CLEMSON—Although running back Lyn-J Dixon did not play in the Clemson Tigers’ dominating victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide during last year’s title game, he left an indelible mark on the season and high expectations heading into his sophomore year.
As a true freshman in 2018, Dixon recorded 547 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively, Dixon’s rushing average of 8.8 yards per carry was actually higher than standout junior rushing back Travis Etienne’s (8.1 yards), and Dixon, now a sophomore, was fifth in the nation in that category among qualified backs a year ago.
Despite those accolades, running backs coach Tony Elliott said he did not want Dixon to rest on his achievements from last season, noting that he hoped Dixon would return to the field in the “right state of mind” and focus on improving his technique going forward.
“Running with the football, he's got to get his pad level down and what not at times,” Elliott said. “I want to see that, that he's really, really progressed his upper body strength, so he's more confident in his technique and pass protection.”
Dixon also needs to get acclimated to being a leader for other players on the team, Elliott said.
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“I want to see him accept his role as a leader now, even though he’s just a sophomore,” Elliott said. “... Now he's going to be in a position where he's going to be called upon by his teammates to be a leader, so those are the things I want to see him do.”
Just like coaches expected Etienne to eventually adopt his role as a leader of the running backs as he matured, Elliott will also look to Dixon to follow suit.
“(I) just told him that, ‘Hey, he might have thought that he had a little bit of time, but everything happens for a reason, and now (the) guys on his team are expecting him to just step in’,” Elliott said, relaying a previous conversation. “But the biggest thing is try not to do too much. You know, just be who you are. Just focus on the things that we talked about in our green room every single day, and if you do that, then the leadership will come.”
Elliott said that coming into the program, Dixon and Etienne did not necessarily embrace their role as leaders on the team because Clemson already had running back leadership in place, but both the sophomore and junior have begun adopting a more serious demeanor working with coaches and fellow players.
“They're similar,” the coach said. “Both of them got great personalities, and you can tell coming in the door as freshman, they're kind of just happy to be here,” Elliott said. “They knew they had some veteran leadership in front of them, so they really didn't necessarily embrace that role.
“... I've noticed a bit of transition in their personality from their freshman to their sophomore year,” he added. “They're a little more serious about their business, and that's what you need to see.”