens look for balance between mental, physical in evaluating prospects

February 05, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Scouting has become one of the most intriguing sciences of pro football. It has come down to questions as bizarre as these: Would you prefer the study of war or art? Would you rather be a cat or a dog?

Psychological evaluations are valued as much as the physical workouts when it comes to finding pro football prospects. For four days beginning tomorrow, 34 members of the Ravens organization will evaluate 350 of the nation's top college football players at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

The NFL draft is April 19 and 20, and the Ravens have the No. 4 pick overall. Last year, the Ravens chose UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden with the fourth pick, and Ogden started all 16 games at left guard and eventually earned all-rookie honors in several national publications.

The Ravens are hoping to find another player of the caliber of Ogden or rookie linebacker Ray Lewis, who also was picked in the first round by the Ravens and finished as the team's leading tackler with 142.

"There was a time around the 1960s when the coaches did the scouting during the spring," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "But as the owners started investing more money into the players, more ways were created to cut down on mistakes in evaluating.

"Organizations now have whole scouting departments. You can get a copy of almost every game a player has played in college. The volumes of information has increased and a lot of it is computer-based."

The Ravens will look specifically for defensive help, especially at the outside linebacker/defensive end and cornerback positions. Ravens owner Art Modell has said he has been impressed with Florida State defensive end Peter Boulware.

But despite the large number of evaluations, Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said he and coach Ted Marchibroda will interview 15 to 20 prospects, some of whom may include outside linebackers James Farrior of Virginia, Jason Taylor of Akron and Canute Curtis of West Virginia; USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell; and cornerbacks Shawn Springs of Ohio State and Chris Canty of Kansas State.

Players are asked to participate in seven stages at the combine, consisting of agility and speed tests, IQ, physicals, body measurements, personal interviews, weightlifting and still photographs in shorts.

Under former coach Bill Belichick and personal director Mike Lombardi, the former Cleveland Browns used more of the scientific input, including psychological studies, to evaluate players. The Ravens will stray more from that course this season.

"When Ted was hired and Ozzie was elevated to his new position, the emphasis was put on finding good solid football players who also had a solid character and liked to play football," said Savage. "It's very simple and basic, yet it keeps you away from the height, weight and speed guys who haven't played up to potential, but also away from guys who have great character but can't play."

The Ravens are far ahead of last year's pace when they didn't know if the team was going to move, who was going to be their coach or if the scouts had a job for next season.

"Last year's combine was a blur," said Savage, whose scouting group went to the combine without Belichick or Lombardi. "But as of now, I think we've had some type of personal contact already with every player who is going to be at the combine. We get one more look, and usually after February, guys don't move up too much on the draft board.

"We've got the fourth pick, a chance to get a player that can make inroads on our team. The fall season is a pretty hectic time for us, but our ballgame is played on April 19 and 20. That's when we have to reach a consensus."

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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