Photo credit: University of Florida athletic association
Trey Dean III's career with the Florida Gators has been a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, consisting of starting time at three different positions in the Florida secondary.
Seemingly finding his niche for what Dean considers his final year at UF, the cornerback-turned-safety holds a vital role in the Gators' efforts to resurge their defensive unit back to the top of college football in 2021.
Dean's opportunity to prove his worth makes him more than just a catalyst for the secondary's success in the upcoming season. Moreover, Dean is an unofficial poster child for the Florida defense's mission on the season.
What's that mission? Bounce back in a big way.
"Last year’s in the past," Dean said on Monday. "We’re going to show the world what type of defense we is.
"I think we’ve got something special," Dean continued. "I have faith in every defensive back that goes here. I don’t think we’re DBU for no reason ... So, we’re not going to do too much talking. We’re just going to show them on the field.”
Stepping into a prominent role as a true freshman against Kentucky in relief of the injured Marco Wilson in 2018, Dean went on to record his best season at UF, logging 26 total tackles, five pass breakups and one interception.
As a result, Dean was heralded as the next great defensive back to wear orange and blue threads - until he wasn't.
When Wilson returned in 2019, Dean was thrown into unfamiliar territory at the STAR (nickel) position. Failing to meet the expectations at the position, Dean's promising start to his career started to unravel, resulting in his slide down the depth chart and eventual transition to his third position in as many years.
With time as a reserve in 2020, Dean showed promise that his move to the backend allows him to maximize his athleticism and free-range playmaking ability.
Presenting a willingness to aid the team in any way he could – something he stated he wanted to do during his Orange Bowl Press conference ahead of the Gators' 2019 matchup with Virginia – Dean's patience has paid off.
Now, the senior gets a second chance in the spotlight as the unrivaled starter at strong safety.
“First off, it’s really just all God," Dean said. "It’s not a place I’ve never been before, just take it for the team, that’s just a stepping stone to show them my ability, show people what I can do.”
Heading into the year, Dean believes the Gators' defense is headed in the right direction under the tutelage of Todd Grantham, who he calls the best defensive coordinator in the country.
"Whatever he calls, we’re going to go out there and execute," Dean explained. "He’s going to put his playmakers in positions to make plays, and we’ve just got to go out there and make the play."
While the main goal for Dean is to perform in his role at a high level, the ever-confident defensive back didn't bite his tongue when laying out his goals for the team as a whole entering his final collegiate season.
“I didn’t come back for no reason. The No. 1 goal is to win the national championship, first win the SEC championship, before that just win the East," Dean elaborated. "It’s going to be great, our crowd is going to play a big factor, especially every game, not just the big games, but every game. Nothing like the Swamp.”
Dean and company will look to kick off the season with an inspired performance against FAU in front of such a crowd in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.
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