adidas techfit Jeremiah Dinson excelling in versatile role in Auburn’s secondary
Stephen Roberts remembers all too well that night in College Station, Texas, nearly two years ago when Jeremiah Dinson was carted off the field with devastating injuries to his knee and shoulder.
The injuries came following a blindside hit from Aggies receiver Ricky Seals Jones, and they sidelined Dinson for nearly 22 months. The defensive back out of Miami was resolute on his path to recovery, and the results are beginning to show. In just his second game back from the injuries, which cost him the entire 2016 season, Dinson had two tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup against Hunter Renfrow during Auburn’s stalwart defensive performance against Clemson last weekend.
“I can go back to when he got injured, it was just a big breakdown for him, but this year he came stronger, better,” Roberts said. “I think he played great with the strip fumble. so that’s one thing that stood out to me. He was just a playmaker all night, big plays on third downs. That’s a great kid and he has a great work ability too.”
While Dinson’s overall numbers didn’t particularly stand out on the statsheet, the redshirt sophomore’s impact was substantial against the defending national champions. According to Pro Football Focus, Dinson had an overall grade of 92.8, which was good enough to not only land him on the PFF All SEC team for Week 2 but it earned him a spot on the PFF National Team of the Week at cornerback meaning he was one of the nation’s top defensive performers last weekend. Dinson’s effort, of course, came as no surprise to the teammates who watched him persevere through the devastating injuries.
“I see it all the time in practice,” safety Tray Matthews said. “He just couldn’t ever make it to the game. But now, our training staff has done a great job of getting him back,
and he’s doing a great job of staying in the training room and getting his body well. It’s paying off.”
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The biggest payoff came late in the first quarter against Clemson. With Clemson facing a first and 10 from its own 10 yard line and lined up with three receivers out wide to the right, quarterback Kelly Bryant swung a screen pass to Ray Ray McCloud. Dinson, lined up at nickel, took on a block from tight end Milan Richard before shedding the block and helping strip McCloud of the ball and quickly falling on it at the 11 yard line.
While Dinson wasn’t credited with the forced fumble (Jeff Holland officially earned it in the final book), replay appeared to show the 6 foot, 186 pound defensive back stripping it from McCloud just before the receiver’s knee hit the ground.
It was a momentous play early in the game and helped set up Auburn’s second field goal as it took a 6 0 lead.
“It was big for him,” Matthews said. “I know it was a sigh of relief, because I’ve been in his shoes with injuries and coming back from them. That was a big play. We definitely need turnovers.”
Dinson has started both games this season at nickel, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Dinson also saw time as Auburn’s sixth defensive back in the team’s dime package on third downs. While it’s a subtle difference and one Steele said the layman probably wouldn’t notice Dinson’s versatility brings added value to Auburn’s secondary, with Steele lauding Dinson’s skillset and ability to quarterback things on the back end.
“It adds a lot,” Matthews said. “It adds a lot of value to him as well. It helps us in the back end, where we can change different positions, because I played down a little bit last year, but now I’m playing strong and free safety as well as I come down to nickel and blitz sometimes. So we’re very versatile back there.”
Through two games, Dinson has three total tackles, including half a tackle for a loss, to go along with the fumble recovery and pass breakup. Moreover, his return has helped bolster a strong Auburn secondary early in the year.
“Jeremiah Dinson has always been a great player,” Matthews said. “He’s just never got a chance because he’s always been hurt. But now y’all are seeing what’s going on. There’s a lot more to come with him.”