Eleven Warriors first reported that Dean would not be medically cleared to play by Ohio State Wednesday morning, but Cocoa (Fla.) High School coach John Wilkinson had been dealing with the frustration of that decision for months.
Dean, a three-star prospect in the 2015 class, was informed just after he enrolled early in January that he would not be able to pursue his dream as a Buckeye, Wilkinson said, but the high school coach and Dean did not go public with that information as they attempted to work things out. Now that the facts are out there Wilkinson had no issues sharing his feelings.
“I was shocked,” Wilkinson said. “Shocked, completely shocked. He just got there. Just literally got there.
“It was a big thing that went on and on and on. I’ve known about it for three months. I’ve been working hard trying to make sure my kid is taken care of.”
The lack of clearance stemmed from an injury Dean suffered in a high school semifinal game in November. Ohio State would have kept him on scholarship under a medical hardship waiver, Wilkinson confirmed, but that would keep the cornerback from playing – and from counting against the 85 scholarship limit.
Dean, who had been a Buckeye commitment since Dec. 1, 2013, visited the Buckeyes the day after the injury and even had his knee looked at by the Ohio State training staff, Wilkinson said.
After the injury, Dean was given a two-to-four week timetable for recovery by his doctor, but the Ohio State medical staff was clearly unhappy with the progress. That led Wilkinson to council Dean to get a second opinion with Dr. James Andrews.
“He went and saw him and he called me when I left there and said ‘Coach I’ll be fine by the summer,’” Wilkinson said.
Dean won’t have until the summer to prove to the Buckeyes he is capable of contributing at the college level and Wilkinson is helping his former athlete pursue a playing career elsewhere. The high school coach said he is frustrated and disappointed at how things have worked out and in hindsight wishes that Dean had not enrolled early.
“He’s a Buckeye,” Wilkinson said. “He’s been committed for close to two years. He shut down his recruitment for them because he loved Ohio State. For them to tell him this after less than a week of being up there, we were dumbfounded. You’re not going to let him at least try? You don’t know what is in his heart.
“This would have never ever happened if he had not enrolled early. It’s one of those things, I just hate it for an 18-year-old kid to have to go through this when he has been loyal to this place and now they aren’t being loyal back. I don’t agree with that.
“It is what it is. Jamel Dean is going to be fine.”
While he is disappointed at how things have gone for Dean, Wilkinson said that he has positive relationships with coaches on Ohio State’s staff, most notably running backs coach Tony Alford and tight ends coach Tim Hinton.
While this incident doesn’t change those relationships, Wilkinson is not shy about telling those coaches how he feels about Dean’s situation.
Cocoa High School is also home to 2017 Ohio State commit Bruce Judson and 2016 safety Chauncey Gardner, who is committed to Florida but is still being pursued by Ohio State. Wilkinson said he won’t let this incident impact how he helps those two players make their college decisions, but he knows that Dean will talk to them about the experience.
“It’s a case by case basis,” Wilkinson said. “I’m looking out for Jamel Dean. I’m not worried about Bruce Judson.
“I’m sure it’s going to affect Bruce and Chauncey, but it’s not going to be my doing.”
Ohio State was not immediately able to be reached for comment on Dean’s situation.