PITTSBURGH (AP) -Dorin Dickerson was supposed to be an impact player at Pittsburgh, possessing the kind of game-changing talent the Panthers need if they're going to catch up with Big East front-runners West Virginia and Louisville.
Only it wasn't supposed to be this type of impact - the kind a defensive player delivers to a running back or a wide receiver to end a play or a drive.
Dickerson, one of Pennsylvania high school football's top offensive talents over the last decade, has made a surprise switch to linebacker and is expected to start there this season as a sophomore.
It's a big gamble for player and coach alike, with Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt taking a chance that Dickerson can alter a game on defense the way he did so many times at suburban Pittsburgh's West Allegheny High on offense.
``He wants to play, and to play badly,'' Wannstedt said. ``And we want to get him on the field.''
To do so, Dickerson has added 10 pounds to the 215 he weighed last season as a wide receiver, when he rarely played but did score one touchdown. Wannstedt felt some urgency to improve the talent at linebacker, with Pitt losing all of its starters from last season.
Dickerson stood out in the spring game with an interception and several other athletic plays, and he has been one of the three linebacker starters since training camp opened Monday.
``Coming out of high school, I never thought I would be playing linebacker,'' Dickerson said. ``Now, I just want to go there and hit somebody. I'm excited.''
Still, there's that lingering doubt in the minds of some at Pitt: Here's a player who scored 36 touchdowns as a senior in one of the nation's top high school conferences, the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, and he's on defense?
It's not as if the 6-foot-1 Dickerson played against mediocre competition; his alma mater also produced Pitt's quarterback of the last three seasons, Tyler Palko, who is now in the New Orleans Saints camp.
``I told my friends, if I could do it all over again, I'd like to play middle linebacker (in high school) and have like 200 tackles,'' Dickerson said. ``It's better than scoring touchdowns, it's the same thing. As long as we win, that supersedes everything.''
Tackles preferable to touchdowns? Dickerson insists he's sincere in saying he would rather play defense than offense.
``I had a lot of time to think about it before they even asked me,'' Dickerson said. ``I said, `You know what, linebacker might not be that bad a position.' I was kind of excited, actually, that he (Wannstedt) asked me. I said, `You know whatever works for the team, I'll do it.' I guess that's the best position for me to play on this team and I'll do to the best of my ability.''
Dickerson and the linebackers have stood out so far, though, as Wannstedt said Thursday, the defense is traditionally ahead of the offense in the early stages of preseason camp.
The new linebacker knows he has much improving to do, especially since he's playing an unfamiliar position in a major Division I-A conference that had three teams in the final top 12 last season in West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers.
``It's a different mentality and everybody knows this,'' Dickerson said. ``I had to learn how to tackle somebody again, I've tackled people in high school but tackling at the Division I level (is different).
``But it feels like I've already been playing this position my whole life. It's a pretty good transition.''

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