Editor's Note: These lists feature our thoughts on the most important players for Auburn heading into the 2016 football season. We are counting down 16 key Tigers for the offense and 16 more for the defense as Coach Gus Malzahn's team prepares to face Clemson in the season opener.
Impressive last fall while redshirting, the former Ohio State signee looks more like a linebacker than a defensive back, but he has shown the ability to make plays in the secondary and that has him on the cusp of being a key component for Auburn in 2016.
Released by the Buckeyes last spring because of a knee injury after enrolling early, Dean arrived at Auburn and immediately impressed with his size and speed. By the time the footballs were put away last season following a win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl, Dean was full speed and showing why he was one of the most intriguing defensive back recruits in Florida when he came out of Cocoa, Fla.
Best Case Scenario: With a need at cornerback and a unique combination of size and speed, Dean is a player who has every opportunity to make a big impact on Auburn’s defense this fall. If he can continue to improve from the guy his teammates saw last fall and in the spring, Dean should be a great addition for the Tigers opposite Carlton Davis and alongside Javaris Davis.
Worst Case Scenario: Dean has the physical tools to be successful, but facing Clemson, Texas A&M and LSU very early in the season means Dean will have to go against three of the four best wide receiver groups in the country right out of the gate. That’s tough on even the most seasoned of veterans, but for a redshirt freshman it’s going to mean playing at a very high level early in his career and that’s not easy.
Career Comparison: A player twho could end up playing safety before his career at Auburn is done, Dean has a similar skill set to another former Tiger, Brad Ware. Recruited as a cornerback before using his ball skills to become a playmaker at free safety, Ware was at the forefront of the movement to longer defensive backs in the collegiate game.
Quote: “I get compared to him a lot, it’s crazy,” Carlton Davis said. “We’re both big corners and a big body to get around. He’s fast and we can maneuver with it. Hopefully, he can come in and make an impact for us.”