Welcome to the nest: LB Courtney Upshaw - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Welcome to the nest: LB Courtney Upshaw

What you need to know about him: Courtney Upshaw, a 22-year-old native of Eufaula, Ala., is 6-2 and 272 pounds. He’s starred at Alabama, where he won two national championships. In 50 games with the Crimson Tide, he had 140 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks. He had his best season as a senior, when he made 51 tackles, including 17 behind the line of scrimmage and an interception. His 9.5 sacks were the most by any Crimson Tide player since 1992.

Why the Ravens picked him with the third pick of the second round, No. 35 overall: Because he has first-round talent and the Ravens got him in the second round after trading out of the first round. The Ravens will pair Upshaw with Terrell Suggs, giving the Ravens an added pass rusher they desperately needed.

The Ravens lost linebacker Jarret Johnson in free agency to San Diego, creating a void in the starting lineup. If Upshaw doesn’t beat out Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan to earn the starting spot, it will be a major surprise. They’ve all had their chance to claim the spot, yet the Ravens had to draft yet another outside linebacker. The Ravens essentially had to pick Upshaw because they failed to address the spot in 2010, when they traded their first-round pick and took selected Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round, No. 43 overall, But Kindle fractured his skull a week before his first training camp and was sidelined for his entire rookie season and rarely played last year.

Cause for concern: Upshaw has some character issues that may have contributed to him to slipping to the second round. In August 2009, he and his girlfriend were arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and third-degree harassment.

Significance of his selection: It shows why the Ravens have cemented their status as being among the league’s best at managing the draft. The Ravens could have taken Upshaw in the first round, but traded their first-round pick to Minnesota for the Vikings’ second-round pick and fourth-round pick (98th overall).

Crystal ball: He’s going to be good, probably really, really good. When the Ravens took Upshaw, it marked the first time Baltimore drafted a linebacker in the first round since they took Suggs out of Arizona State with the 10th overall selection in 2003. Suggs has made five Pro Bowls and was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Pro in 2011.

In his words: “I’m very happy to go to the Ravens,” he said during a teleconference with reporters after getting selected. “I’ll be asked to play the same position that I played at Alabama. Playing with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, that leadership they bring to the game I’m going in, and cherishing the moment. Why not go in there and learn? I was disappointed that I didn’t go in the first round.”

Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta on Upshaw: “He plays like a junkyard dog. He’s got a strong punch. He’s a physical, violent football player. We’re excited about that. That’s not an easy position to play. Setting the edge is really one of the most important things at that position, and we feel this guy can really do it.”

General manager Ozzie Newsome on if he was surprised Upshaw was available in the second round: “Yes, in a sense. I’m sure if you had asked us back in October or November, would Courtney make it to the third pick in the second round, everybody would have probably said, ‘probably not.’ He was a guy that we talked about at 29, also.”

Coach John Harbaugh on why the team drafted Upshaw: “Obviously, it bolsters our linebacker situation and gives us one more player in that mix and will allow us to move some guys around a little bit.”

Coach John Harbaugh on the battle between Paul Kruger and Upshaw to fill the vacancy left by Johnson: “I think Paul is still the lead dog there; he’s still the veteran guy. It will get us another pass rusher. Courtney will provide great competition. Certainly, there will be tremendous depth.”

Did you know? Upshaw’s selection marks the sixth time in Ravens’ history they have taken a player from the University of Alabama, which shouldn’t be surprising because general manager Ozzie Newsome starred for the Crimson Tide and has developed a strong bond with his alma mater. The six former Crimson Tide players rank second behind the Ravens’ drafting of seven former Oklahoma Sooners.

Upshaw Profile

• First-team All-American (FWAA, Sporting News, SI.com, ESPN.com & Pro Football Weekly)
• First-Team All-SEC (AP & Coaches)
• Finalist for the Lombardi Award
• Finalist for the Butkus Award
• Semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award
• Midseason All-American by SI.com, Sporting News, CBSsports.com, ESPN.com and Phil Steele
• Second in the SEC and tied for 14th nationally with 17 tackles for loss (-85 yards)
• Defense ranked No. 1 in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), rush defense (74.9 ypg) & total defense (191.3 ypg)
• Returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown at Florida
• 38 percent of his tackles are behind the line of scrimmage

                                                                                                                                    Source:  University of  Alabama


 (Feature photo by Dave Carey)

 





About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.
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