Auburn's New Man In the Middle

Junior Jake Ricks discusses the 2008 Auburn football team and his role on it.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite the 2008 football Tigers having to replace three of their four starters on the defensive front, there are reasons to believe Auburn can be strong again on the line of scrimmage.

One of those reasons is 6-4, 302-pound junior Jake Ricks, who looks ready to step up and play a major role for Coach Tommy Tuberville's Tigers this season.

Ricks has the size and the athletic ability to be a force in the middle and is the favorite to take over for 2007 senior Josh Thompson, who was one of the Tigers' top tacklers last fall.

"I am really looking forward to the season," Ricks tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I think we are going to have a good team and we are going to be good again on the defensive front. The guys we lost from last year were good players, but we have other guys who are ready to step up and play."

Pat Sims, who went pro after his junior season, will be missed, Ricks notes, but the Tigers have a returning starter taking his spot at tackle with Sen'Derrick Marks making the move back inside where he played two seasons ago as a redshirt freshman. Marks, who has two years of starting experience under his belt, is expected to be a rock in the middle.

"It will be good having Sen'Derrick in there beside me because he is such a good player and really knows what he is doing," Ricks points out. "We also have other good players like Mike Blanc, who is going to push me for the starting spot."

Blanc was in the mix for a starting position in 2007, but due to injuries he saw limited playing time. Blanc is healthy again and ready to see playing time as is Zach Clayton, another redshirt sophomore.

Darrell Roseman, another redshirt sophomore, is finally healthy after having to sit out the past two seasons with leg problems. Roseman hasn't played a football game since he was a high school senior in the fall of 2005, but has potential."I think he will be able to help us," Ricks predicts.

A bonus up front is the return of Tez Doolittle, who was granted a hardship sixth year of eligibility after going down with an Achilles injury in preseason last year. Doolittle was pushing for a starting job last August when he was injured.

"I know people look at losing three starters from our front four and are concerned about that, but I am not," Ricks says. "We will be fine. We have good players."

Jake Ricks works out with his position coach Don Dunn during spring drills in March.

Ricks made five solo tackles with three assists in a backup role last year. His spring training was cut short due to a wrist injury, but he has shown the coaches enough to put him at the top of the depth chart and notes he is physically ready to have his best season.

Ricks says he will try to play his position with the intensity that Thompson brought to the noseguard spot last fall. When it's time to rush the passer, he says what he learned from Sims should help him get after the quarterbacks he faces.

Marks, a preseason All-SEC and All-America selection, says he likes what he has seen from Ricks and predicts the junior is ready to take a major role on the defensive front as the Tigers look to once again be one of the top defensive teams in the SEC and the country under the direction of new coordinator Paul Rhoads.

"I think Jake Ricks has the starting job," Marks says. "He played his true freshman year. He didn't get too many snaps, but he got a little experience and he played a little bit his sophomore year last year. He should be okay. He came in during the spring and showed he is probably ready to be a starter."

Ricks says he and his teammates are in good shape from their offseason workouts and will be ready for action when preseason practices open on Saturday.

"I like Coach Rhoads and I think he is going to do a good job and we will have another good defensive team," says Ricks, who came to Auburn as a standout performer at Colbert County High. Ricks says that the new coordinator knows what he is doing and is big on fundamentals.

Auburn also has a new coordinator on offense. After spending bowl practices and spring training working against Tony Franklin's new offensive system, Ricks is as eager as Auburn fans are to see how the AU offense performs. "It's going to be a lot of fun to watch," he predicts. "I know I am looking forward to seeing it. I think they are going to do a really good job this year."

Tommy Tuberville says Ricks figures prominently into Auburn's defensive plans this year. "He has a lot of ability," the head coach points out. "He is a good pass rusher and with a lot of quickness, something we look for in our defensive linemen. He is a player we will be counting on at noseguard."

Ricks and the Tigers return to practice on Saturday as they begin preparations for the August 30th season opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe.


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