Quick Study

Ravens Expect Their First-round Pick To Be Fast Right Out Of The Blocks

Nfl Draft 2009

April 27, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

At his introductory news conference Sunday, Michael Oher showed that he is a fast learner.

"I'm going to do everything I possibly can to get them to beat Pittsburgh," the Ravens' first-round draft pick said in his first answer to Baltimore reporters.

Giving Oher (pronounced oar) a pat on the shoulder, Ravens coach John Harbaugh reiterated that the 6-foot-4, 309-pound offensive lineman will compete with Willie Anderson for the starting right tackle job.

The pressure is on Oher to uphold the Ravens' tradition of rookies making an immediate impact.

Six of the Ravens' past seven first-round picks - from Ed Reed in 2002 to quarterback Joe Flacco in 2008 - have started at least nine games their first season. The lone exception was defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as a situational pass rusher.

Oher said it is his goal to become a starter immediately.

"I got every tool I need to be a starter," he said. "I'm going to come in and compete right away. If I get the opportunity to start, I'm going to take care of my business."

One reason Oher slid to the Ravens at the 23rd overall pick is concern over his ability to assimilate an NFL offense.

Pro Football Weekly's Draft Guide questioned his intelligence, saying he "will require extra attention to absorb a playbook." Mississippi offensive line coach Mike Markuson has told reporters that they "tried to keep it simple for him" but acknowledged that Oher will work hard to be successful in the NFL.

Sean Tuohy, Oher's adoptive father, pointed out that Oher has never been lost on the field despite adjusting to three offensive coordinators in four seasons. Each time, Oher had to learn a new system.

"He has two missed assignments in four years," Tuohy said, "and he argues about one."

Tuohy said football has been a learning experience for Oher because he started playing the game relatively late as a junior in high school. Oher was taught how to block by lining up the Tuohys' kitchen and dining room chairs as defenders.

"It wasn't the case that he wasn't smart," Tuohy said. "He just didn't know what you were talking about. He's got a great memory. It's almost scary how good he recalls."

Oher has repeatedly had to defend his intelligence. After being adopted by the Tuohys, he raised his IQ to 110 and improved his high school grade-point average from a 0.6 GPA to 2.65. At the combine in February, Oher proudly said he was 18 hours short of graduating from Ole Miss with a degree in criminal justice.

"I was on the honor roll a couple of times," he told reporters. "I'm a smart guy. I'm very smart."

Pro Football Weekly described Oher as having "classic boom-or-bust potential." The Ravens considered him an "elite prospect."

"I've been doing this for six years, and I got a sense that this kid really was going to be a great fit from Day One," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "From the moment he came in, I saw the passion, toughness and determination."

Oher didn't seem fazed when he toured the Ravens' headquarters Sunday.

He knows what it's like to be in the spotlight after having his story - growing up homeless as a teenager - told in a New York Times best-seller, The Blind Side. It is being made into a movie with Sandra Bullock starring as Oher's adoptive mother and Kathy Bates as his longtime tutor.

Oher has agreed to speak at the annual banquet for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis.

"If the spotlight scared you, he wouldn't do something like that," Tuohy said. "He's a good kid."

IMMEDIATE IMPACT

A look at how many games recent Ravens first-round picks started as rookies:

2002

Ed Reed

FS

16 games

2003

Terrell Suggs

DE-LB

1 game

2003

Kyle Boller

QB

9 games

2005

Mark

Clayton WR

10 games

2006

Haloti

Ngata DT

16 games

2007

Ben

Grubbs G

12 games

2008

Joe Flacco

QB

16 games

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