Battling toe-to-toe while also helping and encouraging each other, both Dede and Herring won the respect of their teammates. In the end, it was the coverage ability and speed of Dede that prevailed. Learning of his reward for a year of hard work, Dede said it wasn't a huge deal for him, but it was for some of his family members.
"To tell you the truth my brothers are more excited about it than I am," Dede said. "I tell them I don't really feel different yesterday than I do today. Now I feel like if you work hard to earn a starting job you have to work harder to keep it. Aside from starting, I know the challenge our whole defense and our whole team has right now. With all the hype it's never really hit me personally."
Karibi Dede (21) in action during a recent Auburn practice.
Dede entered Auburn out of Hargrave Military Academy in January of 2002 as a player the coaches were very high on. A defensive end in high school out of Woodbridge, Va., Dede had to learn how the nuances of being a defensive back. Paying close attention to Travaris Robinson last year, Dede is now ready to take over the position as the quarterback of the secondary.
One of the biggest hurdles he faces the first game against the Trojans won't be with the physical receivers they possess, it may be with the demons of his first college football game and the Tiger Walk leading into the stadium. Trying to get some input from veterans Carlos Rogers and Junior Rosegreen, Dede said they haven't been much help to this point in the process.
"They've told me ‘you're going to be scared'," Dede said of the older players. "Then they had the discussion the other day ‘is he going to scared or nervous?'. I just told them that I feel like through everything we've gone through I think we've prepared well. They told me there's no way you can really anticipate or be ready for the moment when it happens. I think it's going to be something special."
In his first career start, Dede will face an offense with as many weapons as any team in the country. Playing at home is something he said is a big plus for him and the entire team, but the challenge doesn't get any easier no matter where you play the game.
"It's definitely going to be an exciting game," Dede said. "Both teams playing in this game I think will be well prepared. We've been working hard in the preseason and in the off-season. Earning the starting job was difficult and now I feel like it's going to be a challenge for me and I'm going to have to be ready come this first game because it's going to be difficult."
The challenge comes from the historically productive offense of Coordinator Norm Chow. From his days at BYU to North Carolina State to USC, Chow has always been productive in the passing game and can put up points in bunches. Dede said he doesn't know a whole lot about Chow's past tendencies, but the Tigers have seen plenty of things this fall to prepare for.
"Coach Gene Chizik, our defensive coordinator, has done a lot of the work for us and tried to simplify what we'll be facing and give us an idea and picture of what their offensive coordinator likes to do," Dede said. "I'm a redshirt freshman so as far as knowing him as an offensive coordinator, it's going to be my first test. I have to go on what Coach Chizik is giving me and I think he's giving us a pretty good picture of what we're going to see."
In super sophomore Mike Williams and underrated receiver Keary Colbert, the Trojans have one of the best one-two punches in the country. As a freshman Williams set NCAA freshman records for receiving yards (1,265) and receiving touchdowns (14) on a team-high 81 catches. Not far behind, Colbert caught 71 passes for 1,029 yards and five touchdowns. For his career Colbert has caught 138 passes for 1,951 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dede said it's easy to see why they've been successful and will be a tough match-up for the Tigers on Saturday.
"From what I've seen on film I feel like they have the ability to stretch the field vertically and run a lot of crossing routes," said Dede. "I feel like the players who played against them, Junior Rosegreen and Carlos Rogers, I take what I've heard from them. They said it's going to be a tough game that's played for four quarters. More than what I've seen on film I take the personal experience of those two guys. It gives me a better idea of what I'm looking at and what I'm going to be facing."