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OWINGS MILLS - Jim Colletto won't need to imitate the martial arts ability of Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross to make his argument. "> site subscription.

OWINGS MILLS - Jim Colletto won't need to imitate the martial arts ability of Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross to make his argument. ">

Ravens enthused by blocker class

<p><i>This articles is free to all readers. If you would like to support this site, read more of Aaron's stuff and participate in premium chats and forums, please consider a <A HREF="">site subscription.</A></i> <p>OWINGS MILLS - Jim Colletto won't need to imitate the martial arts ability of Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross to make his argument.

Actually, this is one spring where the Baltimore Ravens' veteran offensive line coach won't even have to make a passionate case toward the wisdom of acquiring another tackle and a guard.

Like most franchises' analysis of this weekend's NFL draft, the Ravens' personnel department already sound quite convinced that there's a wealth of blockers available.

Beginning with Gross, who owns a black belt in taekwondo, this is a group expected to produce several first-round picks and quite a few first-day prospects.

Between intriguing tackles rated behind Gross in Stanford's Kwame Harris, Georgia's George Foster and Hawaii's Wayne Hunter, versatile guards such as Iowa's Eric Steinbach, bulky strongmen guards in Hawaii's Vince Manuwai, Texas' Derrick Dockery and Florida State's Montrae Holland as well as a top center prospect in Notre Dame's Jeff Faine, it's a virtual buffet of blockers.

"I think the tackle position, as a whole, is a position where you could almost pick someone in every round," Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage said. "There is the big, run-blocking right tackle and there's the finesse left tackle and everything in between.

"You've got big ones, short ones, big schools, small schools. There's a lot of variety at tackle and this is by far the deepest tackle group that I can remember over the years."

Foster visited the Ravens' training complex, as did Holland. And Baltimore personnel. reportedly interviewed Manuwai at the scouting combine and paid close attention to his battles at Senior Bowl practices.

Despite the presence of All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden, the signing of right tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown and returning starters in center Mike Flynn and guards Edwin Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson, the Ravens could still use some depth and someone to eventually push for a job at right tackle or within the interior line.

"There's pretty good depth throughout the whole group of linemen, and I would hope with 11 picks we would have the opportunity to get a lineman or two," Colletto said. "I've learned enough in the last few years to say your peace and then let others decide.

"Right at the top, there's some highly athletic players. There's enough depth for us to find the right people."

Iowa's Steinbach, who played for former Baltimore offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz with the Hawkeyes, is projected as a first-round selection, too. He's known for his ability to swing between guard and tackle as well as being able to pull adeptly to lead the blocking on outside running plays.

"He's a very good athlete," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said of Steinbach.

Although the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Harris would have likely benefited from another year of seasoning and strength work on the scenic campus of Palo Alto, Calif., he's definitely viewed as a certain first-round selection.

Baltimore outside linebackers coach Phil Zacharias, who used to be a Stanford assistant, vouched for Harris' long-term potential and having a cerebral bent.

"I'm not comparing him to Jonathan Ogden, but I see a lot of Jonathan Ogden qualities in him as far as intelligence," Zacharias said. "I'm used to seeing him reading a book while he's riding the bike."

Meanwhile, guards tend to get pushed down clubs' draft boards because of the often-mistaken belief that tackles can be converted to play that position. Colletto doesn't share that opinion, noting the combination of size, strength and footwork required to thrive in the interior portion of the line of scrimmage.

 "Guard is the most underrated position there is, and, if you don't have the physical tools, you can't play there," Colletto said. "Not only have you got to be able to run, and that's what Bennie Anderson is working on right now in Atlanta, but you've got to be able to run and get pounded on every snap."

It takes a rare mixture of bulk and agility, a description often attached to Hawaii's Manuwai. DeCosta noted the brawny skills of Manuwai, whom he compared to Mulitalo.

"He's a very good pass protector with a very strong punch," DeCosta said of Manuwai. "He's probably going to be a good run blocker. He hasn't had a lot of experience as a run blocker in the Hawaii Run-and-Shoot scheme. He has got a lot of upside and will probably be a first-round pick."

DeCosta said he likes Faine's aggressive demeanor and believes that Wisconsin center Al Johnson will be able to assimilate rapidly to the NFL game, too.

Holland is a stout 6-2, 330-pounder accustomed to setting up in pass protection for the Seminoles. He's touted more for his ability to move bodies than for the way he picks up blitzes, though.

"He's a good guy who has a good body for a guard," Colletto said. "He fits that bill."

In terms of when the Ravens might select an offensive lineman, it all depends on how quickly other teams begin to select blockers.

Known for his composure, maturity and lateral movement, Gross is a four-year starter who's already married. He has been projected as high as the Houston Texans' third overall selection and as low as the Carolina Panthers' ninth overall pick of the first round.

Would Baltimore pounce on him if he was still there at No. 10?

"It depends where Gross falls, and I just don't know," a hopeful Colletto said. "We'll just have to see. I've learned by now that you just wait and that we'll draft the best player who's still available. We don't guess who that might be."

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