AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s defense has made major improvements this season without two defensive backs expected to provide key depth in 2016.
On Tuesday, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced both injured cornerbacks Jeremiah Dinson and Jamel Dean are not expected to play at all this season. The focus now is to get both healthy in time for spring camp in 2017.
“It doesn’t look like (Dinson) is going to (come back this season),” Malzahn said. “But he’s an outstanding player. Give him a few more months, get him to spring, and get him back 100 percent. Same thing with Dean. It’ll be this spring … those are two outstanding football players that we don’t have right now.”
Dinson, a sophomore, suffered season-ending knee and shoulder injuries on a hit from Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones last November. The cornerback was a rotation piece for the Tigers as a true freshman in 2015 but has not made his return since that Auburn win in College Station.
“(Dinson) is strong. He’s fighting. He’s ready to play whenever,” Auburn senior cornerback Josh Holsey said earlier this season. “I know he’ll be ready to play once he gets back. I just try to make sure to tell him that he’s got to start not favoring his leg. Start not thinking about it as much. So once it’s time for him to come back, he won’t miss a beat.”
Dean, a redshirt freshman, transferred to Auburn from Ohio State in 2015 after not being medically cleared to play for the Buckeyes in his first season. He was expected to vie for a starting cornerback job but suffered a knee injury that required surgery in August.
“We give our condolences to him and what happened to him it was kind of a tragic way to start our season off as a defensive back group, but that guy — God has a plan for him,” Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis said. “God definitely has a plan for him. He’s been staying strong and hopefully he comes back stronger next spring and we and we can really use him next year.”
Without Dinson or Dean at cornerback, Auburn’s pass defense has impressed in 2016, currently ranking No. 15 nationally in passing yards allowed per attempt (6.0).
Auburn also ranks 22nd in opposing quarterback passer rating with a cornerback group that has mostly consisted of Carlton Davis, Javaris Davis and Josh Holsey.
“We’ve grown so much as a defense,” Carlton Davis said. “Experience is probably the best thing, just seeing things over and over again and kind of knowing what’s going to happen.”