WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) -He is 350 pounds of potential, neatly packed into a 6-foot-9 frame.
If he wasn't only 21, and if he had played longer than two years at Maryland, Jared Gaither might be ready to become the starting right tackle of the Baltimore Ravens.
At this point, however, Gaither is a project.
``He's young, and he just showed up in the NFL,'' Ravens offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. ``He's mature for a 21-year-old, but whether he can play in the NFL and step up and be a starter in this league remains to be seen.''
Size is not an issue. Gaither, a fifth-round pick in last month's supplemental draft, towers over everyone at training camp except for 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who is also 6-9.
``Obviously, (Gaither) is a physical specimen. He's tall, he's put together very well, he's in good shape and has very long arms - which is important for pass protection,'' Foerster said.
``I really like the guy's demeanor; I like the way he handles himself. I'm excited to be working with him.''
Gaither, in turn, is ecstatic about getting a chance to play in the NFL.
``When I first got here, I was like, 'Man, I'm here with some of the guys I watched on TV not long ago,''' he said. ``Now I'm working with them and trying to learn from them. I just hope to make the best of my opportunity.''
This represents a second chance for Gaither, who started in 17 of his 21 games at Maryland before being declared academically ineligible to play for the Terrapins this fall. That prompted his decision to turn professional. He signed a three-year contract with Baltimore that included a $118,000 signing bonus.
``I'm going to bring intensity, I'm going to try to be a leader,'' he said.
Those are qualities possessed by Ogden, who is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a toe injury. But Ogden still attends practice without pads, and his relative inactivity enables him to work in unison with Foerster to enhance Gaither's footwork and blocking technique.
``The great thing is, Jared has one the greatest players to ever play the position in the NFL here on campus with him all the time,'' Foerster said. ``He gets to watch him prepare, gets to watch him practice, he gets to watch him play. There are great lessons there to be learned.''
Said Gaither: ``I just want to follow in his shoes, pattern myself after him. Clearly, the NFL is a different level than college, but I'm determined not to let myself down. I'm not going to let anybody down. This is a new chapter, and I'm going to do the best I can.''
Gaither's development over the next six weeks will determine whether he starts the season on the roster or the practice squad. At this point, it's almost impossible to determine how it will pan out.
``He's got probably more ability from a raw physical standpoint than probably some of the guys we've drafted since I've been here,'' Foerster said. ``He's got the tools. But you know what they say about tools: If I don't know how to use them, then they won't do you any good. I'm really excited about this guy, but he's got a lot of work to do.''
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