Dickens Ready To Step Up For Tigers

The Auburn Tigers continued their work on the Arkansas Razorbacks Wednesday with a tough practice.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the keys to Auburn's success early in the 2002 season has been the addition of several key players along the defensive front to give depth to the Tiger team. Names like Dante Booker, T.J. Jackson, Bret Eddins, Mayo Sowell, Dexter Murphy and Kyle Derozan have been seen early and often in games this season. That has given the coaching staff the luxury of giving banged-up starters like Spencer Johnson, Demarco McNeil and Reggie Torbor a break if needed, something that wasn't an option last fall.

Perhaps the most consistent performer out of the group of newcomers and reserves has been Wayne Dickens. A talented redshirt freshman from Lakeland, Fla., Dickens came in last season and wasn't ready for what was awaiting him in big-time college football. Now a year older, stronger and wiser, he says that he feels like he needs to keep improving to get where he needs to be for this team.

Wayne Dickens (96) along with Bret Eddins (94) wait to go through a defensive line drill Wednesday.

"Starting out of the gate during two-a-days I felt pretty good," Dickens says. "I guess I feel like I've hit a bump in the road right now, I feel like I'm kind of stuck in the mud. I'm just trying to work through it in practice."

Although he's not happy with his overall game at the moment, Dickens notes that he did feel like his performance against Syracuse Saturday night was a step in the right direction for him.

"I'm not worrying much about my technique because we rep it so much that it's second nature," he says. "The thing for me now is I can make plays downfield and I can make plays down the line. Now I need to make plays in the backfield, get sacks. I'm shooting for seven or eight sacks. I haven't had one yet, but if I just keep working in practice I feel like they'll come."

The coaching staff has definitely noticed a difference in Dickens. Despite losing nearly 15 pounds since two-a-days, the defensive tackle has shown his head coach that he can be a force for this team in the coming games and he will be counted on to produce down the stretch.

"He's gotten a lot better," Tommy Tuberville says. "He's just learning how to play the speed of the game. He's got real good quickness and plays with good body leverage. The thing that he's learning now is attacking the line of scrimmage and playing with his hands. It just takes time to learn that. He played well the other night. He was in on more plays than he was ever in and he's getting in playing shape, so to speak, for a defensive lineman.

"He's going to need to play well for us to be successful. He's going to have to play 35 or 40 snaps a game, maybe more than that, and he's just going to be better and better when he learns from mistakes and success."

Mayo Sowell worked at first-team defensive end with Reggie Torbor sitting out resting his sore knee at Wednesday's practice.

Noting that the team had about 30 percent of the practice work done for the Razorbacks, Tuberville said following Wednesday's workout that they went back to an old-fashioned practice with every phase of the game getting some attention during the two-and-a-half hour session. Missing from the workout were quarterback Daniel Cobb (ankle), Spencer Johnson (ankle), Anthony Mix (shoulder), Mark Brown (neck), and Reggie Torbor (knee). Tuberville said all but Cobb should be ready to go on Sunday and the quarterback could be back as well depending on how his ankle responds to treatment.

"This was a spring practice," Tuberville said. "Yesterday and today have been spring practices. It was hot, very unusually hot. We had a couple of guys cramp but we pushed them hard, we pushed them to the limit. Tomorrow we'll have a little scrimmage with the younger guys at the end of practice, have a little fun with it."

Without Cobb on the field during team drills, Tuberville said that Jason Campbell was given a bulk of the practice time at quarterback with true freshman Josh Sullivan getting some action as well. While he admits that Cobb is the likely starter should he return from his ankle injury in time to rehearse the game plan, Tuberville said that the quarterback situation is one that might not be answered until next week.

The Tigers will practice Thursday and on Friday they will have a weight training and running workout before taking Saturday off to watch their next opponent and future opponents in action. They will resume practices Sunday to begin their normal workweek in preparation for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

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