Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
We continue our look at the secondary this week with the free safeties.
- Jeremiah Dinson (junior)
- Jamien Sherwood (freshman)
Answers from spring practice
How will Auburn handle the loss of two senior starters at safety?
Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts are now off to the NFL and they’re taking their several seasons of starts with them. The Tigers had to hit the reset button at safety this offseason, but they weren’t going to do it with two completely new starters. At the start of spring camp, Auburn moved Dinson, the starting nickelback, to free safety, where he’ll bring experience to the back end of the defense.
Dinson was a much-needed breakout star for Auburn’s defense in 2017. He replaced Rudy Ford at nickel while providing depth at safety. After missing nearly two entire years of action with a devastating combination of leg and shoulder injuries, Dinson was the perfect fit at the nickel. This season, Auburn wants him to use his speed and instincts over the top of the secondary.
Is Jamien Sherwood ready to contribute as a freshman?
Auburn has a pair of freshman safeties who enrolled early in Sherwood and Smoke Monday. While they can — and probably will — play both safety spots, Sherwood looked like a solid option at free safety early in camp. He was a quick learner in the scheme, much like cornerback Christian Tutt, and he physically looks like a player who has been in the SEC for a while.
Sherwood might not have the name or the hype of a player such as Monday, but he has a lot to offer the Tigers. He was a consensus 4-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American, and his athleticism makes him the ideal free safety of the future for Auburn. Expect him to see the field in 2018.
Number to know
32: According to CFBStats.com, Dinson was marked down for 32 solo tackles last season. That was third-most on the team behind linebacker Deshaun Davis and Matthews. He is an excellent tackler in space, which makes him an intriguing option at a safety position.
Questions for fall
Will Jeremiah Dinson be ready to roll at the start of fall?
Dinson’s move to safety suffered a setback at the end of spring practices. The junior went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter of the A-Day spring game and underwent surgery days later. According to James Crepea of AL.com, Dinson’s recovery is ahead of schedule, and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this week he expects Dinson to be ready for the start of fall camp.
Dinson’s status for fall camp will be one of the key storylines in early August. He won’t be expected to go full speed or full contact. Auburn knows what it has in the junior after his strong 2017 season. But with a secondary that has several new faces and moving pieces, getting the unit repping together as much as possible before Week 1 against Washington will be crucial.
What happens if Jeremiah Dinson isn’t ready, or he goes down during the season?
Auburn’s safety depth appears to be a real issue again in 2018. The cornerback depth isn’t established, but there are at least several players with at least some experience ready to step in if needed. At safety, though, Auburn has two new starters and two players new to college football behind them.
If Dinson suffers any sort of setback, is Auburn ready to go with Sherwood as a starter? Could Jordyn Peters step back from the nickel and dime back roles to play next to Daniel Thomas? Is Monday more ahead than Sherwood? It’s a question Auburn won’t want to answer, but it might have to this fall.