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The Ravens will face a huge challenge in Bengals rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap, but good thing there is an authority on the young player already in the building.
Ravens Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison recruited and coached Dunlap when both were at the University of Florida, and he’s not surprised Cincinnati’s leading pass rusher is having the success he is.
“He was one of those guys that would make you pull your hair out. He had freakish athletic ability, he’s a tremendous kid with great character, but there were times when he just wouldn’t go. You’d say, ‘OK, he’ll figure it out.’
“I remember one time, I had [current Jaguars defensive end] Derrick Harvey, who was also a D-end at Florida. I told Derrick we needed to get Carlos to play, and he told me, ‘Coach, I don’t know what’s going on with him.’ And then, the next game, he’d get three sacks.”
Dunlap is leading a resurgent pass rush for the Bengals.
Cincinnati had only six sacks in the first seven weeks of the season, but posted 17 more over the last eight weeks.
Dunlap, a second-round pick, owns eight of those sacks, including seven in the last five games.
During his stint as a coordinator for Florida, Mattison said Dunlap showed glimmers of talent in college. Dunlap played in 13 games and notched seven sacks as a freshman under Mattison. He later matured into an All-SEC selection.
“For Carlos, it was a question of when – not if – the light would turn on,” said Mattison. “He was a younger guy for his class, and I think he’s grown into the player you see today.
“When we recruited him, he was a kick returner for his high school team at 6-6 and 225 pounds when he came in. It was amazing. He can run like crazy. I remember watching his high school film and just saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
For the Ravens, it will fall on tackles Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda to stop a red-hot Dunlap in passing situations.
Oher actually allowed Dunlap to register a half-sack in a 2008 meeting, when Oher was starring at Ole Miss.
“He’s a good player,” said Oher. “He’s having a good season. That was a long time ago, so we’ll have a good battle on Sunday.”