Critical 20: No. 20 Derrick Dixon

Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of experience, leadership, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they absent for any reason.

Derrick Dixon had an entirely nondescript freshman season until a blizzard of injuries in the secondary forced him to the forefront. And once he was handed the opportunity to display his wares, Dixon, it must be said, made more of an impression than did J.J. Gaines and Jalen Barnes--safeties who played far more than Dixon--the entire season. In a short span of time Dixon showed promise. And that is why he has a spot in the Critical 20 over other safeties more inveterate and positioned higher than him on the current depth chart.

The game that stands out in Dixon’s young career is the near upset of Baylor in the season finale. Yes, he was victimized for a touchdown by All-American receiver—and also Dixon’s cousin—Antwan Goodley, but that will sometimes happen to a true freshman facing an All-American. Cut him some slack already!

But outside of that glitch, Dixon was rather a force. He recorded nine tackles—seven of them solos—and a pair of pass breakups.

Equally important as the individual plays, however, was the confidence and moxie Dixon showed. It would have been the easiest thing for a wide-eyed, tender-footed rookie to be shell-shocked and psyched out before he ever took the field against Baylor’s intimidating passing attack. Instead, Dixon simply put his head down and played ball, just like did at Dallas Skyline High School. He treated the Baylor Bears as if they were the Dallas Carter Cowboys.

And that bodes well, not only for Dixon, but for a Red Raider defense that could use an infusion of leadership and confidence. Speaking of that defense, Dixon is currently listed number two on the depth chart behind Barnes and just ahead of redshirt freshman Michael Coley. Senior safety J.J. Gaines is sitting the spring for injury rehab and the same goes for sophomore Jah’Shawn Johnson who could play corner or safety. Then there is the possibility that cornerback Justis Nelson, who started at safety alongside Dixon against Baylor and looked excellent, could also move back to that position. In other words, the actual shape of the depth chart at safety is very murky, not that that’s unusual going into spring ball.

Still, the prediction here is that when everything shakes out, Dixon will emerge as a starter and a key component of David Gibbs’ restructured defense.

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