The Kentucky Wildcats (2-0, 1-0) upset over the Florida Gators (1-1, 0-1) came to a surprise to many in Gainesville, as the Gators 31-game win streak over the ‘Cats came to an end.
However, the most difficult news to swallow was the loss of star-sophomore defensive back Marco Wilson with a torn ACL. Wilson arguably is the top performer, as well as a leader, of this defense and his presence certainly be missed in 2018.
Dan Mullen addressed the importance of Wilson’s injury on Tuesday, “If you ask me coming into the season, 'hey, who are your best players? What's the strength of the defense?' I would've said our two corners. To lose one of them, one of the absolute best players on your roster, is obviously a big, big loss for us.”
The star-studded duo of cornerbacks in C.J. Henderson and Wilson will now be separated for the time being.
“It's like…that's Marco Island. Marco and CJ (Henderson) Islands. They're huge. He's huge,” Jachai Polite said on Tuesday night.
Now, Florida is searching for the 2017 Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC team and 2018 preseason third-team All-SEC selection’s replacement.
Fortunately, the Gators may have their answer to line up opposite of Henderson, despite being unproven. The Hampton, (Ga.) native Trey Dean III emerged throughout the off-season with his eagerness to compete at a higher-level.
In August, the now-injured Wilson, voiced his confidence in the talented freshman corner.
“He’s grown a lot since spring, learning the defense a lot better and he’s very competitive. I love that about him because you know at the position we play, you’ve got to be real, real eager to get the ball and want to win. When you’re not doing things right, it’s going to bother you, and you want to make sure you’re always on point, always learning where you got to be and stuff like that. For a young guy, he’s doing really good, and I like that. I like to see that out of him.”
Florida’s started a multitude of freshman defensive backs in recent years and it's no easy task to throw a rookie into the fire.
However, coach [Dan] Mullen has reiterated multiple times that the twos should prepare like the one’s for a situation like this to occur. Now, it’s time for the backup corner to step up in the starting role.
On Tuesday, coach Mullen shared his view of Dean III.
“He was a two on Day 1, and so to me, ones and twos need to at some point be interchangeable. So when you show up and your kind of forced into this position where you'd love guys to have time to develop, but when you're at a position where you're short, there is no choice and you have to develop, you often see that accelerate their growth, and he's done a good job at doing that."
According to teammates, Dean III is one of the more competitive and vocal players on this football team. It’s all out of love, but the 6-foot-2 lengthy corner relishes on the opportunity to trash talk.
“Trey Dean is, yea he's a trash talker…but he's a great corner. I love going against him every day; him, Marco, CJ, Brian Edwards, all four of those guys are great. So, you know Trey Dean, he tries to get in your head but see you just got to let it go and go out there and practice,” said receiver Van Jefferson.
The Ole Miss transfer later added, “I think everybody's gotten hit by his trash talk. That's who he is and that's his personality so that's, he's a great player so that's a good characteristic to his game so it's all good."
When Trevon Grimes was asked if he’s been on the receiving end of the trash talk from Dean III, he said, “Yeah, but he’s been a victim of mine too. So, we just go at it every day.”
These receivers have the opportunity of going up against Dean III day in and day out in practice and they’ve noticed the skill set he brings to the field.
“Oh, I’m excited for him to come and start. I feel like he’s phenomenal. He’s one of the most hardworking cornerbacks I’ve ever went against. Everyday he’s out here till everyone leaves. He’s out here right now getting release work. And just going against him has made me better, I’ve made him better, and we compete every day. I feel like he’s going to shock everybody with how talented he is,” said Grimes.
On Saturday night, in his first career start, Dean III will face a pass happy football team and quickly will be able to display his talents. But there’s no question, through his preparation and competitiveness, Dean III will be ready to ball under the lights come game time.