Clady under consideration

OWINGS MILLS -- During Boise State's epic Statue of Liberty gambit that triggered an overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, a massive lineman agilely pulled outside to seal off defenders. As quarterback Jared Zabransky handed the ball behind his back for Ian Johnson to burst into the end zone, the Sooners' defense couldn't run past or through Ryan Clady.

It wasn't Clady's most difficult blocking assignment, but he executed it well enough.

"I had to fake like I'm down-blocking for a couple seconds, then pull around for the seal," Clady told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "I did what I was supposed to do, and the rest is history. I get goosebumps every time I see that play.

"It's definitely a growing program. I love playing the role of the underdog, coming to Boise State, being really young and working my butt off to try to get to where I am now."

As the Baltimore Ravens prepare for life without future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden since he's leaning toward retirement, Clady could be under consideration with the eighth overall selection.

Although Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said that Ogden's pending decision won't influence their draft outlook while noting the presence of young tackles Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda, there are scenarios where Clady's value could fit in with the Ravens' needs and draft board.

The Ravens also have former second-round left tackle Adam Terry under contract.

If quarterback Matt Ryan and cornerback Leodis McKelvin are selected prior to the Ravens' eighth overall pick, Clady would be one of the top-rated players available and could enter the conversation.

"Clady's an interesting guy," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He's big, very athletic, great size, long arms, very natural in pass protection. I think he probably has some technique things in the running game that he can work on.

"We like his demeanor. He plays with a nastiness. He's probably one of the more intriguing guys we'll talk about in this draft at any position."

At 6-foot-6, 317 pounds, Clady combines size with eye-catching athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.18 seconds, posting a 31-inch vertical leap and a nine-foot broad jump. After straining a pectoral muscle during the combine, he pumped out 31 repetitions of 225 pounds in bench-press testing at his Pro Day workout.

Clady has the long arms scouts covet with a 36-inch wingspan. There have been some questions raised about his intensity and toughness.

It was hard to miss the dreadlocked junior lineman during his official visit Friday to the Ravens' training complex as he towered over the coaching staff and several players.

Given the high premium teams place on cornerstone left tackles, it might be hard to bypass Clady.

He's poised to be the first player in school history to go in the first round.

"I feel like I'm the best tackle in the draft," Clady said. "There's definitely a lot of excitement. That's something that doesn't come around too often at Boise. I think I can excel at the next level."

Clady arrived at Boise as a defensive lineman, but quickly converted to offensive tackle and played both the left and right side.

The California native's only other scholarship offers out of high school came from San Diego State, Idaho State and UTEP, qualifying him as something of a late bloomer.

"The biggest part is everyone in the NFL is bigger, stronger, faster," Clady said. "You have to stay tough, physical and try to be smart out there."

Clady said he patterns his game after the Seattle Seahawks' Walter Jones and the Dallas Cowboys' Flozell Adams. He has consulted with former NFL star linemen Jackie Slater and Will Shields for blocking tips since declaring for the draft.

Last year, Clady caught a touchdown pass that was called back due to a penalty. That didn't stop him from leaping into the crowd to celebrate.

In Boise's sophisticated offensive system, Clady was schooled in zone-blocking schemes.

"I'm kind of like a Denver Broncos type offensive lineman," Clady said. "We cut a lot and position-blocked and stuff like that."

If Clady does wind up being the Ravens' guy, it would tie him with Eisenhower High School's highest previous selection. Ronnie Lott was drafted No. 8 by the San Francisco 49ers in 1981.

"I just try to stay humble," said Clady, who could go as high as the Kansas City Chiefs' fifth overall selection. "I'm just blessed."

Billick ducks question

OWINGS MILLS -- After years of being blamed for the Baltimore Ravens' shaky quarterback situation, Brian Billick declined to take the bait Monday when asked if his former employer should draft Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

Four months after being fired by team owner Steve Bisciotti, Billick wasn't very opinionated on the Ravens' plans.

"That's for them to say," Billick said during a conference call to discuss his new assignment as an NFL Network draft analyst. "I think Matt Ryan is a fine quarterback. I think he'll clearly go in that range. Whether he ends up to be a good quarterback or not, you're going to have to wait a while for that verdict to come in."

Billick was much more commital regarding Steve McNair's surprise retirement, a development that didn't seem to shock him.

"I thought Steve could come back and perform very well, but it was going to be a matter of whether Steve wanted to commit to those things that were going to have to happen in the offseason," Billick said. "Clearly for Steve, that was the nature of the decision."

Billick couldn't resist delivering a sharp line when asked about joining the media chorus after jousting with reporters for years: "I get to have all the answers and none of the accountability.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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