Torrey Smith to compete for a starting job

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens didn't draft University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith in the second round to have him sit on the bench as a rookie. General manager Ozzie Newsome said tonight that Smith will immediately compete for a starting job after being drafted in the second round last week. The Ravens envision Smith operating as a deep threat for quarterback Joe Flacco.

"He's coming in to compete and be a starting wide receiver for us," Newsome said during a conference call with season ticket holders. "The vertical speed he brings to us will be a big asset. Joe is a very good deep thrower. Torrey also has the ability to be a returner. We can utilize him there, but he's competing to be a starting wide receiver."

Newsome said the Ravens were going to draft UCLA safety Rahim Moore in the second round if Smith had been off the board.

Newsome said that fourth-round wide receiver Tandon Doss will also get an opportunity for early playing time.

"They complement each other," Newsome said. "Torrey has very good speed, clocked under 4.4 at the combine. He has a vertical presence. Tandon has an inside presence. He's a very smart kid. He's very good on the hashes like Anquan Boldin. "He has the ability to make the catch. They bring two strengths to the table that we need on the offense and will allow them to get on the field very early."

The Ravens are hoping that Smith could make a difference in key division games against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I think if we can get get the quick strike when we're playing against Pittsburgh because they have that ability to get a turnover, if you can trump that with an easy score, it balances the books," Newsome said. "We have to find an equalizer. We have to find ways to get that easy touchdown against them to compete with them and beat them, so we can be the defending AFC North champions."

Drafted 58th overall, Smith unofficially ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

"We play against other teams and a slip here, and it's a touchdown," Newsome said during the draft. "And that's deflating. With everything we already have, we just added the 3-point shooter. At any point, the ball gets in his hands and Billy Cundiff is coming out to kick an extra point." An elated Smith quickly put on a Ravens T-shirt that his mother, Monica Jenkins, held in her lap while praying that the AFC North franchise would draft her son.

"I did have a good feeling for the Ravens from the get-go," Smith said during a conference call from his home in Fredericksburg, Va. "The way I play kind of fit the way they do things up there. So, I thought it would be a fit. When I visited, they agreed. I knew it would be a great possibility of me going there.

"That's like the dream scenario for me. My mom talked about it. She said, ‘You're going to get drafted by the Ravens, watch.' She was saying that for like the past week. For that to actually happen is kind of a surreal feeling." The Ravens had a hunch that Smith might fall to them.

Director of college scouting Joe Hortiz predicted that the Ravens would draft Smith in the second round Friday morning during a conversation with coach John Harbaugh.

"I looked at him and I told him Torrey Smith would be there at No. 58," Hortiz said. "I was a skeptic," Harbaugh said. "I think my comment was, ‘There's no way.' I might have added a word in there, too. He fits us. He's our kind of guy. He's our kind of personality, but he's also the kind of player that we really want and we really need.

"I was so proud of this young man. My thought was, ‘We've got to find a way to make Torrey Smith a Raven.' This guy is what this organization is all about."

Smith draws high marks for character, dealing with extreme adversity throughout his childhood. He's the oldest of seven children born to a single mother and is the first man in the family to earn a degree, graduating with a criminology diploma.

Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen once said of Smith, "God created a perfect person." Smith's mother was frequently a victim of domestic violence in her relationships with men. After a while, Smith could tell if someone was wrong for his mother.

"I'm like a psychic," Smith said. "I can sense a person's character from a mile away." Later, Jenkins got into a violent altercation with a female relative as she pleaded guilty to felony unlawful wounding and served time in a Virginia prison.

"It had its ups and downs," Smith said. "There were certain times when other kids would be able to go and have fun doing something, and I had responsibility, but that's something I would not take back.

It definitely helped me a lot. "Seeing her mistakes, I was able to go out and not make those mistakes myself as I got older. I knew what I had to do to stay focused on my goals as I got older." At the combine, Smith said he wasn't aware that Harbaugh knew so much about him. "That's really cool, I didn't even know the guy knew my name," Smith said. "It's something I hope a lot of people can learn from. I hope the story is getting out. I'm just honored. It's a blessing to be here. I've obviously went through a lot to be here and it helped me a lot more than it hurt me." Newsome isn't exaggerating about the 6-foot, 205-pounder's physical qualities. Smith caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards last season, setting a Terrapins record with a dozen touchdown catches.

For his career, Smith averaged 14.57 yards per reception. He caught 152 passes for 2,215 yards for 19 touchdowns.

He set a school record with 5,264 all-purpose yards. As a sophomore, he set the school record with 51 kickoff returns for 1,309 yards as he returned two kicks for touchdowns. Smith is known for his mean stiff-arm, and his ability to run after the catch and break tackles. Smith is strong enough to beat press coverage, bench pressing 225 pounds 19 times and having set school receiver records with a 355-pound power clean and a 550-pound squat. He's a willing blocker, and he averaged 24.25 yards per kickoff return with three for touchdowns.

"He's a great kid, he's an explosive playmaker," Hortiz said. "We got bigger and faster. He's a special kid and a special player. We expect big things from him."

Smith insisted that he's much more than just a fast downfield target, but is confident that he can beat cornerbacks and gain separation. "I think so," Smith said. "I feel I can contribute on special teams and as a receiver in general, not just a deep threat. I'm looking forward to learning from guys like Anquan and Mason and trying to take my game to the next level."

The primary drawbacks on Smith are the need to catch the football with his hands on a consistent basis and concentrate on always looking the ball in to secure the reception.

Rookie wide receivers rarely make an immediate contribution as it's one of the toughest positions to excel at early in the NFL.

"I understand there's an adjustment with receivers," Smith said. "I feel like I'm ahead of the game mentally. At Maryland, we ran the pro style, we ran West Coast. So, I understand offense. I can pick up an offense quick as far as picking up the playbook." The Ravens only had seven receptions of 40 yards or more last season. As a team, they averaged only 11.8 yards per reception.

"When you add Torrey to the mix, as one of our scouts said, ‘He can peel the top off the defense," Newsome said. "He brings that added dimension to the passing game, and Joe is a deep thrower. Joe has the ability to throw the deep ball. He has the arm strength to do it. So, now we're giving Joe an additional weapon. You add this element to it that strikes fear."

Ravens Insider Top Stories