Signee to watch: Travell Dixon
Nick Saban has made a habit of signing junior college players that can immediately step into a role and contribute. James Carpenter turned a two-year Alabama career into a first-round draft choice. Terrence Cody made the same step. DeQuan Menzie was a major contributor on the Crimson Tide’s defense and helped the Tide’s secondary be a part of one of the most prolific defenses in college football history in 2011.
This season, Alabama has two defensive backs who are fresh out of the junior college ranks. Deion Belue stepped in nicely during the spring and showed flashes of what he will bring to the table in 2012. Another junior college transfer, Travell Dixon, is hoping to be able to contribute as much or more than Belue during the upcoming season.
Dixon committed to the Crimson Tide over offers from a number of other great football programs including Florida State, Miami, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. He played his junior college football at Eastern Arizona College and was named a first-team National Junior College Athletics Association All-American last season.
Many scouting sites named Dixon one of the top JUCO prospects in the nation after his sophomore season that saw great strides in his development and production. Dixon recorded 39 tackles, four interceptions, four pass pass breakups and one fumble recovery last season.
When he enrolled early and participated in spring practice, it was believed that Dixon would be the front-runner for any major contributions the Tide would need in the secondary given his experience at the junior college level. After all, he seemed to be the most highly-touted JUCO cornerback in the nation.
Dixon impressed a number of veterans in the Crimson Tide secondary and showed great potential to be a major contributor for Alabama in the near future. Belue, however, is the one that made the largest impression on head coach Nick Saban, and as a result he saw his playing time increase with the first unit.
Saban noted during spring practice that Dixon suffered from a bit of a mental setback of sorts as he had to learn a number of positions in the secondary. While Belue spent a majority of his time working at a few different cornerback spots, Dixon eventually landed at the “star” position in nickel situations.
That position may not sound like the largest opportunity for Dixon given that there were a number of other position openings in the secondary, but when the previous occupants of the position are considered it leaves Dixon in rather fine company. The Crimson Tide use the nickel packages quite a bit, and Saban has historically placed the most dynamic and versatile defensive backs in that spot.
In 2008 and 2009, Coach Saban placed Javier Arenas, an athlete formerly known primarily for his kick returning prowess, at the “star” position, and he performed quite nicely. In fact, his performance at the position was one of Alabama’s most vital components to its 2009 championship season.
When Arenas departed for a career in the NFL, it was DeQuan Menzie who stepped into his spot. Menzie, who was fresh out of junior college at the time, caught on quickly and showed a phenomenal ability to contribute in a wide variety of coverages. That versatility is what Saban looks for at the “star” position, and his placement of Dixon there speaks volumes of his respect for Dixon’s talents.
Whether or not the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder will see the field this season remains to be seen, but Dixon definitely has all of the tools to contribute. He will likely be included on the Tide’s two-deep when it is released closer to the beginning of the season, and with fall camp still to be held he could move his way into the top of the rotation. Regardless, Dixon has displayed a commitment to learning the “star” position, and adds the size and versatility that is highly valued in a Nick Saban-coached defense.
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