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  1. #1
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    Ryan Makes Strong Impression Inside

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    While first-round pick Adam Carriker has garnered most of the attention for his performance in the middle of the defensive line, another young defensive tackle is quietly earning high praise from the coaching staff.

    Drafted in the fifth round out of Michigan State, the expectations for Clifton Ryan were nowhere near those of Carriker.

    From Day 1, Carriker has been expected to be the medicine that ails the Rams’ run defense. Ryan was expected to be a developmental prospect, the type of player who could one day grow into a solid starter.

    From the way his coaches talk about him privately and the way he anchors against the run game, Ryan is already well ahead of schedule.

    “Clifton Ryan is a true nose guard which, since I have been here, we haven’t had a true nose guard,” Rams coach Scott Linehan said. “When it comes to a guy who just plays it because that is what he knows. I think he showed up and had an excellent day as far anchoring and playing nose guard. He gives us a guy that when people try and run the ball at us, he is a guy that we would be able to insert in the game and really holds up.”

    Indeed, the Rams haven’t had that type of player since the departure of Ryan Pickett to the Green Bay Packers before last season. The team tried Jimmy Kennedy, who had played most of his career at the three technique, as the nose guard last year. By any measure, that experiment didn’t work out.

    So, the Rams entered the offseason looking for help at a position that clearly needed some fresh bodies. After seemingly every solid free agent prospect at the position re-signed with his team, the Rams turned their attention to the draft.

    The big splash was made by grabbing Carriker with the 13th pick in the first round. But they weren’t done there. The team had thought highly of Ryan heading into the draft and grabbed him with the 154th choice overall.

    For Ryan, being drafted at all was the culmination of a collegiate career in which it was difficult to ever feel truly comfortable with what he was doing.

    “I knew I had the potential to play at this level but there was a lot of turnover at my position coach’s position,” Ryan said. “I had six position coaches in four and a half years at Michigan State so I think once I got in the system they really saw what I can do at the nose tackle position. I think I can really show my potential and I appreciate coach (Jim) Haslett and coach (Brian) Baker seeing something in me and drafting me back in April and putting me in a situation and a system where I can really showcase my skills.”

    The fact that Ryan entered the league as a defensive tackle at all, came as a surprise to him. When he arrived in East Lansing in 2002, he was a highly recruited, 260-pound outside linebacker.

    Ryan lasted two games there before taking a red shirt. The next season, he moved to rush end where he had a sack. From that day forward, he continued to slowly move his way further along the line.

    As a sophomore, Ryan made 11 starts as a strong side defensive end after adding about 30 pounds. He stayed in that spot as a junior before finally ending his line dance at defensive tackle as a senior.

    Things began to click for Ryan when he finally found a permanent home as he posted four sacks and started all 12 games for the Spartans. A calf strain slowed him some, but Ryan showed plenty of potential at his newest position.

    At 6’3, 310 pounds, Ryan had the frame and leverage to be a nose tackle in the NFL and the Rams instantly saw that potential. Privately, some of the coaching staff believes he could be a dominant nose guard with Carriker at the three technique in the future.

    For now, Ryan is just trying to hone his game and learn as much as he can.

    “The coaches are pushing me every day, I am getting better every day, I am learning more about the different run blocking and pass blocking schemes every day,” Ryan said. “I am going to try to learn as much as possible because it’s a big jump going from the college to the pros. There are so many variations on the offensive side of the ball as well as learning the things on the defensive side of the ball I have to be aware of.”

    Ryan is doing everything he can to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that he belongs.

    “I was aware they had Jimmy here and they drafted Adam,” Ryan said. “But that’s why you play sports, the competition. I wasn’t thinking, ‘What are they doing?’ All I can control is what I do out there on the football field and all I can control is what I do outside of Rams Park to make myself a better football player. I can’t control the organization or the coach, all I can do is whatever they ask of me day in and day out.”

    Ryan has done just that as he continues to make the adjustment to his (relatively) new position. As a nose tackle, Ryan knows he will face more double teams than ever, is much closer to the ball and his main task is to tie up blockers so his linebackers can make plays.

    “It’s real physical,” Ryan said. “It’s a grind it out position, not much finesse, you have to take on that double team and clear out for linebackers. I like it a lot. It really fits my skill set as a football player, being a physical guy and a run stopper kind of guy. I really like it a lot and it’s the position that best fits me as a football player.”

    Nose tackle is essentially a position without glory, but Ryan says he doesn’t get his glory from being in the spotlight.

    “I don’t play the game for the glory,” Ryan said. I play the game for the love and the camaraderie of being out there playing with some of the best athletes around. To be able to go out there and play with those guys, I get more glory out of that than you guys interviewing me every day.”

  2. #2
    Country Guest

    Re: Ryan Makes Strong Impression Inside

    I am becoming a huge Clifton Ryan if he can develop and become a starter at NT and Carriker bumps over to DT then the defense could be saved and we would have made out of this draft like theives.

  3. #3
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    Re: Ryan Makes Strong Impression Inside

    What a well spoken young man...

    With Kennedy, Thomas, Lewis and Pickett,

    We all thought "finally, here is the ticket",

    Turned out though, that none of them really was tryin',

    But now we got Carricker, Spoonman and Ryan!


    Brothers and Sisters, we have suffered long enough, bring on the kool-aid, I'm thirsty.
    Last edited by VegasRam; -08-15-2007 at 07:21 PM.

  4. #4
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    Re: Ryan Makes Strong Impression Inside

    Quote Originally Posted by Country View Post
    I am becoming a huge Clifton Ryan if he can develop and become a starter at NT and Carriker bumps over to DT then the defense could be saved and we would have made out of this draft like theives.

    Same here, Country. I have been rooting for CR since we drafted him -- not sure why I liked him over DT Jackson but that's how I viewed the rookie. I'm so glad he has, so far, made a good, positive impression!

    :bash: Go for it Ryannnn!

  5. #5
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Ryan Makes Strong Impression Inside

    What's going on here? Another good defensive player?

    Pass the KOOL-AID!

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