Andrew Wicker has always had leadership capabilities lurking under the surface, but he rarely "unleashed" those qualities in the past, prefering to "wait his turn."
Now, he's a senior and it's his time to lead.
"There's an unwritten pecking order in college football," he explained. "The older players at a position are supposed to take a leadership role. It feels natural to me and all our seniors. I'm not doing it intentionally, it's just coming out like it's supposed to."
In interviews with younger offensive linemen, they have repeatedly pointed to "Wick and a couple of others" as the leaders of the OL pack.
"I've always been vocal when I felt the need, but now it's more natural," he explained. "The young guys need someone to guide them, just like I did my first couple of years. I got good leadership from some great teammates, now I want to do that.
"I feel great about the way all the offensive linemen are responding this summer. I looked at some numbers from the past with (S & C) Coach (Aaron) Ausmus about the percentage of OL who had made all their 110 times and gotten stronger and in better shape in the past summer sessions. Our percentage of improvement in all those areas is much, much better. I'm very pleased with guys completing all their running, guys changing their body fat and guys making strides to get better. I feel real comfortable where we are at this point in the summer."
OL Coach Art Kehoe talked a summer plan of "100 pass sets for 100 days" after spring. Wicker feels that is being accomplished.
"We are working our tails off. I think Coach Kehoe will be pleased with the strides we have made over the summer - real pleased," Andrew noted.
Individually, Wicker focused on changing his body.
"I started the summer off at 292 pounds with 20% body fat. Right now, I'm at 297 pounds with 18% body fat. I feel real good about my progress," he noted. "I've done really well."
Andrew has also concentrated on his health. Last year, he struggled in the summer and most of the season with the residual affects of a broken bone in his foot that caused him to miss the spring of 2005.
This year, no problem.
"I haven't missed a beat. I have made all my required times and my foot has not bothered me one time, knock on wood," he continued. "I'm very thankful that my foot is not a factor now.
"We are doing agility runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it has not bothered me the first time. I was taping it, but one day I forgot to and it did not hurt. I spent the rest of the day smiling and haven't taped it since. I will tape it during two-a-days as a safety precaution, but I'm really excited about playing without pain for the first time in over a year."
Andrew has high hopes for the offensive line in 2006 and has justifications for those feelings.
"Other than Tre' (Stallings) and Bobby (Harris) at the tackle slots, our OL was as raw as could be last year," he noted. "Nobody had ever seen snaps in their careers where we were playing. Darryl (Harris) had never played center. I had never played OL. Michael Oher had never played in college. Thomas Eckers hadn't played much before last year.
"Now, we have experience and we have a coach who has made things simpler, but at the same time more aggressive, the way we like to play. I think our fans are going to be surprised with our development, but we will not be. We saw daily improvement in the spring - days where we did real good things against our defense - and we have gotten better on our own in the summer."
Wicker - and others - have made sure of the summer improvement with solid leadership.
"You do what you have to do," he said humbly. "It's what you do when you are a senior and you care about your team.
"This is a very tight-knit team, as close as any I have been on. We are all there for each other and that motivates all of us. I'm excited about the year."
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