"I made a lot of freshman mistakes, but overall, compared to last year, the game is a lot slower,'' said Ryan, who joined Abdul Smith and Darrell Givens in red-shirting in 2009. "I'm a lot bigger and faster, so it came easier to me.''
Following spring practice Coach Greg Schiano said both cornerback positions remain a competition. But coming out of the spring main participants will be incumbent David Rowe, senior Brandon Bing and Ryan, although a number of players will also contend for playing time in fall camp.
Ryan was consistent throughout the spring, and was able to use his strength against some of Rutgers' more physical receivers.
"I think I earned the respect out of my teammates, out of veterans like (safety) Joe Lefeged and David Rowe,'' Ryan said. "They kept me moving on and taught me every day. I kept doing my job so we can be the best defense we can be.''
For the athletic Ryan, the coaching staff's decision to red-shirt him paid off.
"Red-shirting was huge,'' Ryan said. "We were in the weight room four days a week lifting heavy weights before practice. I think a lot of us got bigger, stronger faster.''
Ryan said he added 12 pounds while red-shirting, which helped in a variety of ways.
"It helped with me knowing the game a little bit better,'' he said. "I can take on blockers better with my body. It doesn't hurt as much as it did last year, and pretty much protects me from injury.''
The year off also allowed Ryan to mature physically, which aided his mental approach to practice.
"I felt a little overwhelmed (in the fall),'' Ryan said. "Coming in as a corner, it's the smallest position on the field, and then college is a lot more physical, you're taking on blockers … it's a lot harder than it was in high school. You can't just run around people. "At times last year I did feel overmatched, but that (went) away day-by-day in the spring.''