Ricks, Tigers Concentrating on Opening Night

An Auburn football report features comments from defensive lineman Jake Ricks.

Auburn, Ala.--Senior lineman Jake Ricks says he and his teammates are serious about getting the Gene Chizik Era of Auburn football off to a good start.

At 6 p.m. this Saturday, the Tigers will take on Louisiana Tech of the Sun Belt Conference. Coach Derek Dooley's Bulldogs should test the defensive Tigers with a team that features nine returning starters on offense.

With game week here, what does Ricks think about the rebuilt defense led by a new coaching staff?

"We are doing pretty good," the the 6-4, 292-pound noseguard says. "I see a lot of us really focused now. We are focused on this game. We want to start it off the right way."

Ricks is a player who has worked at both noseguard and tackle (the three technique) for his new position coach, Tracy Rocker.

"Right now it looks like I am just going to play nose," Ricks says. "We will see how things go. If I need to play the three technique, I would love to do that. If coach needs me to play it, I will be more than glad to do it."

Ricks is shown in action in last season's game vs. Ole Miss.

Ricks has played in all 25 games the past two seasons in a reserve role. Last year he made seven tackles, including two for lost yardage, and he recovered a fumble. He is expected to take a much larger role this season with the Tigers having to replace Tez Doolittle, who shared the starting duties with Mike Blanc.

Rocker has been training his guys on the defensive front at multiple positions. Juniors Blanc, Zach Clayton and Michael Goggans have each worked at tackle and end throughout the preseason. Newcomer Nick Fairley, a defensive end in junior college, has been getting work at that position, too, after spending most of the preseason learning to play tackle.

Rocker says he wants to be able to rotate eight to nine guys into the lineup at the four defensive front positions this season so he can keep fresh players on the field for all four quarters. The coach says to do that the cross-training at multiple positions will give him more flexibility as will keeping his guys on the front four healthy, something Ricks says is huge for the 2009 team.

"The key to our season on defense is staying healthy," Ricks says. "We have just got to stay healthy. If we do that, and bring our young guys along, we will be just fine."

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