With the departure of Keith Zinger to the NFL, Dickson returns as the only experienced tight end for Tigers and is arguably the best at his position in the SEC heading into the 2008 campaign.
“There’s still a lot of things I need to work on,” Dickson said. “When I go back and watch tape from last year, there’s so many mistakes that people don’t even notice.”
If there’s one criticism of the Ocean Springs native, it’s that he has a ways to go as a blocking tight end. Zinger is playing his trade in the NFL now largely due to his blocking abilities, while Dickson is known mostly as a pass-catcher.
“Oh I definitely need to work on my blocking now that Keith’s gone,” he said. “Last year I weighed around 235 and now I’m up to about 246. I’ve been working on my bench and my squat, and I’ve gained a bit of time on my 40. I know the role I’ve got to fill so I had a lot of motivation to get better.”
Along with his role on the field, Dickson has the job of playing mentor to younger tight ends Alex Russian, Mitch Joseph, and Matt Branch as they progress through LSU’s system. In one off-season Dickson has gone from a sophomore backup to the leading tight end on the roster.
“I had those guys to lean on my entire career,” said Dickson. “But I’m the old guy now. We’ve got some great young tight ends and they’ve got a bunch of potential. But they’re great listeners and that really makes my job easier. It’s easy to pass things down to guys who are eager and willing to learn.”
Perhaps the biggest news from Dickson this off-season, other than his progression as a blocker, was his highly-publicized switch from No. 82 to No. 18. The number belonged to national championship quarterback Matt Mauck in 2003, before being passed on to fan favorite Jacob Hester.
“Me and [Hester] joked about it a lot last year,” Dickson said. “Hester wanted somebody to pass the number down to and he asked me if I’d do it. At the last practice before the bowl game we switched jerseys and I got to wear 18 to the last practice. We talked a lot about it and finally I said I’d do it.”
As LSU fans are all too well aware, the number 18 has brought success with it over this past decade. Tiger fans will be hoping Dickson can carry the tradition into his final two seasons as a Tiger.
“It’s a great honor to wear the jersey that guys like Matt Mauck and Jacob Hester have worn,” he said. “I’m good friends with Jacob Hester and he’s a great guy. I hope I can be the guy that he was in this jersey, it’d definitely be nice to be as clutch as he was and I’m going to do whatever I can to come through in those situations.”