Colclough could fit Ravens' cornerback mold

OWINGS MILLS – Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is a small private school called Tusculum College. <P> Although this region is known mostly for its scenery and for having the oldest college in Tennessee, a procession of NFL scouts have recently traveled the Appalachian Trail to this Division II school for one reason: to scout senior cornerback Ricardo Colclough.

Colclough has managed to pull off a rare feat by emerging from the relative obscurity of a Presbyterian school with 1,500 students to become a first-day candidate for this weekend's NFL draft.

He is projected anywhere from the top of the second round to the early portion of the third round. And the Baltimore Ravens may have an interest in acquiring a young, athletic cornerback with return skills as a potential starting candidate after an initial period as a nickel back.

"You can be one of the best people in the world and go to a Division II school," Colclough told reporters at the annual scouting combine. "If you've got the talent to play at the next level, they're going to find you.

"A lot of people dwell on it, saying if you come from a small school you can't compete, but a person from a small school has a lot of heart. If you come from a Division I school your work ethic might not be as up to par."

Colclough has ideal size and speed for the cornerback position at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, covering 40 yards in 4.45 seconds. He also sports a 40-inch vertical leap.

A delegation of Ravens personnel, including director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and scout Joe Douglas, attended his campus workout earlier this month.

After failing to qualify academically for a scholarship out of high school to the University of South Carolina, Colclough enrolled at Kilgore Junior College in Texas.

After transferring to Tusculum where he was eligible to play immediately, the native of Sumter, S.C., dominated the Division II level.

Colclough produced 106 career tackles, 15 interceptions and 25 pass deflections. Last season, he had 11 interceptions, a 28.7 kickoff return average with two touchdowns and returned two punts for scores.

Scouts tend to be a skeptical bunch, so Colclough was under exceptional scrutiny at the Senior Bowl.

He wound up helping his cause significantly, though, by competing well against tall, big-school wide receivers such as Ohio State's Michael Jenkins.

"It was very big for me," Colclough said. "Coming in, that was one of the ways that I could show them that I could compete at the next level."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he anticipates three cornerbacks being drafted within the first 20 selections. That group will likely include Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall, South Carolina's Dunta Robinson and Ohio State's Chris Gamble.

"There are some guys that can come in and play this year and help some teams," Newsome said. "I think there can be a run on them in the second round."

After those upper-tier players, it's probable that prospects like USC's Will Poole, Arkansas' Ahmad Carroll, Pitt's Shawntae Spencer, Colclough, Michigan's Jeremy LeSueur, Oklahoma's Derrick Strait and Montana State product Joey Thomas will draw heavy consideration in the second round and early third round.

"Shawntae Spencer came up the boards very quickly," DeCosta said. "He had an outstanding workout. He's an outstanding cover man with great speed, hips, transition ability."

The scouting report on Colclough is that he is a natural cornerback who has a lot of experience at shadowing receivers in press coverage and shutting them down.

However, the downside on Colclough are the unsophisticated offenses he's been operating against and the Pioneers' simplistic defensive schemes.

If Baltimore drafts him, he would likely provide competition for nickel back Corey Fuller and return specialist Lamont Brightful. Eventually, he could become a starting cornerback with Gary Baxter shifting back inside to safety.

"I've pretty much shown people that I can compete at the next level, but it still hangs over my head," said Colclough, whose name was mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article on small-school prospects. "That hypes me up. Now, I have to go out and back it up."

NOTE: The NFL's court victory over Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett on Monday also would exclude USC sophomore wide receiver Mike Williams from this weekend's draft.

If Clarett's lawyers don't win an appeal and Clarett and Williams are placed in a supplemental draft, Williams' exclusion from the regular draft would reduce the pool of available wide receivers.

That would make Baltimore even less likely to expend its second-round pick on a wide receiver since Williams was one of the top-rated wide receivers on most draft boards.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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