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Teryl Austin hasn’t even moved into his office or met his players, but the Ravens’ new secondary coach seems to understand what defense means to Baltimore.
Officially hired on Friday, Austin replaces Chuck Pagano, who was recently promoted to defensive coordinator. Now, Austin has the tall task of carrying on the ‘Play Like a Raven’ tradition.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m looking forward to it,” Austin told BaltimoreRavens.com. “I think anybody would be excited to have this opportunity. You hear about the organization, and obviously, the results on the field speak for themselves.
“There are great players, and there is already a great scheme. I’m just excited to be able to add my input and become part of this team.”
Austin used the word “team” several times during a brief conversation shortly after the Ravens confirmed his addition.
Appropriate, considering “team” is the crux of Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh’s philosophy.
Austin learned more about working with a full team after spending the 2010 campaign as the University of Florida’s defensive coordinator. The Sharon, Penn., native had been an NFL secondary coach for seven years prior (Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals), but the fresh experience was invaluable.
“As a position coach, you’re just responsible for your position, making sure the unit is ready to play on Saturday or Sunday,” said Austin, who played at the University of Pittsburgh when Harbaugh was a graduate assistant in 1987. “But being coordinator, you’re working with all of the position groups and coaches. It was a great learning experience for me.
“At each stop, you’re looking to grow and get better. Florida gave me a great opportunity to do that last year.”
Austin’s pupils have excelled along the way. During his time in Seattle (2003-06) Austin’s defenses totaled 67 interceptions during that span, 10th-best in the NFL. In 2007, his Cardinals secondary led the NFL in interception returns for touchdowns (six) and return yardage (551).
While at Florida, the Gators recorded 22 interceptions, fourth-most in the nation.
Austin hopes to cultivate a similarly playmaking unit in Baltimore.
“I like to make sure they’re fundamentally sound, will after the ball when it’s in t air and are good tacklers,” Austin said. “That’s what we like to do. Anything we can do to help our guys win, that’s what I’m here for. But, those are things that I like to see in my secondaries.”
Austin inherits a unit that finished ranked No. 21 in yards allowed (224.9), but the Ravens did post 16 picks over the final 10 games of the season.
A big reason for the interception bump was NFL leader Ed Reed, whom Austin remembers from a blocked punt Reed took to the end zone against the Seahawks in 2003. The play sparked a Ravens comeback from a 17-point deficit and cemented Reed’s status in Austin’s mind.
“We thought we had the game won, but there was Ed Reed to put the Ravens right back in it,” Austin said with a laugh. “He’s a great player, and it will be a pleasure to work with him.”
Austin said he will officially settle into Ravens headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., on Monday. He spent one day interviewing with Harbaugh this week and came away with a good feeling.
“We sat and talked a lot of football when I was there, how the Ravens do things and how I teach things,” Austin said. “Really, at the end of the day, you want to make sure you can be a good fit for the team.
“John thought I would be a good fit for what they’re doing on defense, and I did too.”