The last time that C.J. Mosley made the transition to a higher level of football, he had no trouble adjusting.
Mosley quickly emerged as a starter as a true freshman at Alabama and showed himself to be a playmaker, running back an interception for a touchdown against the Florida Gators. He was named a freshman All-American.
Now, the Ravens' first-round pick in the draft is getting acclimated to the NFL and making his bid for an immediate starting job at weak-side inside linebacker.
Mosley looked instinctive and comfortable during the Ravens' offseason practices while working with the first-team defense. Competing with Arthur Brown, Mosley reacted quickly to running plays and gained plenty of depth in pass coverage.
"It's going real well so far, learning the defense day by day," Mosley said this spring. "We're getting our feet wet. I'm trying to prove myself out there and make this team better, make the defense better.
"Right now, I'm doing well. I'm not going to get too happy or too low about myself. So far, I've been doing well on defense and learning as much as I can each day."
Mosley, 6-feet-2 and 235 pounds, is fast and fluid in his movements. He displayed his athleticism, leaping high to intercept passes.
Mosley won the Butkus Award at Alabama as the top linebacker in the country, was named a Consensus All-American and shared Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors with St. Louis Rams rookie Michael Sam. Mosley recorded 319 career tackles, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
“I think it’s a great pick, man," veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith said. "[Mosley] has been here working his butt off, and he’s definitely got some ability."
Signed to a $8.787 million contract that included a $4.711 million signing bonus, Mosley is off to a good start absorbing defensive coordinator Dean Pees' schemes.
"Just getting in the playbook, the more little things I know about the defense, the more it's going to help me," said Mosley, who registered 108 tackles in his final season for the Crimson Tide. "Learning the new system and the new language, that's the main difference coming from college to the NFL."
Mosley won't simply be handed a starting assignment, though. He'll have to earn it by beating out Brown, the Ravens' second-round draft pick last year from Kansas State.
Brown primarily operated on special teams and in passing situations last season. He's added some necessary bulk this offseason and has made a lot of progress since playing sparingly as a rookie last year.
"It's competitive," Mosley said. "At the end of the day, we both want to help this team win. We're both on special teams and playing the same position. When I have a question, he answers it. It's all about being competitive, but we both want to be successful and win a championship."
Both Mosley and Brown are expected to play a lot regardless of who becomes the starter.
"That's what you want to do when you have two great players," Mosley said. "This defense has a lot of talent. Whether you start or whether you're a backup, it's all about execution. Whoever's executing the best and is going to help the team out the best is going to be playing."