Oher Unleashes 'Beast' During Camp Debut

August 01, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

One of the first things you notice about Michael Oher is his explosion. When he comes off the snap of the ball, he can get an opponent's attention quickly. Upon first contact, he can make heads turn, which he did Friday in his first full practice as a Raven.

"Strong. Just so strong - as in really strong," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said of Oher, the former University of Mississippi offensive tackle and the Ravens' top draft pick in April.

There were many other compliments.

"If that man keeps working, he is going to be an absolute beast," said Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who butted heads with Oher several times Friday.

It was a solid debut for Oher at the practice fields on the McDaniel College campus. Oher had missed the first three days because of a contract holdout, but on Day 4, he started making a name for himself.

Oher, the No. 23 overall pick in the first round, will wear No. 74. You can see what the Ravens liked in him and why they might pay Oher as much as $13.8 million over the next five years.

At 6 feet 4 and 310 pounds, Oher is built like two brick houses. Usually, when offensive tackles come out of college, they have a frame like a power forward or have too much baby fat.

Oher is a tweener, and this big man can run.

"He is in really good shape, really good condition," Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko said. "The offseason program really helped him, and he did a really good job on his running test."

It wasn't so easy with some of the other tests on the field. If you're a rookie offensive lineman, you don't want to have your NFL baptism against a team that has as much depth on the defensive line as the Ravens.

During a two-hour morning practice, Oher had to go against Trevor Pryce, Bannan and Brandon McKinney. On passing downs, he had to battle Suggs or Pryce. And this wasn't an offseason minicamp.

"It was full throttle, full speed, and this is what it's all about," Oher said. "I wasn't nervous. I was ready to practice. I did some positive things, and some things that weren't so good. But I have to stay positive and stay focused because I can get a lot better."

Agreed.

The athleticism in Oher is clearly evident. There are times when he can overpower an opponent on a running play, as he did against tackle Dwan Edwards. There were two occasions when he double-teamed with left tackle Jared Gaither on an unbalanced line, and they just blew defensive linemen away.

But Oher has a lot of work to do, especially in pass protection. He has a tendency to stand too high and get overextended. He is still confused about the playbook and appears to step to his left when he should step to his right and step to his right when he should step to the left.

But that passion, brute strength and athleticism is always on display.

"I got to keep working on the fundamentals of the game," Oher said. "I like Coach Matsko. He wants you to be hard-working, and he wants you to be physical and nasty. He wants you to step on peoples' throats."

You have to love that mentality. But football isn't all physical, especially for offensive linemen. It's also a thinking man's game, and Matsko says Oher is picking up the offense quickly.

"He has some work to do, like they all do," Matsko said. "When you're first starting out, you are nowhere near where you want to be. You just keep working, and each time you put your hand in the ground, you have to do better than the last time.

"Michael is very willing, and has a big, big heart with great determination. He's a lot of fun to be around, is very bright and has great retention."

All signs point to Oher's becoming a good offensive lineman. The Ravens might have gotten a glimpse of his future Friday.

"He probably was a little nervous, but he had a good first day," Bannan said. "He is athletic and really quick. When you're a rookie, you need to be like a sponge and soak everything up, and then apply it. But I ain't telling him a thing. I don't want him getting the upper hand on me. Eventually, he is going to be a beast out there."

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