Jamel Dean cracked a smile, when asked about LSU’s new quarterback.
“I actually like Joe Burrow,” he said.
Yes indeed, Dean and Burrow, two Tigers of different stripes who are set to meet Saturday, can say they go way back.
Dean and Burrow were both part of Ohio State’s 2015 spring signing class — before winding roads in their careers took them to Auburn and LSU, respectively, and to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the SEC West showdown between the two teams Saturday.
Dean, now a starter for Auburn at cornerback, enrolled at Ohio State in January of 2015, but was medically disqualified by the program via a knee injury after his entrance physical was done there. At the time, his former high school coach accused Ohio State of using the injury to trim a bloated roster down to 85 scholarship players in an interview with Cleveland.com. The program denied that accusation. Dean transferred to Auburn that summer. He starts at Auburn now, and he pulled down an interception in Auburn’s season-opening win over Washington.
Meanwhile, Burrow waited in the wings at Ohio State behind established quarterbacks for three years, before leaving the school this past summer as a graduate transfer. He arrived at LSU in May with two years of eligibility left, and was named LSU’s starter during fall camp. He’s led LSU to a 2-0 start.
“I’m pretty sure, if he felt like how I felt, he’ll probably have a chip on his shoulder and he probably wants to prove to Ohio State why he should’ve been there playing,” Dean said of Burrow, during a press conference at Auburn this week.
Dean said he’s “pretty familiar” with Burrow, from their time as fellow Buckeyes commits.
“We just have to do what we usually do and then adjust in the game,” Dean said, speaking to Saturday’s matchup with Burrow.
“I know he’s a great passer when he sets his feet,” Dean added. “He’s real smart, too.”
Burrow has started this season with LSU with a two-game completion percentage that his coaches will want to improve. He’s hit 47.7-percent of his passes, after throwing for 140 yards on 11-of -24 passing in LSU’s season-opening win over Miami, the throwing 10-of-20 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s romp over the FCS’s Southeastern Louisiana last week.
Last week, he also ran in another score.
“You saw him run the ball a little bit more,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said of his quarterback in a press conference earlier this week. “He can make some plays, extend plays with his feet. I think you’re going to see more of that.
“He’s growing comfortable with his teammates. I think that Joe is going to lead by example, and as soon as he wins the big game, I think you’re going to see a lot more confidence in him. But he feels, and so do I, that he has to prove himself, and the only way to prove yourself around here is to win the big game.”
He’ll be stepping into a big one on Saturday — and a familiar face in Dean will be staring him down across the way.