One of the most coveted in-state prospects in the 2019 cycle, Lance Dixon, has been making waves lately.
Yesterday, he received a substantial bump by 247Sports, shooting up nearly 150 spots in the composite and earning a fourth star. He now sits as the 271st overall prospect, and ninth in the state of Michigan. News also broke that he would be visiting campus this weekend, with three of his West Bloomfield teammates.
With all of the buzz around Dixon, I thought I’d take a look at his junior tape to see what makes him so enticing to the staff.
It’s not hard to see why Don Brown is recruiting Dixon as a Viper for his defense. Watching him shoot off the edge for tackles for loss and blowing up read options conjures images of Khaleke Hudson and Jabrill Peppers. His exceptional burst and violence are showcased in the first play of his tape. Blitzing off the edge, he immediately gets into the backfield and tackles the QB for a loss. This is a theme, as similar plays show up at the 0:28 and 2:29 marks.
Dixon not only has short-term burst, but closing speed over long distances. On the kickoff at 1:19, he blows away the rest of his teammates, almost beating the ball on a pooch kick and blowing up the returner. On the next play, he saves a return touchdown with relentless pursuit, coming from off the screen at the 35 yard line to make the tackle before the 10. With these skills, Dixon has the ability to be an immediate contributor on special teams.
Dixon excels at shedding blocks and finding the football. He sets the edge, not allowing running backs to turn the corner. Watch the play at 1:56, where he immediately gets off his block and chases down the running back before he could get up-field. This happens at 0:36 as well, where Dixon takes on a blocker, strings out the play, then breaks free and makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage. These skills are a perfect fit for Don Brown’s aggressive defense, where the the Viper is responsible for contain on the edge.
Dixon is just as physical in coverage, sticking with the receiver well in man-to-man. At 3:05, he follows his man in motion, reads the quarterback and jumps the route, nearly getting an interception. 4:35 is another good example of his man coverage ability. You can’t see the whole play since Dixon goes out of frame for a bit, but when he emerges he has pressed his receiver out of bounds so there is no hope for a catch when the quarterback throws the ball.
There is one clip of him running zone coverage in the film, at 1:45, where he reads the quarterback again and makes a violent tackle right after the completion. Dixon’s instincts, speed and physicality make him tough in coverage, especially man.
Dixon’s aggressive mentality and speed, however, often lead to mistakes. He can over-pursue his target, like at 2:11 and 3:37. In both plays, he is going all out after the ball-carrier, but gets overzealous and runs past them, allowing the opponent to salvage a couple extra yards. Dixon needs to do a better job of breaking down and getting into a good tackling form as he approaches the man with the ball.
His tackling technique could also be improved. Take the play at 2:11, for example. He does a great job of reading the play and getting to the ball, but he doesn’t wrap up, allowing the back to bounce off and gain a couple more yards before his teammates clean up the play.
Dixon also has a tendency to tackle high on a ball-carrier. The play at 3:57 shows this, as he jumps on the back of the runner, taking a couple extra yards to bring him down. This technique will result in him getting shook off by bigger, stronger running backs in college. He needs to be a little more polished as a tackler, but these issues should be easily fixed once he is under the tutelage of college coaches.
Overall, Dixon is an excellent prospect that would fit well in Michigan’s system. I could not shake images of Hudson’s record-breaking day against Minnesota when I was watching this film. Opposing offenses will be on the lookout for a monster on the edge, blowing up their read options and bubble screens.
The crystal balls are in Michigan State’s favor as of now, but the Wolverines are making a strong push and hope to change the tide in this recruitment. Hopefully Dixon can be part of a large in-state class this cycle.