Dixon Takes Camp Compliments in Stride

It's been quite a camp for Anthony Dixon. After two previous pre-seasons hearing daily nagging, or worse, from coaches demanding greater and better daily efforts, suddenly the junior halfback is hearing compliments. Praise, even. And how much stock does Dixon put in such talk? "Oh, man, it's nothing! I guess I look at it now as I'm finally doing it how Coach likes it!"

Which is quite a statement in itself. And, an encouraging comment on what this 2008 could bring for Mississippi State and its top ground-pounder. If a back like ‘Boobie' who already has written his name all over the Bulldog record book is ‘finally' practicing to Coach Sylvester Croom's approval, what might Dixon achieve now?

Not, of course, that Croom and backfield coach Rockey Felker are allowing Dixon to rest on any camp-laurels. Oh, their star ball-hauler has been allowed a couple of soft scrimmages with a total of five totes before adjourning to the sideline. And the need to develop young runners Robert Elliot and Wade Bonner (when healthy) has cut into Dixon's daily quota of carries. But when Croom and coordinator Woody McCorvey want to really test both the offensive and defensive lines in both running and stopping it, Dixon and cohort Christian Ducre still do some heavy duty.

"No, it ain't been no slack cut!" Dixon says of his pre-season regimen. And those Croom compliments? Wellll… "He says I've been practicing like (Jerious) Norwood, but I still don't think I'm getting the same treatment he got!"

Maybe not. But after just two seasons on the job Dixon is already giving his preferred predecessor a good ‘run' in the record books. Dixon has 1,734 yards and ranks 8th on the MSU list; Norwood finished second with 3,222 yards in four years. He has six 100-yard games, with a high of 152 last October against UAB; Norwood broke the century mark 13 times for first place.

But in scoring, it's all Boobie's prizes. With 25 career touchdowns, 23 of them rushing, he is already the 6th-leading scorer ever at State (Norwood never cracked the top-ten) and with anything approaching his 2007 output Dixon could surpass 1995-98 kicker Brian Hazelwood's record of 218 points. The rushing touchdowns mark of 27 by Michael Davis in 1991-94 should fall soon. Very soon.

But to his credit Dixon won't be content with more of the same this season. He wants more of well, more, thus the greater exertions and consistency of this pre-season. Coaching compliments are good, sure. "And I'm proud of myself! But it really doesn't worry me too much, I was going to focus on my game and get myself better anyway with or without the good compliments. I'm trying to be the best this year, and I'm working hard."

The thing is, Dixon is entirely willing to share the scoring and stats this season. In fact he might not have a choice, and not only because Ducre has proven he can find the end zone or Elliot is ready to make his own redshirt impression. "I think the passing game is going to go a little better," Dixon said.

"Everybody wants to know how Wes Carroll looks or how Tyson Lee looks. I tell them, they're both good, smart quarterbacks. They're going to make the right decisions. I feel like we've got receivers that are game-ready now and they're going to be ready to play on Saturday. And for me and Ducre, we're going to be ready on Saturday. I believe it's all going to flow right."

Never forget, though—this attack is built around beating the other side up with superior strength in the ground game. That is the specialty of Dixon and Ducre. The twist this year is the Dog duo can do more than crash the line; they have worked more on getting to and through corners, spreading the defense all along the front and finding the weakest point of attack. Not, now, that Dixon intends any of the infamous ‘dancing' he has done in some crucial short-yard situations in the past. That lesson has been learned the hard way.

But Dixon, Ducre, along with Elliot and when he is back to health Bonner, should offer a greater variety of offensive options (including the option pitch if things set up rightly). The expanded repertoire is just what the attack needs to reach potential, Dixon says.

"The rushing game, like Coach said, we were good last year but I think we can get better this year. I guess the whole offensive rate is going to come up this year. I mean, I know we were close to the bottom last year but I think that's going to be the biggest deal. Just as an overall group we're going to improve."

Soon, hopefully, because indications are Mississippi State is going to have to put up some real points to survive their opening-game trip to Louisiana Tech. And the atmosphere Saturday night will be intense on both sidelines. Dixon is expecting State will get the (other) Bulldogs' best shot.

"No doubt. We've been in their position before, we know they're all amped-up over there. They're coming out to get respect on Saturday, we've got no problem with that. We're in the same situation still, we're trying to get respect and we want to be recognized as one of the best. To me, it's even. I know they'll get pumped-up but we're pumped-up as well."

Which means Boobie is ready to run, to show his pre-season prowess in the real season. And who knows? With a stout start to his junior year maybe Dixon might bull his way into, say, Norwood status with his coach?

"I don't think I'm ever going to get that treatment," he grins. "I wouldn't know how to handle it!" Nor is this business-like Dixon going to completely change at least some of his squad-style as the self-appointed sideline clown. Which, he suddenly realizes, might be the best way to make Coach leave him on the field.

"I think he'd get tired of me standing over there, and wouldn't have no choice but to put me in!"


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