Auburn defensive back Jamel Dean’s comeback story hit a major detour this week.
Coach Gus Malzahn announced Saturday morning Dean will be out indefinitely with a knee injury.
“He’s going to require surgery, he's going to be out for an extended period of time,” Malzahn said after the team’s second preseason scrimmage. “He was doing great. It was very unfortunate. A fine young man right there.”
The former Ohio State signee almost gave up football coming out of high school when coach Urban Meyer pushed 4-star prospect to sign a medical waiver before the defender had a chance to step on the football field.
Dean suffered multiple knee injuries at Cocoa High School in Florida tearing his meniscus and ACL as a junior and the meniscus again in the final high school game.
“I thought my football career was over with then once I got the second opinion from Dr. Andrews I just took the opportunity to play football again,” Dean said during the spring.
Dean redshirted his freshman year with Auburn, but didn’t let the time go to waste. Jonathan Jones and Blake Countess identified Dean as a sure-fire contender for playing time in 2016 when Auburn’s younger players received extra reps as the team prepared for the Birmingham Bowl.
“Jamel Dean is a big, physical guy,” Countess said. “He can run really well.”
Dean continued to earn positive scouting reports through the spring where he played himself into the top spot opposite Carlton Davis.
“The guy I’m really excited about is Jamel Dean, what a big corner that’s explosive with speed.” new defensive backs coach Wes McGriff said. “We have some tools on the outside that’s going to give us a chance to line up be able to play man, play zone and be able to keep the football in front of us.”
First year Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele identified Dean as one of the standouts of the team’s first scrimmage just last week.
It’s a tough blow for a player who at the end of March was convinced he had put his injury woes behind him.
“It felt real great to be out there and experience it knowing my knee is still holding up,” Dean said. “I feel like it’s going to be a great season for me.”
Malzahn said the injury is to the opposite knee from Dean’s previous injuries, but the coach doesn’t know what the timeline will be for the defender’s return.
The injury comes at a time when Auburn was already worried about depth at defensive back.
“We’ve got to add another guy to that mix some way, some how,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “Three is not enough and four sometimes is not enough, particularly when you’re playing in a league that plays a lot of spread offense.”
Javaris Davis and Josh Holsey split reps opposite Carlton Davis during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I think right now you'll have to see some of the safeties at least do double time with corner,” Malzahn said. “Stephen Roberts is a guy that's done that in the past. But it gives an opportunity for other people. We'll have a good plan. Anytime something like that happens in fall camp, you still have a chance to develop that depth.”
The team had added Miami (OH) graduate transfer Marshall Taylor to the roster for offseason workouts. The defensive back’s status with the team remains unknown as he deals with what Malzahn described as “personal business.”
True freshman John Broussard could get additional work with Dean out of the lineup. The Central alum has spent much of fall camp repping with the second team defense.