Junior Defensive Lineman Making A Move Inside

<b>Wayne Dickens</b>

Auburn defensive tackle Wayne Dickens found out Monday he will have a new but familiar assignment on the football field.

Auburn, Ala.--For Wayne Dickens, a preseason elbow injury to first string noseguard T.J. Jackson means a new assignment.

At Monday's practice, the 6-1, 296 junior moved back to noseguard, a position he played earlier in his Auburn career. "Wayne's been there before I am sure he can handle it," head coach Tommy Tuberville says.

Dickens had been running second team at defensive tackle behind senior Jay Ratliff. He is now second team at noseguard behind redshirt freshman Josh Thompson, who has been pushing Jackson for the No. 1 spot going back to spring training. True freshman Pat Sims from Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., moves up to number two at tackle.

Jackson went down in pain at Sunday's practice, but the medical report is promising. The elbow injury is expected to keep him out of practice for several weeks, but he could be back for the opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe or shortly after that, Tuberville notes.

Dickens says he expects the move to noseguard to be temporary until Jackson returns. "I finally got comfortable at the three technique, but it is not that much of a difference," Dickens says. "At nose you are a little closer to the ball and you are going to get double-teamed more often than not."

Dickens says he was very happy when he learned that Jackson's injury wasn't a season-ending one. "It was a real big boost when we found out that his injury wasn't that serious," he notes. "He is one of our leaders. He gets the ball rolling for us, but he will be OK. Hopefully, he will be back for the first game."

A redshirt junior from Lake Gibson High in Lakeland, Fla., Dickens played in all 13 games last year as a reserve and made 12 tackles. He played in 13 games in 2002 and made 19 tackles while starting three times.

Dickens runs a drill earlier this year in spring training.

He spent a good bit of time with the first team in spring training until Ratliff moved ahead on the depth chart late in spring drills.

"I had a real good spring, but I kind of lost my focus toward the end," Dickens notes. "When I stay focused on the Good Lord, it shows out on the field and I stay focused there. When I dilly-dally where I am not supposed to be, it shows out here on the field, too. I am just trying to stay focused on the Lord and ask him to help me."

One of his major focuses in preseason drills is to become a better pass rusher. "That is something that I am trying to improve on in practice every day," he says.

Dickens could see action in games at both noseguard and tackle this season. He says that he will be ready to handle the challenge. "I feel like I am in good shape," he says. "You can always improve, but I feel good about where I am."

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