Mixon it up: Sophomore DE aims for big 2015

There's no question Tennessee's defensive line is one of the most talented units in the SEC. But while other players pick up the front page headlines, one is looking to be the next big sleeper.

Is it possible to overlook someone who is 6-foot-4, weights 260 pounds and could crush a quarterback in less time than it takes to order a meal at Chick-fil-A? Can you really lose focus on a guy who played in 12 games as a freshman in the SEC at one of the most brutally physical positions in football?

If you’re an opponent of Tennessee in 2015, it’s a dangerous possibility.

Coaches across the conference are already well versed in the plaudits of Derek Barnett, the Vols’ freshman sensation who came off the edge to notch 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss last season in his first year of college football. They also surely know Curt Maggitt, the hybrid linebacker/defensive end who matched Barnett with 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Coupled with them are two heralded freshmen, Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie, who are already being plastered on message boards and media outlets across the country as the next big thing in the SEC.

And then there’s Dimarya Mixon.

The wily sophomore edge rusher from Compton, California hasn’t graced SportsCenter this August like some of his contemporaries and that probably won’t change. But with all the focus on the established names and their blue chip counterparts, Mixon feels like it’s the perfect storm to finally go unnoticed by other teams in 2015.

“Hopefully I’m one of those sleepers that sneak up on them,” Mixon told InsideTennessee. “They are going to be focused up on Curt Maggitt, Derek (Barnett), and we’ve got a lot of other guys. It’s going to be hard to just focus in on one guy. If they’re focusing on other guys, it’s going to hurt them.”

Mixon made his home at defensive end at West Mesquite (Texas) High School but was moved to tackle last season to help relieve starter Jordan Williams. After recording a quarterback hurry in his debut against Utah State, Mixon went on to play in 12 games with four tackles in backup duty.

This season he’ll expect to play even more after shedding some weight and adding the luxury of moving back to the position he’s most comfortable with playing.

“I got my body right. I switched back to outside, so I got back down to about 260-ish right now,” Mixon said. “I’ve got speed off the edge now. I think that’s one of my biggest approaches, especially coming from the spring into the fall now.”

Playing on one of the most talented and eclectic position groups on the team makes for just as many exciting times in the meeting room as it does on the practice field. For as much as his fellow defensive linemen push Mixon on the gridiron, they make him laugh just the same.

“I get to feed off their energy in practice. They help me with things I need help on. It’s just really exciting, especially with guys like Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie,” he said. “This group we have, we have a lot of different characters, especially in the meeting room. Sometimes it can get crazy, but it’s hilarious.”

So while SEC foes key in on Derek Barnett or turn their attention to Curt Maggitt, Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie, Dimarya Mixon will be there — patiently waiting to make sure you remember his name.

“Really, I just go day-by-day listening to the coaches. I don’t like to get too ahead of myself or get too ahead of what they have going on for me. Really, just stick with the plan, take everything day by day, and now just finishing out camp and getting ready for Bowling Green.”

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