Ask any coach on UL’s football staff about Derreck Dean and the responses you will hear range from the most committed athlete in the program, a person of great character to an extremely hard worker. Ask the “5-11”, 285-pound senior what drives him, he will tell you its always been about proving his critics wrong and wanting to be successful in everything he does in life.
“I just try to instill my work ethic into my teammates and work hard,” Derreck stated. “Like you’ve said, I’ve been the underdog all my life, a lot people told me that I would never play Division I football because of my height or size. I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve ever gotten in life and that is what drives me to work harder everyday then the next person. As a senior, I’m trying to instill that into my teammates everyday. I feel we have a lot of guys that can be good leaders on this team and we are working hard together each day.”
Hard work is not something Derreck Dean shy’s away from and he will tell you that Coach Hudspeth and the rest of the staff demand it daily.
“The biggest difference from last year to this year has been our work ethic,” said Dean. “We have really worked hard and the team feeds off Coach Hudspeth’s energy every day. I’ve have to say, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked since I’ve been in the program and Coach Whitt has stayed on us everyday. He has prepared us in getting our bodies in condition to endure the football season. As we’ve seen last season, the injuries were devastating to the defense. So just that extra work in strength and conditioning is going to help us stay healthy this season, and Coach Hudspeth’s winning attitude.”
Health obviously played a huge role in the defenses lack of success last season, but the second half breakdowns in those games led to an average loss of 27 points per game in 2010. What changes have taken place in the program that will turn around that trend in 2011?
“All through spring and summer we’ve been challenging each other, saying four quarters, we’ve got to play four quarters,” Derreck stated. “We’ve got to learn how to finish games and all summer after workouts, he would have to complete something called the “finish drill”. Its something that pushes you beyond the regular workout and the lesson from it is you can’t leave anything on the field, you have to play every down the same way. It requires you to reach down and find something to push you until the end. And those drills we’ve been working on all summer will help us finish games in the fourth quarter.”
Defensive Line Coach Tim Edwards has an NFL background as a player, how has he helped Dean and the rest of the line improve?
“Coach Edwards is a really good line coach, he has taught us a lot of techniques to help us improve our rush and stopping the run,” said Dean. Our number one job will be to stop the running game of the offenses we face; to stay in our gaps and get off the blocks to stop the run.”
Derreck Dean has played all three seasons since signing with the Cajuns, and he has gone up against the best offensive lines in the conference. How does this years defensive line stack up against the rest of the conference?
“I think we match up well against those lines,” Derreck stated. “We return Tyrell Gaddies from a shoulder injury; he is moving around good and playing really well this fall. We added Cordian Hagans this year after sitting out, he is going to be a big time addition to our line. He is a big strong guy and plays hard. Bernard Smith comes off the edge and he’s going to get after people; the guy plays with his motor at full throttle when it’s time. Emeka Onyenekwu was our leading sack guy and he returns this year as well. You’ve got to have these kinds of guys on the field when you line up to play the Middle Tennessee’s and Arkansas States in the Sun Belt. I thing these guys are going to step up big time and play at the level we need to be a successful defense.”
Derreck Dean returns with the most playing experience on the interior line this season. Hagans played on the scout team while sitting out last season, Brandon McCray saw limited reps as a redshirt freshman, Tyrell Gaddies played most of the season at defensive end when healthy and Darrell Green redshirted as a true freshman.
“Yes, I have the most experience in this years line, but Cordian Hagans played everyday on the scout team against some good offense linemen like Ian Burks or Jonathan Decoster,” Dean pointed out. “Cordian is going to be fine and Brandon McCray has really looked good this fall. The younger guys like Darrell Green, Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton have really worked hard and are running around making plays. I think some of those guys are going to step up and give us some reps in the game. The starters can’t play every down in the football game, we will need some breaks.”
With Coach Mark Hudspeth coming in and laying down his team goals for a winning season, obviously Derreck Dean shares that goal as well. But what are Derreck’s goals for his final season as a Ragin’Cajun?
“I want to leave this program in better shape then when I arrived on campus,” Dean stated. “When I first arrived here in Lafayette, Tyrell Fenroy and Mike Desormeaux left this program in good shape. I feel like since they’ve been gone, the program has taken a step backwards and I want to change that this season. I want leave this program on a winning note, and I want to be remembered as part of the defense that had a winning season under Coach Hudspeth. I want to help this team get to a bowl and that is part of my responsibility as a senior.”
It’s clear that no matter where Derreck Dean ends up after graduating from UL, he will be successful in life.