Tyrese Dedmon was just a wiry high school sophomore cornerback when the coaching staff at Antelope Valley High School in Southern California happened to chart his future as a collegiate “quarterback of the defense.”
Dedmon was moved to strong safety that preseason, and by opening day, he was a first-time varsity starter for the notable prep football program in Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.
“My coach just threw me at safety one day, ‘We need somebody smart back here, and you know the playbook, so get back there,’ ” Dedmon recalled. “I do really feel like this is what I was meant to play.”
Dedmon looks the part — a natural fit at safety and defensive captain who has fast become a dark-horse All-Big Sky candidate at the University of Idaho.
He shares defensive signal-calling duties alongside middle linebacker Tre Walker, with Dedmon providing the secondary direction. He is banked on by defensive coordinator Mike Breske to “know the playbook to a T, make sure I quarterback the defense and give everyone confidence,” said the Vandal senior, who still sometimes “comes down (at corner) to do the dirty work in man coverage.”
“I’m typically making all the adjustments,” Dedmon said. “I’ve got to make sure everybody’s on board and there’s no confusion between me and the other safety.
“You learn how to embrace that role. Each game, you make a bigger stride, and it becomes normal. I’ve found myself conducting things without even thinking about it.”
In 2020, Dedmon’s second year as a UI starter, he’ll be expected to bring up newcomers who might feel behind under these strange circumstances. But it’ll also be anticipated that Dedmon sustains — or better yet, improves upon — the exceptional pace he was on late last season, during which Idaho’s defense made major headway after a disappointing 2018. The Vandals were third in the conference in pass defense efficiency, with Dedmon often impressing in one-on-one situations.
“We need to maintain that confidence and play with the dominance we know we have, play like how we push each other,” he said.
Dedmon was third on the team with 60 tackles, and second with eight pass break-ups. He forced four combined turnovers in two of Idaho’s final three games — popping a ball loose with a healthy hit on a Montana running back, and intercepting Grizzly quarterback Cam Humphrey, then furnishing two similar plays a week later against Sacramento State.
“I started to play untimid; I let everything go and trusted my abilities,” he said. Dedmon had early jitters, especially in the 2019 opener at Penn State, but those began to subside the more he embraced his new leadership role. “I’m seeing things differently. I’m reading certain things I wasn’t before.”
Vandal coach Paul Petrino acknowledged recently UI’s upward trend in defending throws against pass-happy Big Sky foes has in part been because of Dedmon’s development, which the eighth-year boss has seen progress.
The 6-foot-2 Dedmon, after playing last year at 183 pounds, now checks in at 205. He’s still lean and lengthy, but now a more formidable hitter — if opposing ballcarriers manage to sneak past the front seven.
“I was doing a full-body workout basically every day,” said Dedmon, who returned home for about three months, assisting with chores and training under Antelope Valley DBs and track and field coach Jamil Smith, a former Washington State track athlete. “I was kind of on a combine schedule.
“Putting on good weight was a main focus, and I did that. And working on the little things, the specifics ... like film study, having patience, and my eyes, making sure I’m reading all my keys.”
Dedmon did not take a redshirt as a freshman or sophomore, instead adopting a plug-in role. Sure, it’s made him a bit underrated, but that’s no bother.
“We all helped each other, and I pushed them the same way they pushed me,” he said. “It was fulfilling to get that starting spot, but there was never the, ‘It should be me.’ It has given me more grit to go get (accolades). I’ve been working hard, like we’re playing tomorrow.”
Dedmon, who will return to team activities Friday, also has been working in the business sense, as a handyman with Vaughn Bay Construction in Pullman. At first, he took the job for some extra income during the pandemic, but has welcomed the opportunity to learn “things I might not have been open to before.
“... We’ve done fire caulking, worked with sheet rock, air conditioning and tub installations, and (Tuesday), we did some electrical putty. I’ve tried to embrace the experience.”
Kind of like how he embraced a new position that, in turn, generated a Division I dream that has been realized. Dedmon had some inspiration.
His cousin, Jeff Clay, earned a full-ride scholarship to San Diego State in 2015. Demario Richard, who he played youth football with, was an Arizona State running back. Dedmon’s closest friends at Antelope Valley, corner Mo Osling and defensive lineman Moses Robinson-Carr, went to UCLA.
“I knew that, if I kept grinding, it would pay off,” said Dedmon, also a State-qualifying track jumper. “I always had it in my mind that I could make it, and (Clay and Richard) gave me more hope.”
Dedmon chose UI because it was his first and best offer, and he appreciated the “laid-back” and family-oriented vibe of Moscow, which he compares to Lancaster. After football, he hopes to parlay a business marketing entrepreneurship degree into perhaps a career at Northrop Grumman, with which some of his family members are employed.
Colton Clark may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.