Ravens' McAlister Follows in Starks' Footsteps

By Jiloty, John | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

Ravens' McAlister Follows in Starks' Footsteps


Jiloty, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It should have been no surprise to the Baltimore Ravens that they were able to select cornerback Chris McAlister in this year's NFL draft. It is almost as if McAlister and second-year Ravens corner Duane Starks were destined to play alongside each other.

Both were star high school quarterbacks and track athletes in football-rich areas, Starks in South Florida and McAlister in Southern California. Both stopped off at junior college before arriving at major football powerhouses, Starks at Miami and McAlister at Arizona. Both were picked No. 10 overall by the Ravens, Starks in 1998 and McAlister this year.

And both could become the starting corners this season for Baltimore's defense-minded coach, Brian Billick. Whether McAlister will follow Starks' spectacular first season remains to be seen, but the rookie is learning from his predecessor.

"The main thing that I tell Chris is to make sure you take your time and learn everything," Starks said. "Because the more you know, the better you play. That's the big difference that I had last year. I knew [some], but I didn't know as much. Now that I know more, I have a lot more confidence, and I'm playing a lot better."

The Ravens were high on McAlister before the draft, rating him tops among defense prospects and the fifth-best player overall. Baltimore was even willing to trade up two spots to get the first team all-American. McAlister was a three-time All-Pac 10 player with Arizona despite being slowed by injuries in 1997.

His athleticism allowed him to play a number of different positions in addition to corner, including safety, kick and punt returner, nickel back and halfback. He caught passes out of the backfield and occasionally trailed as a decoy on option plays. But his hands are considered suspect, so he likely will concentrate on defense with Baltimore.

The Ravens like McAlister so much they shifted future Hall of Fame corner Rod Woodson to safety. Although Woodson "still is a pretty fast guy regardless of how old he is," Starks says, the five-time Pro Bowl player has moved into the role of being more a coach and director of traffic for this young secondary. …

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