By Jeff Shearer
For Auburn football fans, part of A-Day's appeal is the opportunity for a first look at players who could play key roles in the fall.
It won't be hard to spot No. 12, Jamel Dean.
At 6-foot-2, the redshirt freshman defensive back is the tallest member of the Tigers' secondary.
Dean will also be residing on what's known in football parlance as an "island" -- covering receivers one-on-one.
"I like being on the island, because all through high school, I was always on the island by myself," Dean says. "Me and the receiver."
Not long ago, it appeared that Dean might be spending more time on the shelf than on the island.
"At first, I thought my football career was over," he said.
Heavily recruited out of central Florida, Dean enrolled early at Ohio State.
But after two knee injuries in high school, the Buckeyes medically disqualified Dean.
If you're going to get a second opinion, it might as well be from the world's preeminent orthopedic surgeon.
"Once I got the second opinion from Dr. (James) Andrews, I just took the opportunity to play football again."
Dean transferred to Auburn, redshirting while recovering in 2015.
"I feel like I never even experienced this injury," Dean says. "I don't worry about it anymore. You just play."
Now fully rehabilitated, Dean is competing for a starting position.
"It felt really great to be back out and experience it," Dean says. "To know that my knee's still holding up. I feel like it's going to be a great season for me."
Size is only one of Dean's attributes. His speed is equally impressive.
"What a big corner who's explosive with speed," said secondary coach Wesley McGriff. "We have some tools on the outside that are going to give us a chance to line up and be able to play man, play zone and be able to keep the football in front of us."
"He's a great coach," Dean says. "I have a good connection with him. He kind of reminds me of my dad a little bit. Enthusiastic. Always encouraging. He's always positive."
Another of Auburn's outside tools is 6-foot-1 sophomore Carlton Davis, an all-SEC freshman in 2015.
"We're both about the same," Dean says. "Both of us can cover. Both of us have length, and both are strong."
That strength comes in handy when you're called on to disrupt the receiver immediately after the ball is snapped.
"It kind of gives the receiver a hard time at the line of scrimmage," Dean says. "Throws off the timing of the offense."
Dean says he "gets along with everybody," making his transition to Auburn an easy one.
"It's been real smooth," Dean says. "Once I got acclimated to the campus. I just feel like it's home now."
While many Auburn fans will be keying on the quarterback competition during A-Day on April 9, position battles in the defensive backfield will also be important for the Tigers' success this season.
"I'm expecting to show them what I can do for this upcoming season," Dean says. "Give them a good show for A-Day."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer