The 6-4, 310-pound senior played last season with a nagging left knee problem, but was able to make it through the bowl game before having it repaired on Jan. 10.
“I’m just trying to get it back strong,” Duckworth says. “I’m just now coming back from that. I do rehab every morning, lifting weights, just trying to get it stronger and working on the muscles that run through my knee.”
Duckworth had another solid practice on Friday, dominating his men in one-on-one pass drills even though he says his pass rush blocking is struggling and his knee is at 60-70 percent. With defensive lineman Chris Browder playing his new position at three-technique (defensive tackle), Duckworth got the better of Browder in the drills, which became heated between the two.
“My helmet had come halfway off when we were going through pass rush,” Duckworth says. “He hit me in the nose twice. I called him out on out it telling him it was a punk move and that I was going to get him back. He said he didn’t mean to do it so I’m going to let it go.”
Duckworth’s status for the 10:15 a.m. scrimmage on Saturday is uncertain, but he says he’ll try to give it a shot.
“I might get a couple of snaps, but it probably won’t be much,” he says. “We’ll know tomorrow. It depends on how I feel when I walk in tomorrow. If my knee feels good enough to go on it then I’m going to go ahead.”
Tim Duckworth controls his opponent in a one-on-one drill on Friday evening as offensive tackle Leon Hart (72) watches.
Duckworth played on the defensive side of the ball early in his career, and really came on toward the end of his first year of significant playing time on the offensive line in games against Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.
“I felt like I got better,” he says. “I was learning from a couple of the best guys I’ve ever played with--Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick. Troy taught me a whole lot about my position because he knew how to play center, guard and tackle.
“He taught me a whole lot about the position and he helped me out, too,” Duckworth adds. “I call and thank him all the time, ‘I appreciate everything you did for me because I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if you hadn’t helped me out.’ Those guys helped me and I really feel like I progressed.”
After his improvements and development at guard during his junior campaign, Duckworth says he checked out his draft status, but never really considered turning pro.
“I looked into it,” Duckworth says. “I’m not saying I would have went, but I was just seeing how high I would go. I made a promise to my mom that I was going to finish college and I’ll be the first one to finish college. Plus, my older sister Carol wouldn’t like that so much. I wasn’t about to go, I just want to see how high I could go.”
If Duckworth can get healthy can continue to improve like he did last season, he could have an opportunity to get to where he wants to be--an early round draft pick.
“I heard either late third round or fourth round (last season),” he notes. “I want first round. I’m greedy so I’m going for it all. The coaches have put me in that position. I’ve got to leave it up to God. I put God in front so anything can happen.”
If Duckworth develops into a high-round draft pick this season, he’ll have come a long way for a guy who says he wasn’t particularly thrilled about moving to offense. He battled through knee problems at defensive tackle as well, and says he had a hard time getting off the ball quick enough, which provoked his position coach Don Dunn to threaten to move him to offense.
Those threats were music to the ears of offensive line coach Hugh Nall, who has helped Duckworth develop into an All-SEC caliber player.
“I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to offense. If I’m going to offense I’m leaving to go back to Mississippi,’” Duckworth jokes. “I had a talk with Coach Nall one day before practice and he said, ‘I’ve seen how you’ve been doing over there, but you could make a lot of money (at the next level) over here.’ That’s all I had to hear. It changed me. Once I got over here and started learning, it got easy. I’m real glad I made the switch.”
The scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. at the stadium is open to the public. Due to construction, fans attending the event should enter through the South gates at the Tiger Walk Plaza. The scrimmage will last about 100 plays.
Premium Subscription Signup
Subscribe to Magazine Only