Prude picks off key spot on Ravens' `D'

Undrafted rookie from LSU third on team with 2 INTs

November 04, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

At some point a few months ago - Ronnie Prude doesn't remember exactly when - he discovered that he was no longer at LSU and that he was no longer the Big Man on Campus.

That realization stung. A lot.

Prude, who was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of LSU, found himself fifth on the depth chart behind cornerbacks Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Corey Ivy and Evan Oglesby. It was an unfamiliar position.

"Coming up in college, I always wanted to be the guy that people could count on to go out and make plays," Prude said. "When I came in, I had a chip on my shoulder to show people that I could be a great ballplayer and was going to be a great ballplayer."

Although his career is just beginning, Prude has emerged as a productive and valuable addition to a Ravens defense that is third in the NFL in yards allowed.

Prude, 24, is tied for third on the team in interceptions with two and had the best showing of his career when he returned an interception for a touchdown and broke up three more passes in the Ravens' 35-22 defeat of the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.

Prude, who lined up primarily at nickel back in place of the injured Ivy (kidney tear), appears to have secured his grip as the team's best young cornerback.

"The guy's just really ready," McAlister said. "It's something we expected, but at the same time, you don't expect it from a guy who hasn't been up, who hasn't really been thrown into the mix. But to see him go out there and play the way he did just lets you know that if something happens in our secondary, we have the guys that are capable of coming in and filling those shoes."

Prude's progress is somewhat of a surprise considering that he went undrafted in April and wasn't invited to either the scouting combine or college all-star games, which tends to raise red flags among the NFL's talent evaluators.

But Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting, said that the staff was impressed by the 5-foot-11, 178-pound cornerback's feistiness and was not dissuaded by Prude's blown coverage of a Hail Mary pass that cost the Tigers the Capital One Bowl title against Iowa on Jan. 1, 2005.

"That was only one play, but I think that one play, in some people's eyes, defined Ronnie Prude. That wasn't the case for us," DeCosta said. "A lot of guys are like pretty girls. They're tall, they look good, they run fast, but they don't make plays. ... He's a finisher. He makes plays. He's just got a knack for getting his hands on the ball. We've seen that."

Yet the Ravens drafted two cornerbacks - David Pittman from Northwestern State in the third round and Derrick Martin from Wyoming in the sixth - before signing Prude to a free-agent deal. Undeterred, Prude worked his way up the depth chart, eventually overtaking the team's draft choices.

Then Prude suffered a lapse in confidence, and linebacker Bart Scott, also an undrafted rookie, sat down with Prude for a chat.

"I can look at a person who was a free agent and know when he's going through something because I've been there," Scott said. "I know how it feels when the coach yells at you or to be the first guy blamed or to have no credibility yet with your boys or to have no one listen to you. .. I know how it feels, so whenever I see anything like that, I just try to encourage the young guys."

Said Prude of Scott's assistance: "It helped a lot, just knowing that here's a guy that was in a similar situation who was coming up to me and could see the same things that I was going through. He just took me under his wings and helped me out. I'm grateful for that."

With Ivy likely to miss tomorrow's game against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, Prude could play a lot tomorrow and hopes to validate the Ravens' faith in him.

"This organization has given me a great opportunity to come in and showcase my talents," he said. "The rest is up to me, to just go out and do what I am supposed to do."

Notes -- Four Ravens - tight ends Todd Heap (thigh) and Quinn Sypniewski (neck), return specialist B.J. Sams (shoulder-thigh) and wide receiver Clarence Moore (foot) - were upgraded from questionable to probable; tight end Daniel Wilcox (back) also was added to the probable list. The only change among the Bengals was linebacker Brian Simmons (neck) being downgraded to doubtful from questionable. ... Ravens officials are asking fans to remain in their seats at the start of halftime of tomorrow's game when the team inducts former Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware into the Ring of Honor inside M&T Bank Stadium. "He's meant so much to the organization," coach Brian Billick said after practice yesterday. "And I'm sure the fans will be very excited to see Peter go up in the ring." Boulware will also be the first person to be mentioned during the player introductions before the game.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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