Versatile Linebacker Expanding His Role

Auburn's coaches are counting on Karibi Dede to handle several important roles with the 2005 team's defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Two years ago, Karibi Dede started on opening day for the Tigers and the result was not pretty.

Southern Cal came to Jordan-Hare Stadium and dominated the home team, setting a negative tone for the season that had opened with great expectations.

On Saturday night Dede will be back in the starting lineup at a new position and he has new hopes for a better result for this Auburn football team.

The redshirt junior, who moved from safety to outside linebacker last year, has become Mr. Versatility in the linebacker corps for Coach Joe Whitt. He will start on the strongside, but can play in the middle or weakside if needed.

Karibi Dede is bigger and stronger this season.

Dede notes that he can't wait to get on the field Saturday night. "It's exciting," he says. "The Georgia Tech game is a big one because it can set the tone for the whole season."

Whitt says he is excited, too, because he has been pleased with what he is seeing from the player he selected to start ahead of returning starter, junior Kevin Sears.

"The number one reason is Kevin Sears has been injured and Karibi Dede hasn't missed a day," says Whitt, who notes that Sears missed most of spring training with a wrist problem.

"Besides that, Karibi Dede has really come on and gotten better every day," the linebacker coach says. "He could have started at any time. This is no big shock."

Whitt says it isn't a big issue whether Dede or Sears starts because both will see significant playing time vs. Georgia Tech. "Basically nothing has changed except which guy is going out there first," he says.

However, Dede's ability to pick up the assignments at all three linebacker spots in the Auburn 4-3 alignment is worth getting excitement about, Whitt contends. "That is absolutely big. That has more impact on our football team than him starting at sam (strongside linebacker).

"Starting at sam is no big deal, but being able to play sam, play mike (middle) and play will (weakside) is huge for our football team because it allows us to roll those four guys and play with experience all day."

Whitt adds that Travis Williams in the middle and Antarrious Williams at the weakside will combine with Dede and Sears to share all of the prime-time duty. The veteran coach notes that talented true freshman Tray Blackmon and the other backups are not going to be on the field when the game is on the line unless there are injuries to one of his "four starters."

Dede made the move to linebacker last season and despite some initial skepticism about being undersized for the position he says he is glad he made the change.

It helps that he has added extra size. He weighed 195 as a safety vs. Southern Cal two years ago. He was only slightly heavier when he moved to linebacker in 2004 and got up to 221 prior to the start of preseason practice this summer. He is trying to regain seven pounds he has lost since then while practicing in the August heat and humidity.

Karibi Dede played extensively last year and should see even more action this season.

"When I moved down, I was only 200 pounds," Dede says. "Even now that I am a little bigger I am not as strong as some of the guys so I have to play to my speed and quickness a little more.

"I have learned how to position my body to where size isn't everything, but at first it was different," Dede adds. "The is the SEC and I have seen what goes on in the box and that is from standing back at safety. Coming in there you have got to be tough, you have got to have a good mentality and you have got to be ready to work."

Part of Dede's assignment is to stay free from attempted blocks in the box by 300-pound linemen, which he notes is an an extremely high priority for self preservation as well as making tackles.

"Quickness can help you because you can get to the punch a little quicker," he says. "If you are a step slow, the big guys can get on you. If you are step quicker, you can beat them to the punch and if you beat them to the punch and stay low you can win.

"If a tackle gets a clean shot on me, I am putting a move on him--I am still not 240 pounds," Dede says with a smile. "If I take the right angle, and I play with the right leverage, I am going to win every time."

Karibi Dede

The junior says by learning all three linebacker spots and also knowing what all of the players are doing in the secondary, he has become a more confident and knowledgeable linebacker.

When he goes inside to play the mike linebacker role, he says there is less margin for error. "The middle position is pretty unforgiving," he notes. "If you make a mistake in the middle it could mean the difference between the defense being sound and unsound. If you miss a gap you have got trouble because the mike is usually the free hitter."

On Saturday night, Dede's Tigers will take on Georgia Tech in a game that will kick off at 7:45 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Dede has high hopes for the AU defense.

"I think the sky is the limit," he says. "It is all about preparation. It is important that we not think about what we did last year. It will come down to watching a lot of game tape to be prepared. We need to play smart and play to our strengths. Our strengths are our quickness and our ability to disguise what we are doing. We make it hard for quarterbacks to read what we do."

If Dede plays as well as Whitt expects, there will be no disguising the fact that the junior is a key member of the 2005 defense.

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