AUBURN | You can see the sense of urgency from Jeremiah Dinson every time he steps on the field. And who can blame the sophomore defensive back, who missed a season and a half with two major injuries.
Dinson returned this season with a focus and determination that’s vaulted him into one of the most valuable players on an Auburn defense rated among the nation’s best.
“When you go through a year and a half of not playing and you have to watch, it does something for the guys that are really motivated,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “You think about Josh Holsey and the way he came back. I think Jeremiah Dinson is in a similar situation. His urgency. He's seizing the moment. He's hungry and he's been playing like that.”
Dinson, who has started the first four games at nickel, is fourth on the team with 14 tackles. He also has 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one pass breakup and one recovered fumble.
He had five tackles and a tackle-for-loss in a 51-14 win at Missouri last Saturday.
“Jeremiah really stood out to me the other night,” Malzahn said. “He is like a coach on the field. He's got great instincts. They do a lot of perimeter things off the run game, and it was like he was right there every time and had a chance for a big play potentially on the perimeter.”
But it was the play of the offense, which had struggled with negative plays and turnovers the first three weeks, that did the most to energize the 13th-ranked Tigers.
“It’s big for us, a boost of confidence. We had to get our swagger back and we got it back tonight,” Dinson said.
Dinson played in nine games as a true freshman in 2015 before injuring his knee and shoulder at Texas A&M. He sat out and redshirted the 2016 season before returning to full health this year.
Dinson stayed engaged during his recovery, studied Kevin Steele’s defense and was ready to hit the ground running when spring practice got underway earlier this year.
It’s unusual for a sophomore to be considered a leader but it’s a label Auburn’s veterans are already bestowing on Dinson.
“I've seen a lot of great leadership (from Dinson) as a young guy, but he's kind of a vet now because he's been with us for a little minute. Great tackling and just great effort all around,” senior safety Tray Matthews said.
Auburn hosts No. 24 Mississippi State Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.