DJ Dean is out of practice. What would a redshirt season for the senior do for the rest of the secondary?
FAYETTEVILLE – A two-year starter at cornerback for Arkansas may be out of that job come the start of the season. It is possible, even, he doesn't play at all in 2016.
Varying factors have sent Razorbacks senior cornerback DJ Dean into a state of limbo this third week of August, just over two weeks before Arkansas begins its regular season against Louisiana Tech on September 3.
Dean missed chunks of the spring dealing with a toe injury. In his absence, Henre' Toliver, the normal nickel back, slotted himself back on the outside. Kevin Richardson, the fourth cornerback, continued his acceleration up the depth chart into some nickel and some back-up cornerback. Dean found himself healthy, but struggling. He hadn't re-earned his old gig through the first half of fall camp. Now he's out for a while with a hamstring injury, one that will keep him out of commission for at least a couple weeks, coach Bret Bielema said.
“We always stress in our program you've got to practice to be where you need to be. I think missing this spring really, really has put him behind some of those guys,” Bielema said. “One of the options, I explained to DJ the other day, was a possible redshirt if he wasn't in our two-deep and right now it'd be a stretch to get there.”
Dean had 35 tackles and three pass break-ups last year, numbers that placed him fourth at the position (or tied for third, in PBUs) among his teammates. Britto Tutt, a junior-college transfer, has taken advantage of Dean's difficulty in the meantime and put himself into position to be the team's fourth cornerback. Ryan Pulley, a sophomore who saw limited time last year, has also improved.
Bielema said Dean's redshirt possibility has only been discussed. It remains to be seen whether it's a likelihood. Of the team's top six cornerbacks, the only one lost to exhausted eligibility in 2017 would be starter Jared Collins.
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