New Season Brings Changes For Doolittle

Auburn, Ala.--Tuesday was the first day in full pads for the 2004 edition of the Auburn football team and it was also the first day at a new position for one of the Tigers' redshirt freshmen.

Tez Doolittle, who was limited in what he could do last fall while recovering from shoulder surgery, didn't make a move to get into the playing rotation on the defensive line when he was healthy enough to compete for playing time in spring drills.

A player who spent most of his senior season at Opelika High on offense as a fullback, Doolittle gained significant weight after signing with the Tigers and weighed more than 300 pounds when he reported for his freshman year at AU.

Coming into preseason practice, however, Doolittle had dropped 25 pounds and showed a renewed energy for the game despite being mired low on the depth chart at defensive end, where he finished spring drills.

However, Doolittle was moved to defensive tackle on Tuesday after an injury to T.J. Jackson forced second team tackle Wayne Dickens to move to the nose guard spot, and defensive tackles Coach Don Dunn couldn't be happier with the move.

"His attitude is excellent," Dunn says. "It seems like he is in a lot better shape and he is a lot more intense as far as practice. Right now he is running second at the three technique behind Jay (Ratliff) and then (Pat) Sims is behind him. But, I was real proud of his effort. That is where he needs to be. He's a tackle. He is big enough and strong enough so that is probably where he will stay."

Tez Doolittle works with Coach Dunn during Tuesday's practice session.

Doolittle notes that he has had some previous experience inside and that he is not totally overwhelmed by the coaches' decision. "I played inside this spring, I played a little D-tackle," he explains. "Then at the end of spring they moved me to D-end, so I played D-end all the way up until the second day of two-a-days and they moved me inside. So, it is really not a big move because I know both positions."

However, the redshirt freshman says that despite his earlier experience that his head is still spinning after only one day on his new assignment. "I haven't really gotten caught up on all of the plays yet," Doolittle notes. "Like, I will get a little help from Wayne or ask some of the older guys what to do on certain plays when I don't know what to do. But, tonight I will get with coach and get these plays down pat for tomorrow."

He also notes that having older players who are so willing to lead the way and offer him help is a big bonus. "It is very important because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't know what I was doing out there and I would get cussed out," Doolittle says. "But, with them being older and knowing what to do--I really appreciate that a lot."

The big lineman says that he knows why he is in his current situation, but adds that the taste of more playing time only makes him want to work harder. "It feels pretty good, but it is just because T.J. is out and Wayne had to go to the nose guard position," Doolittle notes about being listed at second team. "But, I am going to try and keep it up and try to stay at second team. I just want to be on the field. It doesn't matter where I am."

Doolittle also says that the biggest factor in his revived energy and desire to play have come from his current conditioning regime. "When I came in I was 305 and I came out of high school weighing 260," he explains. "Putting all of that weight on I was feeling bad, so I dropped weight and I am down to 285 right now and I am feeling better."

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