Ryan noses into competition on defensive line
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Aug. 23 2007
It seemed a bit strange at the time, Clifton Ryan acknowledged, that the Rams
drafted him in the fifth round this past April.
Ryan, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound nose tackle, knew that former first-round pick
Jimmy Kennedy started at that spot in 2006. And that the Rams took Adam
Carriker in the first round and planned to move him inside from defensive end.
"I was aware," Ryan said. "But that's why you play sports, the competition."
On June 8, the Rams traded Kennedy to Denver for a 2008 draft pick, essentially
committing themselves to a youth movement of sorts up front. The rotation
figures to consist of Carriker, Ryan, second-year pro Claude Wroten, plus
veteran La'Roi Glover.
"Clifton is a true nose tackle, which we haven't had since I've been here,"
coach Scott Linehan said. "When people try to run the ball at us, he's a guy
that we'd be able to insert in the game and really hold up. ... Clif is a
really good anchor in there."
Ryan wasn't always a nose tackle, though; he started out at Michigan State as a
260-pound outside linebacker. "But I just continued to grow," he said.
Ryan moved to defensive end, under tackle and, finally as a senior, nose
tackle. It quickly became his favorite post.
"It's a grind-it-out position," he said. "It really fits my skills set as a
football player, being a physical guy, a run-stopping kind of a guy."
It's also a position that garners few headlines. The nose tackle's primary task
is to tie up offensive linemen so that others are free to bring down
ballcarriers. Not a problem, Ryan insisted.
"I really don't play the game for the glory," he said. "I play it for the love
of the game and the camaraderie, being out there playing with some of the best
athletes around. ... Just being able to go out there and play with those guys,
I get more glory out of that than (reporters) interviewing me every day."