More mature Dixon means good things for Tigers
CLEMSON—This summer Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon was blindsided when former Tiger running back Tavien Feaster chose to transfer out of the program.
But the rising sophomore understood that with the decision of Feaster to leave, came an opportunity that he would not have had—to become a leader, as the heir apparent to junior starting running back Travis Etienne.
“With Tavien leaving, it put a whole lot more on my side and moved me up the depth chart,” Dixon said. “I’ve got to have my mind right. You’ve got to be ready at any moment.”
The fact that Dixon was so quick to understand the importance of getting his "mind right" was not lost on his running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“He has matured a lot, and you can see he has a renewed sense of urgency,” Elliott said of Dixon. “He understands the expectations of being the guy that comes in right behind Travis. He’s been battling."
Those expectations and Dixon's willingness to put in the work have even caught the eye of head coach Dabo Swinney.
“Lyn-J is just light years ahead of where he was last year,” Swinney said. “Last year he was just lightning in a bottle. Look out. Anything can happen. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was bad. It was not all together with him.
“This year he’s a much more complete player.”
What is involved in becoming a complete player? The attention to details—the little things.
The things that may not show up on the highlight reels or that end up in additional rushing yards. The things like doing the dirty work of picking up a blitzing linebacker.
I feel like my blocking has improved, keeping up with the blocking scheme, knowing where to block," Dixon said. "I’ve been working very hard on that in the spring, summer, and fall, and I think it has paid off.
“In high school, we didn’t have to learn anything about pass protection. When you come to college, it’s a whole different thing. That was a big transition for me.”
Dixon entered 2019 following a true freshman season in which he posted 547 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 62 rushing attempts in only 106 offensive snaps over 13 games in a backfield that featured three backs with at least 1,000 career rushing yards to their credit.
In the first three games of the 2019 season, Dixon has picked up where he left off the 2018 season. He rushed eight times for 65 yards and a touchdown and added a 22-yard reception against Georgia Tech, led Clemson with 79 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries against No. 12 Texas A&M and gained 19 yards on six carries at Syracuse.
With a newfound maturity and a sense of leadership, Dixon is embracing the partnership that he has with Etienne and is using it to help him grow.
“We push each other every day," Dixon said. "Every time he is on the field, I hope he does well. And every time I’m on the field, he hopes I do well. We use that as a strength for the both of us, and it’s been going good so far.”