Uncuffed to one position, Dean brings versatility to Florida's defense

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida plans to put senior defensive back Trey Dean III's versatility to good use.

Don’t let the stainless steel handcuffs hanging from his practice shorts fool you: senior defensive back Trey Dean III isn’t in trouble, he’s just having a little bit of fun. 

In the process, however, he’s also sending a message to wide receivers around the country, beginning with those lined up across from Dean as UF enters its second week of spring practice. 

"Just out there having a little fun, you know. Just like a competitive edge, just to say every down we're going to give it our all to lock the receivers up no matter what it is. Having a little fun, having a little competition,” Dean said of the silver handcuffs he brought to practice. "I wanted to be kind of different. A lot of people have their little turnover chains and stuff like that. So just to start a little trend."

He may be looking to start a movement now, heading into his fourth season at Florida, but Dean has been part of Florida’s pattern of playing underclassmen early since he arrived in Gainesville by way of Hampton, Georgia, after a competitive recruitment that saw every top SEC program vying for his signature. 

As a freshman, Dean didn’t have to wait long to show the world what he could do as he was thrust into a significant role after a season-ending injury to starting cornerback Marco Wilson, where he’d start nine of the remaining 10 games in 2018. 

He’d spend much of the next two seasons filling in at nearly every position in UF’s secondary, although he would start just seven games across the last two seasons following his promising first season on campus. 

But Dean’s ability to play multiple positions — a glue guy, if you will — may be his most desirable attribute, and it’s one of the reasons he’s prepared for whatever the 2021 season has in store. 

"Coaches feel like I'm a very versatile player, so I can play all defensive back positions. Just to be out there and do whatever my team needs me to play, no matter if it's corner, STAR or safety. I'm able to play all of them at a high level, so whatever God and my coaches want me to play, I'll go out there and do to the best of my ability."

He knows it’s his best bet of seeing the field consistently. The Gators expect redshirt freshmen cornerbacks Jahari Rogers and Ethan Pouncey — two top-10 ranked prospects who each missed almost all of last season — to compete for playing time at inside cornerback, and UF has a slew of safeties eager for playing time. 

And then there’s five-star freshman cornerback Jason Marshall, the latest addition to “DBU” looking to assert his presence. 

"Out of all the early enrollees I'll say Jason Marshall,” Dean said when asked which new signee has stood out the most. “Coming to workouts, being very consistent and just working to be the best player he can be, not only on the field but off the field also."

But not too many can play both positions, hence Dean’s multi-tool role. Although there’s no knocking the experience and knowledge of previous cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray, the addition of Wesley McGriff as secondary coach has left Dean even more eager to see how he’s used in Florida’s defensive scheme. 

"Coach McGriff I think is second to none. He's one of the best defensive back coaches in the country. It's a lot of discipline, a lot of man-to-man concepts,” Dean said. “And at the end of the day, we gotta win our one-on-one battles, no matter what call Coach (Todd) Grantham calls. We gotta go out there and execute and win our one-on-one battles. And what Coach McGriff's bringing to the table is teaching us how to win our one-on-one battles."

That mindset — handle one’s business regardless of the position you’re in — has been one that’s helped lead Dean to this point, where he’s now ready to handle what’s thrown his way no matter where he is on the field. 

For a Florida defense looking to improve upon numerous aspects from last season, having a senior willing to put personal goals aside should only further its growth. 

“I feel comfortable at all three. I'm able to play all three and God blessed me to play all three, so I'll continue to play all three,” Dean said of his position this season. "I'm most beneficial wherever the team needs me to play. I can play all three at a high level, so whatever Coach Grantham wants to put me at I'm going to play to the best of my ability. And playmakers are gonna go make plays."