New Season Means New Position

With Auburn having to replace to a pair of starting linebackers, sophomore Karibi Dede is a Tiger who could see significant playing time.

Auburn, Ala.--Sophomore Karibi Dede, who started six games for the Tigers at free safety in 2003, has been playing well at strongside linebacker so far this preseason after making a position switch during the spring.

"It's a lot of work, but I like it," Dede tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I'm starting to see things, starting to learn how to make my reads, so it's going all right."

With the loss of All-SEC linebackers Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas to the NFL, there was an opportunity for new faces to break into the starting lineup in the spring of 2004. Dede, who played several defensive positions, including linebacker, for high school powerhouse C.D. Hylton in Woodbridge, Va., was willing to change positions to help the defense.

"The switch to linebacker was something that the coaches looked at first in terms of needs on the defense," Dede says. "We're not that deep at linebacker yet, but we're going to be okay. I think the coaches thought it would be a good fit, and I could help the defense. I didn't have any problem with it. I felt like that if I had the chance to help the defense, then that's what I wanted to do."

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik says the move of Dede (21) to linebacker will likely be a permanent change.

Although he had experience at the position from his high school days, playing linebacker for Auburn is completely different from what Dede had previously learned. "In high school I just kind of tracked the ball, and go get it," Dede says. "I didn't really have the same rules that I have here. In this defense, you can't just run to the ball. You've got to play within the scheme."

Dede, who is 6-1, 206 pounds, had good size for a safety, but is a bit undersized for a linebacker. Like fellow linebacker Antarrious Williams, who practiced at safety during the spring, Dede relies on a good understanding of the entire defense to make up for lack of size.

"It definitely helps that I played safety last year," Dede says. "I think that it would help for all of our safeties to look at the linebacker positions and understand it. And I think it would help for all the linebackers to look at the D-line and understand that. It's all the scheme that works as one unit so when you know what everyone else around you does, you know where you fit into the package."

Dede is a backup at the sam (strongside) position behind Kevin Sears, who is three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. Although he is undersized, Dede has excellent speed for a linebacker and could make it tough for opposing backs to run outside this year.

"A lot of the guys are bigger than me and stronger than me, so I've got to play smart," Dede says. "I've got to use what I have to my advantage and play with quickness. I have to beat guys to the punch, because if I can beat them to the punch they can't get momentum, and then size doesn't matter. I have to play with leverage and get lower than people. If I stand up straight, they can get under my pads so I've got to get under them and eliminate the size difference. From there I just have to play smart."

Dede and the Tigers took the day off from football on Wednesday as they began fall semester classes. They are scheduled to be back on the practice field on Thursday evening.

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