Rookies see similiarities in cracking starting lineup with Alabama and Ravens

In two members of the Ravens' undrafted rookie free agent class, Nick Perry and Trey DePriest, a confluence of factors exist that could lead to them finding a spot on the Week 1 53-man roster.

Perry, a safety, and DePriest, an inside linebacker, are products of the University of Alabama, the alma mater of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and a frequent source of Ravens defensive talent. They play positions where undrafted players frequently stick on the Ravens roster.


And having competed with some of the nation's best at their positions for snaps on two national championship teams, they know the process of earning playing time on special teams and building from there — and having to fight for even that opportunity.

Both did it before, and have designs to do it again, beginning this week in the first round of OTAs.


"At Alabama, not a lot of people come in their freshman year and start off right off the bat," Perry said. "You have to work for everything you have, you have to start on special teams and work your way into the defensive rotation, [on] sub packages. … That's the way you get on the field at Alabama. I'm used to it, and I'm ready to do whatever it takes to get on this team.

"Most of these guys who come in as free agents and got drafted had probably been starting since Day One. They never really had to compete with somebody who was the same type of caliber player they were."

The Ravens have kept at least one undrafted free agent in each of the past 11 seasons, with some of their greatest success coming at DePriest's inside linebacker position, where Bart Scott (2002), Jameel McClain (2008), Dannell Ellerbe (2009) and Zachary Orr (2014) are among those who made the roster out of training camp. Others, including Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes, contributed after spending time on the practice squad.

At safety, Will Demps (2002) and Brynden Trawick (2013) made the team out of camp, with the former becoming a standout and the latter contributing on special teams thus far.

Offensive lineman Leon Brown, another Alabama undrafted free agent, also signed with the Ravens on Tuesday. He played guard and tackle and was a reserve in 2013, but started 12 games for the Crimson Tide in 2014, including the Sugar Bowl.

Without the status afforded draft picks, this year's rookies know no consideration will be given to their collegiate resumes, however impressive.

Perry, and DePriest were productive members of an Alabama team that lost in the semifinal of last year's inaugural College Football Playoff to Ohio State, with DePriest, a three-year starter, finishing his final season with a career-high 88 tackles. Over four seasons, he had 237 tackles.

He was celebrated coming out of Springfield (Ohio) High as a consensus five-star prospect, and mostly lived up to that billing in the middle of the Crimson Tide defense. The league's coaches named him first-team all-SEC in 2014.


Perry was a full-time starter for the first time in his career after years playing behind stars like Mark Barron, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, and Landon Collins, among others. He missed most of 2013 with a torn labrum, and sat down with his parents that season to discuss a possible life after football.

He returned to earn that elusive starting job, though, and while he says "things couldn't be better" now that he's with the Ravens, being selected in the draft would have been good, too.

"I know, at first, it kind of wasn't the plan to become undrafted," Perry said. "I think everybody's goal is to get drafted, but reality sets in and you've got to make the best of what you have."

For him, that was an opportunity to survey the NFL, cull through the depth charts of the teams that expressed interest, and pick his best opportunity.

The Ravens have plenty of safeties on the roster, including Matt Elam, Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Brynden Trawick, Anthony Levine, and Terrence Brooks. But only Hill stood out in 2014, and the position is among the team's most unsettled.

"Obviously, I'm not going to pick a team where they're completely loaded at my position, so I look back and I did research and I talked to the coaches, talked to my agent and I felt like of the teams that contacted me and wanted me to come be a part of their rookie class, this was the best program for me, that fit me the most and can help me out in the long run," Perry said.


DePriest, too, was disappointed not to hear his name called, but knew it was a possibility.

Both the Ravens' history in developing undrafted linebackers into 53-man roster fixtures, and Newsome's history with Alabama players, brought DePriest to Owings Mills. Half of the Ravens starting linebackers — C.J. Mosley and Courtney Upshaw — are from the school, and the seven players selected from Alabama in franchise history is tied with Oklahoma as the most from a single school.

"I felt like that was going to be my best shot, just because Ozzie does know the background of Alabama players, he likes how they play," DePriest said. "I'm just hoping to be one of those guys who comes in and he gives me that shot to make the 53-man roster and go crush special teams."

That's how DePriest worked into the Alabama rotation as a freshman, earning several Special Teams Player of the Week honors from coaches that year before becoming a defensive starter the following year.

If the path to a spot on the Ravens' Week 1 roster comes through special teams, both are ready.

"If you're not starting, you're second string, you better be able to play special teams," Perry said. "That should be everybody's goal, to become best friends with the special teams coach and hopefully make a roster spot."