Could Terrapins' Starks fall to the Ravens?

OWINGS MILLS – Randy Starks' aggressiveness in the weight room and expertise along the line of scrimmage have him poised for early selection in the NFL draft.<br><br> It's an elite status that could pay him dividends of millions of dollars.<br>

Yet, the highly-regarded University of Maryland junior defensive tackle hasn't spent much time pondering the questionable wisdom of mock drafts or planning an elaborate weekend draft party at his parents' home in Waldorf.

"I'm just playing it all by ear and hoping I go in the first round," Starks said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. "The Ravens told me they're very interested in me, and it would be great to stay home and play football my entire career in Maryland. 

"Hopefully, I won't be around that long. If so, I made this decision to leave school early and I'll make the best of it. This is my job now."

Starks, 20, has been projected by analysts anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round where the Ravens pick 51st overall.

After enrolling at Maryland instead of Penn State and Virginia Tech after a blue-chip prep career at Westlake, Starks said he wanted his career to mirror Terrapins legendary defensive tackle Randy White. 

Now, Starks leaves the College Park campus without the accolades of White, a college and pro football Hall of Fame selection who won the Outland and Lombardi awards. 

Starks has left his own lower-profile mark at Maryland. And he carries a growing reputation for strength having squatted 760 pounds and bench pressed 440 pounds at Byrd Stadium. 

"Every time I lift weights, I think about how I won't let anyone push me around," Starks said.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pound all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection also sports the versatility required to play tackle or end in the Ravens' 3-4 alignment.

The only major glitch for Starks' outlook occurred during his campus workout when he covered 40 yards between 5.0 and 5.15 seconds rather than the 4.9 he had hoped for. Starks did turn in a vertical leap of 33 inches and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

"I know people were disappointed in his 40 time, but when you watch him on tape you see he's a really good athlete for a man of his size," Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "You have to be to play on this level. When we had Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, both of those guys were big and were very good athletes.

"Starks really fits the 3-4 for us because he's big enough to play inside as a tackle and yet he's agile enough to play outside as an end."

Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said he is intrigued by Starks and Washington defensive lineman Terry "Tank" Johnson. And Ryan said Baltimore would be thrilled if imposing University of Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs was still available at No. 51.

"It's a size-speed league, and that's a giant of a man," Ryan said. "I don't think he'll last very long, and I don't think he'll be around for us to draft."

Starks has visited the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, who draft 25th and 30th in the first round, respectively.

He has been linked in mock drafts to the Seattle Seahawks (No. 23, No. 53) in both the first and second rounds and as high as the Chicago Bears (No. 14) even though the Bears are probably more likely to draft Oklahoma's Tommie Harris or Miami's Vince Wilfork.

Last season, Starks produced 73 tackles, 7 ½ sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. This was something of a drop-off from his sophomore season, which followed Carolina Panthers All-Pro Kris Jenkins' graduation, with 93 tackles, 6 ½ sacks, a dozen tackles for losses and 17 quarterback hurries.

"I'm like a teddy bear off the field, but on the field I'm an animal," Starks said. "It's all about attitude. You've got to be nasty and want to hit."

Starks doesn't turn 21 until Dec. 14, making him as one of the youngest incoming players in the league.

With the assistance of Maryland defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo, Starks has improved his intensity, stamina and maturity each year.

"He helped me do a lot of growing up," Starks said. "Now, I see this as a job where you clock in and clock out. I plan on making a difference."

Starks finished his career with 201 tackles, 17 ½ sacks, 34 tackles for losses, 31 quarterback pressures and three forced fumbles.

He said there won't be much of a party on Saturday in Waldorf, just a small circle of family and friends who will join him for an exercise in patience.

"If it's a long wait, I won't enjoy it and I'll just be upset," Starks said. "As far as the money goes, I'm going to look out for my mom and my dad. 

"I'm going to be smart and put most of it in the bank. The NFL stands for Not For Long and you have to plan for the future."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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