Head coach Gus Malzahn was content with his team's progress after Sunday's fall practice.
"We had our first practice today in shells and it was a good one, everybody had a chance to get out there and see what they could do," Malzahn said.
It wasn't a newly acquired freshman or quarterback Jarrett Stidham who stood out in the first three days of fall practice. Of course those players are improving day-to-day, but it was redshirt junior cornerback Jamel Dean, who is ready to take the next step and become an anchor for the Tigers.
After redshirting in 2015 and suffering a season-ending injury in 2016, Dean finally got the opportunity to take the field for the Tigers, and he was ready.
"That was probably one of the best feelings ever. I thought I was never going to play college football and when I finally got the opportunity to play, it really touched me emotionally." Dean said.
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Lining up alongside 2018 NFL second-round pick Carlton Davis, Dean was a big time contributor in the Tiger secondary and registered 43 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 14 games.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dean finished as the highest-rated player on Auburn's defense with an 87.2 rating, which ranked him among the country's top 20 cornerbacks.
However, despite a stellar sophomore season, Dean is focused on taking the next step and improving his game.
"Now that I have that experience from last year, I feel like I'm better at the game mentally. It just gives me something to build on. I have one season on my belt. I still look at my games last year to see what I can improve on," Dean said.
Despite his role as a starter solidified, Dean reiterates that everyone who has come to the program can contribute.
"All of [the freshmen] have impressed me. Each day they're learning," Dean said.
"I feel like we still have the same guys that played last years, we rotate people in, even freshman can come in and play and vie into the program."
Replacing Davis' impact from last year wont be easy, but with determination and a team-first attitude Dean and company are ready for the challenge.
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