One of the standouts during Shrine Bowl Week was Florida safety Trey Dean II, who showed impressive ball skills in coverage in practice, where he had two interceptions during a team session during Monday’s practice. In the Shrine Bowl on Thursday night, Dean had a tip-drill interception for the West team in the end zone towards the end of the first half en route to being named Defensive MVP for the game. During an interview with Steelers Depot at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Dean talked about a range of topics including his responsibility as a safety and his preparation.
Dean’s ability as a tackler at safety when coming downhill is something that stands out when watching him on tape. As the last line of defense, being able to make a tackle is one of the most important skills a safety can have.
“Being a safety, behind you a touchdown,” Dean said. “Sometimes people wanna go for the kill shot. You can’t always go for the kill shot, you gotta secure the tackle first. That’s what I learned in my game. Tackling is a skill, it has a little bit of want to but it’s a skill how you prepare.”
Dean was originally a backup when he got to Florida, but after defensive back Marco Wilson, now with the Arizona Cardinals, went down with an injury, the Gators turned to Dean.
“I always prepared as a starter. When you get that chance, opportunity presents itself, you gotta take it with a grain of salt, that opportunity don’t always present itself. So I just looked up and thanked God that God gave me the opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, Marco was a great player, but how I prepared and practiced, the way I treated practice like the game. So week in and week out, I prepared like the starter and it helped me when I got my chance.”
Dean would finish his freshman season with 26 tackles, an interception and five pass deflections. He would end his college career with four interceptions, 255 total tackles of which 13.5 went for a loss, and 18 pass deflections in five seasons. He also shares a trainer with current Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, although he said he’s never formally met Fitzpatrick yet.
Dean’s a player who’s high on preparation, and the preparation coupled with his instincts make him a dangerous player against the run or the pass. His instincts were on full display with his multiple interceptions during Shrine Bowl practices, and his interception to take points off the board and pass deflections during the Shrine Bowl was enough to earn him defensive MVP honors. Dean discussed what goes into his ability to make plays with the ball in the air.
“Preparation. I’m knowing and diagnosing the different formations when they come out and break the huddle,” Dean said. “I always had the athletic ability to do everything. So when you prepare, it makes the game come easy. The game day is just the performance, that’s the show.”
He concluded by saying “you practice like the game, the show gonna be easy.” All week, Dean lived by that mantra. He continually stood out in practices and was able to make plays in the run game and the pass game. When it came time for the show, on the big stage on Thursday night, Dean stepped up and played well enough to be honored as the best defensive player in the game.
Dean has versatility, as he can play safety or slide down to play slot corner and could be a sub-package guy in nickel sets. Pittsburgh’s safety position is in flux this offseason with both Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee due to be free agents. While I’d put good money on the Steelers bringing at least one of the two back, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them target additional defensive back depth in the draft.
With Dean’s versatility, he’s a player the Steelers could definitely look at. He certainly helped raise his draft stock with his performances in Las Vegas, and it’s clear he’s a guy who excels when it comes to preparing and the mental aspect of the game. Wherever he ends up, he’s going to be someone who brings maximum effort every step of the way.