OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Victor Ochi is willing to fight for his roster spot with the Ravens.
Twice during Thursday’s practice, the Stony Brook University product from Valley Stream scrapped with second-year tight end Nick Boyle. The first time, the two got into it during a goal-line drill and had to be separated by a few veteran teammates. Not long after, they shoved each other along the far sideline during an 11-on-11 drill amid murmurs of “Ooh, a fight!” from nearby fans.
No harm, no foul in either skirmish, though. Just the usual camp chippiness.
“Just football, you know,” Ochi said with a chuckle. “We both are the same type of player. We want it a little bit extra. When you get those types of personalities on the field, it’s always going to collide . . . We’ve been going at it all camp, but he’s really a great person.”
Ochi, an undrafted free agent, will need to claw his way onto the Ravens as rosters shrink from 90 to 53 in the preseason. The edge rusher has been turning heads — and for the right reasons.
“He reminds me of me last year,” second-year linebacker Za’Darius Smith said.
“He’s a hard worker,” said rookie linebacker Mario Ojemudia, Ochi’s roommate at camp.
Said coach John Harbaugh: “He’s a young guy, he’s got a lot to learn, but [I’m] pretty fairly excited about him.”
‘THE RIGHT ENERGY’
Ochi always has had to work extra hard to get noticed.
He went to a camp at Rutgers before his senior season at Valley Stream Central High School in the hopes of attracting FBS attention, but only one college offered him a scholarship: Stony Brook. He rewarded the Seawolves for taking a chance on him by becoming the FCS school’s all-time leader in sacks (32 1⁄2) and tackles for loss (49).
Ochi had an impressive predraft process. He was named a captain and had a sack at the East-West Shrine Game, earned an NFL Combine invite and was mentioned by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. as a potential third-round pick.
But Ochi’s name wasn’t one of the 253 called out in Chicago on April 28-30. So he followed the same script from five years ago.
“All it does is motivate me to become better,” he said, “and I feel like I fed off it and have the right energy going into football season coming up.”
Coaches have taken notice.
“I love the way he practices,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He practices full tilt all the time . . . He works hard in the classroom and on the field. What else can I ask?”
“This guy, his motor’s running hot every play,” he said. “He’s coming off the ball, he’s trying to get to the quarterback, he’s chasing the run. We grade effort, and it’s very rare when he doesn’t get a plus for his effort.”
Still, effort can go only so far. The odds of an undrafted free agent making a roster are long. Plus, the Ravens have taken four pass rushers in the last two drafts, including three this year.
“If success came that easy, then everybody would be successful,” Ochi said. “I know what it takes, I know the work that I’ve got to put in. I know I’ve got to work a little bit more harder, and that’s always been my approach to everything.”
‘THEY BRING THE BEST OUT OF ME’
It’s always something rookies notice right away: This isn’t college anymore.
“The game’s a lot faster,” Ochi said. “I’m still waiting for it to slow down a little bit.”
Luckily for him, he’s part of a talented position group.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of camp. Suggs tore his Achilles last year in the season opener and Dumervil had offseason foot surgery. But the two perennial Pro Bowlers with a combined 202 1⁄2 sacks have shared their secrets in position meetings with Ochi.
“Elvis has given me great advice, Suggs has given me great advice,” Ochi said. “They give me a couple of pointers on film. Even watching them on film, two Hall of Famers in my opinion, I just try to learn as much from them as possible.”
Ochi has been paying particular attention to Dumervil. Both are shorter pass rushers with long wingspans.
“I’m going to try to see how much I can emulate and perfect it on my own,” Ochi said of Dumervil’s style.
On the field, Ochi has been working with the defensive linemen and outside linebackers, mostly on the second or third team.
“He’s got great get-off, and that’s one thing I like about Ochi,” said Smith, who has been working with the first team in Suggs’ and Dumervil’s absence. “In the classroom, he’s on point with everything. He’s reading everything in the playbook from his position and trying to know the next position also.”
“I feel like a lot of those [small-school] guys have a chip on their shoulder,” said Ojemudia, who practices across from Ochi at the other edge rusher spot. “So they come with some extra fire each day.”
Ochi also said that facing quality offensive linemen in drills, including Marshal Yanda, John Urschel and first-round pick Ronnie Stanley, has helped.
“You know you can’t get away with the little stuff you got away with in college,” Ochi said. “It teaches you to really focus on your craft. That’s another big difference in the NFL, technique. You’ve got to be more technically sound in the NFL and be more attentive to detail — your hands, your timing, everything has to be on point.”
Backup tackle Blaine Clausell went against Ochi in drills Friday.
“Every play, he’s bringing you 100 percent, and it makes you better because it makes you step up your game every day,” he said.
Ochi echoed that sentiment.
“They bring the best out of me,” he said. “ I can’t take a play off or I’ll really pay for it.”
‘RIGHT ON TRACK’
It takes more than pure pass-rush ability to earn regular playing time, especially in the Ravens’ 3-4 defense.
Ochi piled up sacks with the Seawolves, but even touching the quarterback in practice is off limits, so Ochi has had to work on the other parts of his game.
“He’s a typical rookie, he’s got a lot to learn,” Pees said, “but the one thing we got with Victor is we got a great effort guy, a great kid, a guy who really wants to do well.”
Ochi has his eyes set on Thursday’s preseason opener against the Panthers as his chance to show everyone what they want to see.
“I know the coaches are expecting to see what I can do,” Ochi said. “I’m excited for the moment, and I’m excited to show them that I’m more than just a pass rusher, I’m a great football player. I can set the edge on the run, drop back if they need me to, be a force on special teams. I want to be more than just a pass rusher, and that’s my goal, to show these coaches.”
Harbaugh said Ochi “does have a ways to go” and noted that he needs to develop those other aspects in order to be a more consistent option on defense.
“But,” Harbaugh added, “I’d say he’s right on track.”