Auburn, Ala.--Impressive last season when he manned the scout team secondary for the Auburn Tigers while sitting out after transferring in from Ohio State as a freshman, big cornerback Jamel Dean has picked up where he left off this spring and so far has been one of the bright spots for the Tigers spring football practice.
With returning starter Carlton Davis expected to be one of the best players at his position in the Southeastern Conference, new secondary Coach Wesley McGriff is looking for someone to step up on the other side and right now Dean is locked in a battle to earn that spot. With guys like Javaris Davis, walk-on Mike Sherwood and true freshman John Broussard also seeing action there, Coach Gus Malzahn said so far Dean has shown he has got the ability to be a big-time player for the Tigers.
“He has a lot of talent,” Malzahn said. “He can run. He' i a physical guy. He really caught our attention in bowl practice when we did some scrimmaging and he's carried it over into spring. Coach McGriff, I know is pleased with him right now. He's a young guy, he's still learning but his attitude is good and he's got a lot of talent.”
A player who dealt with a pair of knee injuries at Cocoa, Fla., High School, Dean enrolled at Ohio State last January, but the Buckeyes never cleared him medically to play and instead wanted him to take a medical hardship redshirt scholarship. That would have ended Dean’s playing career before it began.
Instead he decided to look elsewhere for a home and found that at Auburn. Getting being cleared medically by Dr. James Andrews early last summer he was already running and looking good physically when he arrived on campus. Malzahn said the Tigers researched everything with Dean and decided he was going to be good to go, something that ended up being true.
“You do your homework on him and you make a decision,” Malzahn said. “We felt great about him. He’s been very good since he’s been here. He’s got a chance to be a great player.”
Now Dean is part of a secondary that should be one of the strengths for the Auburn defense heading into the 2016 season. Getting veterans Josh Holsey and T.J. Davis back from knee injuries that kept them out all of last season, having the very productive Rudy Ford capable of playing either safety or nickel while also having a group of safeties such as Stephen Roberts, Nick Ruffin and Tray Matthews to work with Auburn’s group has a chance to be productive.
When you factor all that in with Carlton Davis on one side and potentially Dean on the other, Ruffin said it’s fun to think about the possibilities.
“He’s good,” Ruffin said of Dean. “He is looking very good. He’s a very physical corner. He’s long, lanky, much like Carlton. Having guys with that kind of size, physicality and length is not something every school has the luxury of. It should definitely play into our favor.”