Doolittle Hoping to Do More For Tiger Defense

Defensive lineman Tez Doolittle discusses what could be a larger role with the Auburn football team.

Auburn, Ala.--Tez Doolittle says he isn't quite 100 percent healthy, but he notes that he is in a lot better shape, both physically and mentally, than he was a year ago.

In Auburn's 28-0 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday, Doolittle saw his most significant game action as an Auburn football player. He played as the backup at noseguard to senior Tommy Jackson.

"I had a real good time," says Doolittle, who had a solo tackle, an assist and a quarterback pressure vs. the Bulldogs in Auburn's SEC opener.

With sophomore noseguard Josh Thompson not effective due to an ankle sprain, Doolittle took advantage of his opportunity for playing time and won praise from his position coach, Don Dunn.

"I was happy with with I saw from Tez," Dunn says. "He was moving around out there pretty good and he looked like he was having a good time."

Last year was not a good time, the big lineman admits. For starters, he had outgrown the position he wanted to play, fullback, and that was disappointing. However, the bigger problem was injuries.

Doolittle is shown in Sunday's practice.

After spending the 2003 season as a redshirt while trying to get well, he was still not full speed for the 2004 season as his team won the SEC title and every game it played. It got so frustrating for Doolittle to practice and not play that he decided to quit the team. However, he reconsidered and returned the next day as head coach Tommy Tuberville allowed the lineman to return.

Although he played briefly in three games last year, Doolittle wasn't on the field when games were on the line and that was frustrating for a player who arrived at college with the reputation as a bluechip prospect who was expected to be an immediate contributor with the Tigers.

"My second year, I had to do workouts trying to get rehabbed," says Doolittle, who had a pair of stops vs. The Citadel in 2004 for his only tackles in college prior to last Saturday's game.

In January of this year, Dunn challenged Doolittle to step forward, get into great physical condition and push for playing time as a redshirt sophomore. The veteran line coach says he saw improvement from Doolittle during winter workouts and into spring training. However, the 6-3, 289-pounder suffered another setback over the summer when he hurt a knee.

When preseason drills began in August, a limping Doolittle didn't have all of his speedy and quickness, which proved to be frustrating, but not at the level it was in 2004 when he left the team. "I was hurt and I wanted to play right away," says Doolittle of his first two falls at AU. "I was having difficulties at practice...I was just thinking I was out here wasting my time. I wasn't touching the field."

If Doolittle can develop into a player capable of challenging for a starting job, that would be a big plus for the Auburn defense and Dunn, who is still trying to settle on a five-player rotation for the two inside spots on the defensive front.

If he can stay free of injuries, Doolittle has a chance to see his role expand with the 2005 Tigers. "I know I am not 100 percent now, but I am close to it," he says of his knee problem. "A few times out there (vs. Mississippi State) I tried to cut and plant it. I was falling down. It was still feeling kind of weak, but I will be all right though."

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