Every Monday and Thursday, Plainsman sports staffers Zach Tantillo and Nathan King will analyze an Auburn football player who has a chance to make a sizable impact on the team next season.
Today’s Fortune Teller focuses on junior defensive back Jeremiah Dinson and his transition from nickel back to safety.
The loss of five contributors, three of those being starters, from the defensive backfield will leave a lot of question marks for the following season in almost any situation.
That situation is the one Auburn is in after Carlton Davis decided to forgo his senior season and both safeties, Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts, graduated.
The No. 1 corner slot that Davis vacated has already been discussed in a past “Fortune Teller" installment, but what about the hole over the top?
In its time of need, Auburn is relying on redshirt junior Jeremiah Dinson to fill not just the void at one of the safety slots but as someone who can take the next step facilitating play calls to the defense. Dinson will be making the transition to full-time safety after playing the nickel back in all 14 games last season and playing an near-quarterback role on defense.
Dinson displays great range and a nose for the football after fully extending to bat down a pass prevent a touchdown against Georgia.
Dinson performed well in his first full season of action on The Plains, displaying solid ability in making one-on-one tackles in the open field. Dinson was third on last year’s squad with 32 solo tackles, just behind Tray Matthews and Deshaun Davis, and was seventh on the team for total tackles with 47.
Dinson comes up big in opponent territory fighting through the block to strip the football and recover the fumble that would set up an Auburn field goal against Clemson.
Although the Miami native’s talents were put onto full display in his breakout year in 2017, a big reason head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele trust Dinson to transition cleanly into the new role is his ability to be the lead signal caller on defense.
"Every really good secondary that I've ever seen always had a point guy back there that could make the calls," Malzahn said. "Especially nowadays with all the offenses with the motions and different formations, some unbalanced formations -- it really is critical that you have somebody on the back end that can get everybody on the same page. We believe Dinson can definitely do that. He's like a coach on the field."
Dinson performed most of the leadership abilities when relaying the signs to the defense, but failed at being a vocal presence. He has since learned that is what it will take to fill the void left by Roberts and Matthews.
"I think the biggest thing I got from them is being vocal," Dinson said. "Last year I talked, but I was all about signs. I would give you the sign, and I wouldn't talk to you very much. Once [Roberts and Matthews] left, I talked to them and both of them said, `You messed up. You've got to be the leader. You've got to be that vocal leader.' I'm taking that in practice every day starting now, so in the fall it's just second nature to me."
Expectations were high for Dinson going into to A-Day as his new position required him to bulk up and he was also beginning to gain some traction learning to play alongside Daniel Thomas, bulking from 185 to 200 pounds. But an injury to his right shoulder during A-Day on the first play of the second quarter and surgery on the shoulder later that week has halted the transition process.
In great news for the Tigers, Dinson is expected to return during fall camp and should be 100 percent by the Week 1 matchup against Washington.
If the news surrounding Dinson’s health is true and he will not miss any play time, the Tigers defensive backfield should minimize the growing pains transitioning from last year’s team.
The newly-named safety has already displayed his ability to make plays in the open field and communicate plays among the defense last season, but with a spring and fall practice under his belt being the vocal leader too, that will have the redshirt junior and the Tiger defense in a good position.
Dinson will lead a mix of young talent and veterans such as Daniel Thomas, Javaris Davis, Jamel Dean and Jordyn Peters, along with incoming freshmen Smoke Monday, Christian Tutt and Jamien Sherwood, who can all contribute early to the mix as freshmen.
Catch up on previous installments of the Fortune Teller series:
- DL Derrick Brown
- CB Noah Igbinoghene
- WR Ryan Davis
- K Anders Carlson
- QB Jarrett Stidham
- CB Javaris Davis
- OL Prince Tega Wanogho
- WR Devan Barrett
- WR Darius Slayton
- LB Deshaun Davis
- CB Jamel Dean
- BUCK T.D. Moultry, Big Kat Bryant
- P Arryn Siposs
- RB JaTarvious Whitlow