Saturday Suggestion: Move Trey Dean Back to Outside Corner
It made too much sense.
When redshirt sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson returned from an ACL tear this season, it seemed perfect. Sophomore Trey Dean, who played outside corner in place of the injured Wilson in 2018, could move inside to STAR. Since Chauncey Gardner-Johnson left for the NFL, that position had a void needing to be filled anyway.
It was too perfect. The Gators were going to have three elite corners on the field at the same time and it felt like perhaps nobody would throw on this secondary successfully all season.
Until they did.
Until Joe Burrow carved them up with an effortless 21-of-24 passing day for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Until Jake Fromm had two touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a 96.9 QBR.
It was evident that as good as Dean was on the outside in 2018, it didn't translate to STAR in 2019. And it makes sense, they are not at all the same position and it is evident now that Dean's skill set doesn't suit that role.
Gardner-Johnson was perfect for that role for two reasons:
First, he was exceptionally quick. Keeping up with fast-twitched slot receivers wasn't difficult for him. Second, he was a natural play-maker. He had a nose for interceptions and that is one of the main components to playing STAR.
Dean is not that player. He is a very dependable outside corner when he is allowed to match up on the bigger bodies one-on-one. His sharpest tool is his physical size and ability to mug receivers at the line regardless of their size.
He can't really do that at STAR. This was evident when defensive coordinator Todd Grantham began to take him out of the lineup entirely and move Wilson to STAR and true freshman Kaiir Elam outside.
But next year, with an off season that allows Dean to hit the reset button after a tough year, he can excel back outside just like he did as a freshman. Wilson has proven to be really solid at STAR and with CJ Henderson declaring for the NFL Draft, there will be an open outside corner spot opposite Elam.
Dean can excel here, and if he did, it would keep Torrian Gray's cornerback room one of the deeper rooms in the SEC despite losing Henderson.
As this season has worn down, you have seen less and less of Dean in meaningful snaps. And for this season, that was warranted. The other lineup of Wilson at STAR and Henderson and Elam outside was working significantly better. The pass defense improved as the year went on and that was with Dean getting less snaps, not more.
But again, he is clearly talented as he proved his freshman season. And he is simply too talented to not be on the field for the Gators in a meaningful way. He just needs a spot he can thrive in again and that spot is opposite Elam.