Prove It: Lyn-J Dixon
Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series that, for various reasons, looks at the idea of a “prove it” season for certain Clemson players. This week, we took a look each day at a Tiger who faces a make or break year,.
Forget about Travis Etienne returning.
If junior Lyn-J Dixon is ready to take the next step as a rusher, he'll look like a No. 1 back getting No. 2 back touches, not a No. 2 back getting No. 2 back reps, in 2020.
That's the kind of season the junior is facing after making the decision to stick it out at Clemson following Etienne's decision to return for a senior season.
Obviously, Dixon thought he'd be "the man" this fall when he signed to play for the Tigers in 2018, but there were going to be some needed steps taken, regardless, for that to happen. Yes, he's flashed his talent for two seasons.
In 2018, Dixon averaged an impressive 8.82 yards per rush on 62 carries and scored five touchdowns. As a sophomore, he was second on the team in carries (104) and yards (635) while adding 14 catches for 121 yards in the passing game. Dixon scored six touchdowns and saw his average per carry fall to 6.11.
It was still a positive season, but Dixon is far from a finished product. Offensive coordinator/RB coach Tony Elliott has mentioned many times the last two years that Dixon needed to reach a certain maturity level, and consistency in all aspects of his game have to improve.
But Etienne feels like his return has motivated Dixon, who could've transferred knowing he won't be the starter in 2020.
"He's definitely flipped the switch," Etienne said during spring practice. "For me to keep my job I'm definitely going to have to go hard every play because I'm not entitled to anything even though I've had a successful career here. He's hungrier now more than ever."
Etienne, Clemson's all-time leading rusher who's gone over 1,600 yards the last two seasons, has told Dixon that the goal is for both of them to go over 1,000 this year.
Dixon is capable of doing that from a talent standpoint, and he's got plenty of upside, but there's another level he can take his game. Putting it together is the hard part. Plus, no matter what he does this year, he's going to be compared to Etienne, one of the best backs in the nation who could be a stellar pro as well.
Also, the running back room is filling up. Reps are going to be tough to come by. Proving he can fill Etienne's shoes in 2021 starts in 2020.