Young Defensive Back Says 'What A Way To Start'

The college debut for this Auburn football player will be in the spotlight on a rather large stage.

Auburn, Ala.--This is an exciting time for redshirt freshman Karibi Dede.

The 6-1, 200-pounder has moved to the top of the depth chart at free safety with Auburn's season opener vs. Southern Cal just around the corner. After a year in prep school, two spring trainings and a redshirt year, Dede will finally get his opportunity to play college football when the Trojans visit Jordan-Hare Stadium a week from Saturday.

Karibi Dede (21) prepares to stop tailback Ronnie Brown (23) in a practice drill.

"I feel like I am getting better each day," Dede told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I have been working with the ones and my confidence is high because the older guys around me have been working with me, looking at films with me and showing me how to correct little mistakes that I make.

"I know USC is going to be a tough game. I have been trying to prepare myself. I know I am young compared to the rest of the players on the defense, but they are pulling me right along. They are making things easier for me."

Dede originally joined the Tiger program in January of 2002 after spending a season at prep school in Virginia at Hargrave Military Academy. An academic qualifier out of high school, he hoped to get noticed by a major college program like Auburn that scouted the talent at that football power after getting offers from smaller programs as a high school senior. The Tigers liked what they saw of the Virginian and offered him a chance to join the program for the second semester of that academic year. He arrived as a 6-0, 192-pounder and will go into this season at 6-1, 200 pounds.

John Lovett, who is currently the defensive coordinator at Clemson, convinced Dede to give Auburn a try.

Southern Cal will offer a major test for the free safety, who takes over the job held last year by graduated senior Travaris Robinson. The visiting Trojans will have perhaps the finest wide receiver corps that the Tigers will face this season.

"I am definitely looking forward to the challenge," Dede says. "I was talking to Junior Rosegreen the other day and I was saying that coming off my redshirt year, ‘What a way to start against USC.' It is really exciting. One benefit we have this year is we get to play this game at home instead of going there. Hopefully, that will help me a little bit. I will be looking at a lot of film. I think I will be ready."

Dede didn't travel on any road trips for the 2002 season. He worked with new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who took over for John Lovett, the coach who recruited Dede to Auburn. The first year at Auburn was an adjustment season after making the move from Hargrave Military Academy to SEC football. "My redshirt year, I didn't quite understand the defense," Dede says. "This past spring is when I first started to understand it. Now everything is clicking for me. I feel like I have made big strides since the spring."

The redshirt freshman says he admires the way Robinson handled the free safety position last season. "He knows how to play the game and plays it the way it is supposed to be played. He hustles on every play. He has a lot of heart. He isn't the biggest guy, but he will hit you. He comes back to practice every now and then to check on me. He is always telling me to keep hustling, keep your head in the playbook and play smart. If you want to turn on a tape and see how a free safety is supposed to play, he is the one."

Tiger Ticket Extra: The Southern Cal game, which will feature 86,000-plus fans in person plus a national TV audience, will be the biggest stage that Dede has ever performed on as a football player. He has played before big crowds before though at northern Virginia powerhouse Hylton High where he handled a variety of positions--running back, fullback, safety, defensive end, outside linebacker and cornerback. Dede notes that a packed house of 22,000 fans at the University of Richmond's stadium watched his Hylton High team win one of its two state titles while he played for a team that won 40 games and lost just two while Dede played there.

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