"I took a visit and liked what I saw. Plus, Ben and Jeremy (Vaught) both told me good things and they had been there two years. Jeremy (Kidd) also really liked his first year. That just kind of made my decision for me," Dean said.
He spent a lot of time this summer working out with Kidd, a defensive lineman who made 11 tackles last season.
"We would lift and run almost every day," Kidd said. "I have made leaps and bounds with my strength and speed because of that. He's really helped me. He was a year ahead of me, so I know he knows what he's talking about. I pushed him running-wise and he pushed me strength-wise. It was a good combination."
Cumberland went 8-2 last year and relies on an option offense that depends on the offensive line for success.
"You just line up and if you can whip your man, you look good and the offense works. If not, then one man shuts down our whole offense," Dean said.
Dean isn't sure where he'll play for the Patriots this season. He said he started "slow" in spring practice before making a big impression at the end of drills. His coaches told him to report back to preseason camp expecting to start.
"It has been two years since I actually played in a game," Dean said. "I am not sure what will happen when I get in a game, but I think it will come back real quick. You miss playing. You go from being a big fish in a small pond to being the little fish in a big pond. It humbles you. But you just have to put your work in and do what it takes to get on the field."
Kidd didn't play as much as he expected last year. He says that should change this year partially because he knows more about what to expect this season as well as the experience he gained last year.
"The hardest thing last year was adjusting to a new defense. We always used four or five down lineman at Mercer County. I had to get used to our three-down lineman scheme and learn what to do, or not do," he said. "I think I have a legitimate chance to start. I can play all three positions and that versatility should help me. I think our defense will be fine. We lost (All-American linebacker) Bo Buchanan, but I think Ben White will step up there and be just fine."
Dean thinks the offense can also be productive despite having to depend on a new quarterback.
"If our offense comes together the way I think, we can be really good," Dean said. "Teams are not going to face an offense like ours throughout the year. They only have a week to prepare for us and when they get to Saturday, they still may not be sure what to expect."
Dean says many football fans might be surprised that the talent level at a school like Cumberland is not that different from Western, which won the Division I-AA national title while Dean was there.
"The only real difference you have is that you have more depth at the bigger schools," Dean said. "There are players at the NAIA level that would start at bigger schools. They were just overlooked or maybe just an inch too short of a half-step too slow. But as far as talent, you have it at all levels and our talent level on both sides of the ball is a lot better than what a lot of people probably think. The best guys here can play just as well as the ones at bigger schools."|None|***