Arkansas sophomore to be defensive back D.J. Dean has learned a very hard lesson about not taking anything for granted.
While Dean (5-10, 198) was getting ready for one of his October games with the Razorbacks he found out that his cousin Kevin Shorter had been hurt.
Shorter, a tailback for Newton, Texas, High that had just re-opened his recruitment after choosing Texas over Arkansas and Texas A&M, had gotten hit on a kickoff return in a playoff game and had to leave the game last October.
It turned out to be a bruised spinal cord that may keep him from every seeing the field again – but Texas stepped in and gave him a scholarship anyway.
"He is doing a lot better now," Dean said. "He is getting his speed back up and I am just really hoping he gets a chance to play football when he goes to Texas."
Doctors learned that Shorter had been born with a narrow spinal column and the trauma had led to swelling and bruising when the hit occurred.
Shorter – who is running track - has refused to accept the fact that he'll never play again and hopes to redshirt next season, have spinal surgery and resume his career even though doctors are urging him not to do so.
"I guess everything happens for a reason," Dean added, "but it was really hard because we all grew up playing football every day. When it is just taken from you right there, it hurts bad."
Dean played in all 12 games as a true freshman last season and started the final two against Mississippi State and LSU after junior Tevin Mitchel was benched.
The defensive backs and safeties are working under two new coaches this season in defensive coordinator Robb Smith and cornerbacks coach Clay Jennings.
"It is great working with them," Dean said. "They are going to get on you hard, but not too hard. They are going to get on you just enough that you know what you did wrong and make sure you do it better."
Dean had two sacks during Saturday's scrimmage when he came in on the nickel packaged and blitzed.
"Getting in on the nickle package is getting in on the action and getting to go in on blitzes and it is great being a part of it," Dean said.
The Razorbacks have six cornerbacks in the mix this spring – all trying to start.
"You are trying to push the guy in front of you and the guy behind you is trying to get where you are at," Dean said.
As a freshman, Dean had nine tackles and four pass break ups – which might not seem like a lot until you factor in that he tied for the lead in the secondary.
That tells you of the struggles Arkansas had last season in the secondary.
"We need to be more physical and everybody is pushing everybody else," Dean said. "Anything to make your teammate better is what we are trying to do."
One thing the new coaches have brought in is more press coverage and less sitting back 10 yards off the ball.
"We are getting a lot more press in and we are loving that," Dean said.
Now that Julian Horton has graduated, Dean has grabbed back his old high school number of 2 after wearing No. 1 last season.
But he leaves no doubt that he wants to be number one on the depth chart.
"I am doing everything I can to make a push to get one of those spots," Dean said. "I want to make a much bigger impact this season and I believe that is what I can and will do."
Dean's Poised To Play
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