He has 40 total tackles, tied for the third-best mark on the team, including a team-high 27 solos, and he leads the team with 13 pass breakups.
"When we started, I thought he would be one of the players the seniors had to help pick the slack up for," Boyle quarterback-linebacker Brandon Smith said. "Lexington Catholic tried to pick on him. Others have, too, but he always holds his own because he loves to stick you."
His play moved Peck to linebacker
Dean got his chance to move into the starting lineup because an offseason knee injury kept returning starter Greg Peck out of preseason practice. By the time Peck got well, Dean had played so well that Chuck Smith decided to move Peck to linebacker.
"Last year I just mainly stood and watched because I was hurt," Dean said. "I knew coach Smith would give me a chance to show what I could do this year. I knew we had some openings in the secondary. I got my chance and so far, it has worked out well."
Chuck Smith could not be happier with the way Dean has played.
"He's not only been a pleasant surprise, but he's been one of our better players," the Boyle coach said. "He runs very well. He's physical, too. He's played well all year and now we expect him to make big plays."
Dean made a flashy debut this year in Boyle's 43-42 loss at Lexington Catholic. He found himself one-on-one often with Catholic star receiver Cornell Burbage and more than held his own, a big improvement over their meeting two years earlier.
"He scored three touchdowns on me in a freshman game," Dean said. "I expected them to test me. I studied a lot of film and scouting reports for countless hours to get ready for the game. I knew I needed to show immediately that I could play."
Marion would not figure to pose a major threat for visiting Boyle Friday. The Knights have won just once this year after failing to win a game last season. They have lost to Boyle 63-0, 58-0 and 66-8 the last three years.
Still, Dean says the Rebels can't afford to become complacent.
"We are getting better defensively and playing with a lot more heart," the junior said. "Defense has to be a big part of any championship team. We can't win state giving up 40 points a game."
Team's fastest player
Dean doesn't figure to play any significant minutes on offense this season even though both Chuck Smith and Brandon Smith say he's the team's fastest player.
"I think next year he could really be a good running back," Brandon Smith said. "He's got great speed and, at times, he really has good balance."
Dean is content to be a full-time defensive player this year and downplays his offensive potential.
"I wouldn't say that (I am the fastest player on the team). I don't like to admit that," Dean, who has been timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, said. "I'm a team player. They need me on defense, which is fine. If they need me on offense next year, I'll be glad to do that."
Boyle's offense has averaged 56.5 points and 439 yards the last two games. Brandon Smith has throw seven touchdown passes in the last two games, Seth Tamme has had two straight 100-yard receiving games and Quinn Givhan has rushed for over 100 yards in the last two wins.
That's made it a little harder for Dean not to think ahead to the playoffs.
"I think about that some, but I try to keep my focus," Dean said. "I do think about a possible rematch with Highlands or getting to play Paducah Tilghman or Hoptown (Hopkinsville).
"I'm just happy to be contributing. I'm really sort of surprised that I've actually started stepping up and take the responsibility I have after really not having a chance to do much last year."