After Andrew Wicker's 2004 sophomore season, he made a major decision about his future.
In his heart, he had a defensive mentality, but in his mind he knew his future beyond college football - if he had one - would be on the offensive line.
He asked newly-hired Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron if he could switch over to the "other" side of the ball. Coach O told him to give it a shot.
Unfortunately, a nagging foot problem - that at one point was considered career-threatening - cost him the vital 2005 spring training session. He was in a foot boot and could do nothing but observe.
When the 2005 season rolled around, Wicker was game, but too green to contribute the way he wanted to in the Rebel offense.
"It was pretty frustrating," said Wicker. "I really needed that spring. I thought I could pick up a lot of the techniques by watching spring drills, but until you have actually done the techniques, you can't really get them down just by observing."
As the season progressed, Wicker's foot continued to hurt, but he battled through it and started picking up the OL techniques little by little.
"By the end of the year, I was comfortable and starting to make progress toward being a good college offensive lineman," he expressed.
During the Christmas break, Wicker had some major revelations in his career.
One, all his foot needed was an extended rest period which was afforded him for nearly a month. He believes it's now healed and has given him no trouble this spring.
Two, around the time school started back, he got a new position coach when George DeLeone left Oxford and Art Kehoe came on board. A new beginning for everyone on the OL.
Three, he evaluated what he needed to do to improve and started getting after it.
"I wanted to get stronger across the board and I did that in the offseason. It's still a work in progress, but I can feel I'm stronger now than I was last year," he assessed. "Also, I wanted to concentrate on having more patience in pass blocking and being more physical in my drive blocking.
"OL is a lot different than DL. In pass protection, you have to wait for defenders to come to you. That goes against my nature as a DL, but it's something I have to master.
"I also want to become more vocal with the line checks. Checks are a huge part of the success on the OL and that was an adjustment for me too."
Wicker entered spring at 295 pounds, which is right where Kehoe wanted him for now.
"Coach Kehoe emphasizes being lean, strong and quick. He wants OL who can move. I reached the goals he set for me," Wicker noted.
Kehoe has been on board roughly two months and already Wicker and the OL crew are loving the change of scenery.
"Trust me - we'll be better, I'll be better, because of Coach Kehoe," Wick noted. "We're learning a little bit different technique, which will take some time, and some new schemes, but we're catching on quickly because Coach Kehoe is a great teacher and communicator.
"And what some people don't realize is that last year I had never played any OL in my whole career, Michael (Oher) had never played a snap on this level and Darryl (Harris) had never played center before. A lot of us were as green as green can be."
Under Kehoe, a new attitude has erupted on the OL.
"Because he is such a great teacher, we are eager to learn. He's very intense on the field, but it ends there. In the film room, it's all about teaching and he keeps it interesting and keeps our attention," he continued. "He understands that if all you do is rep something, it gets old and boring. He finds ways to make getting better fun and interesting, but at the same time he is extremely demanding and expects a lot out of us."
Right now, Wicker is playing left guard and is backing up Harris, who has moved from center this spring, but all of that can change in the snap of a finger.
"I can play either side at guard and fully expect to be in the rotation next year. Maurice (Miller) is having a real good spring at right guard - he's strong and is a great drive blocker. He'll be very good, but I think I'll be in the mix somewhere when all the dust settles," he stated.
Wicker is anticipating more change before spring training is completed.
"Coach Kehoe is looking for the best five offensive linemen, regardless of position. It wouldn't surprise me to see more changes by August," Wick added.
Andrew also likes the style and scheme the Rebs are installing on the forward wall.
"We are more aggressive now. We are running a lot of gap blocking, which I like, and we are still running some zone schemes, but with an emphasis on some double teams to help create a surge at the point of attack," said Wicker. "I like what we are doing and believe it will help us be more productive."
After a year of uncertainty, Wicker believes he will be transformed as he prepares and approaches his senior season.
"I can already tell a big difference in my play and in the play of the OL. It's only going to get better," he closed.
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