Dickerson, who was a wideout and running back as a freshman last fall, is expected to compete for the starting job at weak-side outside linebacker. The Panthers lost all three starting linebackers to graduation -- H.B. Blades, Brian Bennett and Clint Session -- and junior Tommy Campbell from Aliquippa, who shared time with Bennett as the starter, remains on indefinite suspension for violating team rules during winter workouts.
"We're trying to put Dorin in a position to help the team the fastest,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Dorin is one of the strongest guys on our football team. He's up to 225 pounds (and is 6-foot-3) and has benched over 350 pounds. So, we're just looking for the best place for him to contribute.''
When Dickerson initially was recruited, he appeared to be destined to play on offense. He scored 38 touchdowns as a senior at West Allegheny and was a blue-chip recruiting prospect that Pitt believed could contribute immediately. However, a knee injury during practice for the Big 33 Football Classic in June and subsequent ankle sprain during Pitt training camp in August severely hampered his progress at wideout and then running back.
Dickerson coaxed the coaches into giving him a chance to play. He settled at running back near the end of camp and on his first carry, in Game 4 against The Citadel, he ran 14 yards with a reverse for a touchdown. After that, Dickerson played primarily on special teams.
Dickerson had three carries for 25 yards overall and just one catch for five yards with four kickoff returns for only 24 yards. With leading rusher LaRod Stephens-Howling from Johnstown returning as a junior and LeSean McCoy from Milford Academy (Conn.) prep school via Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg as a blue-chip recruit, Pitt has two top tailbacks.
Playing time at wideout was just as suspect for Dickerson since senior Derek Kinder and redshirt sophomore Oderick Turner return. His competition at weak-side linebacker is expected to be redshirt junior Adam Gunn and redshirt freshman Dan Loheyde. Dickerson will add speed and size to the position that Wannstedt attempted to get when he moved Campbell there from safety. Campbell's status for summer camp and fall season is unknown.
"They approached me to move to linebacker, because there's not a lot of depth there, and that was the easiest way for me to get on the field,'' Dickerson said. "The other positions are really stacked up. The change wasn't as tough as I thought it would be, but we'll see when the pads get on.
"So far, I'm picking everything else up. (But) I think there's definitely a mentality change. I guess I'll have to get nastier, looking to come up and hit a guy on every play, but I'll just have to look at film from what H.B. and Clint used to do. This change, it might be the biggest for me.''
Dickerson played linebacker before as a high school junior, and appears to be bigger. Dickerson planned to get up to 230 pounds to be a power running back, but now he'll try to get to 235 as an outside linebacker.