"I don't care what happens this year," the senior says. "This is my last season and I am going to play through it. It is really frustrating to start to really understand everything at a position and then, bang! Something happens and you never get a chance to show what you can really do."
The 280-pound senior came into Auburn as one of the most highly recruited tight end prospects in the South at 6-5, 240 pounds. Then, after a year in Coach Kevin Yoxall's strength and conditioning program, Ratliff was up to 255 pounds and was moved to defensive end prior to his sophomore season.
In 2002 and 2003 Ratliff started a combined 10 games at defensive end and showed flashes of brilliance in his stints between injuries, which included finishing third on the team in tackles for losses with 10.
However, now Ratliff faces the challenge of learning another position this season after being moved to defensive tackle in the spring to bolster a spot that lost three players to graduation in 2003.
"I enjoy playing a lot of different positions on the field," Ratliff says about his multiple moves. "But, there are times when I miss tight end. I miss the offensive side of things."
Jay Ratliff finished spring drills number one on the depth chart ahead of Wayne Dickens.
Even though he says he misses his original position at times, Ratliff adds that he is really enjoying the move inside to defensive tackle and that he is adjusting to his new home very well in a short period of time. In spring drills, he made numerous good plays as a pass rusher, a skill that his position coach, Don Dunn, hopes to see a lot of this season.
Even though Ratliff adapted to his new position very well in the spring, he says that the summer will be an important time for his development at tackle. "A lot of people say that the season begins in August or September," Ratliff notes. "But, it really starts out here on the practice fields in the summer with these workouts."
Along with the voluntary workouts, the Valdosta native has a lot of other things going on in his life this summer. Ratliff does his weightlifting during the 5 a.m. sessions. Then, he goes to class and then to work in the afternoon. After that, Ratliff makes it over to the practice fields to attend voluntary workouts with his teammates.
Ratliff notes that during his final session of summer workouts he has a very specific goal in mind. "My biggest goal for the summer is to get a little bit bigger," he explains. "I want to start the season at between 285 and 290, but 290 is pushing it a bit."
The reason the senior says that he doesn't want to get too big before his final season because that will negate what, he says, will be his biggest advantage against opposing offensive linemen. "Inside I am going to rely on my speed as my weapon," Ratliff notes.