It’s full circle for Lyn-J Dixon. Once a 2018 four-star all-rounder who committed to football in Tennessee in 2017 when Butch Jones was head coach before stepping down and joining the Clemson Tigers, the graduate transfer senior returns to Rocky Top .
Dixon, who stands at 5’10” and 195 pounds, was made a late signing for the Vols via the transfer portal. He transferred from Clemson last November and initially joined the West Virginia Mountaineers but then rejoined the portal after spring training last year.
Because 2020 didn’t count toward his eligibility due to the NCAA’s COVID waiver, and he was able to play redshirt last year by playing just three games, Dixon has two more years of eligibility to play. He announced his commitment to football in Tennessee on Instagram.
According to GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan, Dixon may start training with the team as early as this week and be eligible to play straight away. In light of Len’Neth Whitehead’s recent injury, Dixon restores depth to UT’s running back spot. However, and this is key, it does not fill the void left by Whitehead.
Josh Heupel still has no power running backs. Both Tee Hodge and Dee Beckwith made the switch last year because Whitehead solidified the power running back spot. Despite battling injuries, he had 32 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns while standing at 6’2″ and 220 pounds.
Anyone who watched the Vols play last year knows they need a full-time power back to ensure they don’t struggle on short plays. That cost her in overtime at the Music City Bowl against the Purdue Boilermakers, albeit a terrible call, and it’s been an issue all year.
A healthy Whitehead should fix that, but without him, Dixon won’t fill that gap. Heupel’s other picks are Jabari Small, the returning starting feature back, Justin Williams-Thomas, the potential newcomer feature back, and two other all-purpose backs, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson.
The addition of Dixon just gives Heupel, Alex Golesh and Jerry Mack another option to add to Wright as Sampson likely needs time to develop. They still need someone more physically fit and able to line up and gain a yard when everyone knows what’s coming.
Now, that’s not to devalue what Dixon brings to the table. If Wright gets injured, Tennessee football now has another option. Also, the Vols have a gap in the second leg that hasn’t been filled and Dixon could help address that issue.
In 2020, Dixon returned nine kickoffs and averaged returns for over 23 yards. At Clemson, he carried the ball 218 times for 1,420 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns while catching 20 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown.
Early in his career, Dixon looked like a rising star. A freshman on the 2018 national championship team, he rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns while averaging nearly nine yards per carry. In his first two years, he had 166 carries for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 162 yards.
That seven-plus yards-per-carry average was incredibly impressive. In 2020, however, his production declined with just 42 carries and just four-and-a-half yards per carry, and then he only played three games last year. It sounds like some off-field issues and clashes with the coaches kept him off the field.
In any case, he never broke through, but showed what he can do early in his career. Combine that with experience and Heupel’s running back-based system, and he brings a lot to the table for Tennessee football, even if he doesn’t fill the void left by Whitehead’s injury.