It’s come full circle for Lyn-J Dixon. Once a 2018 four-star all-purpose back across the board who was committed to Tennessee football in 2017 when Butch Jones was head coach before decommitting and joining the Clemson Tigers, the graduate transfer senior returns to Rocky Top.
Dixon, who stands at 5’10” 195 pounds, became a late commitment to the Vols via the transfer portal. He transferred from Clemson last November and initially joined the West Virginia Mountaineers but then entered the portal again after spring practice this past year.
Since the 2020 year didn’t count against his eligibility due to the NCAA’s COVID exception and he was able to redshirt last year by only playing three games, Dixon will have two years of eligibility left. He announced his commitment to Tennessee football on Instagram.
According to Ryan Callahan of GoVols247, Dixon will start practicing with the team possibly as early as this week and will be eligible immediately. Given the recent injury to Len’Neth Whitehead, Dixon does restore depth to UT’s running back spot. However, and this is key, he doesn’t fill the void left by Whitehead.
Josh Heupel still has no power running backs. Both Tee Hodge and Dee Beckwith transferred last year because Whitehead had consolidated the power running back spot. Despite battling injuries, he had 32 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns while standing at 6’2″ 220 pounds.
Anybody who saw the Vols play last year realizes they need a full-time power back so they can make sure not to struggle on short-yardage plays. That cost them in overtime of the Music City Bowl against the Purdue Boilermakers, albeit a horrible call, and it was an issue all year.
A healthy Whitehead was supposed to fix that, but without him, Dixon is not going to fill that void. Heupel’s other choices are Jabari Small, the returning starting feature back, Justin Williams-Thomas, the newcomer potential feature back, and two other all-purpose backs, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson.
All the addition of Dixon really does is give Heupel, Alex Golesh and Jerry Mack another option to complement Wright as Sampson likely needs time to develop. They still need somebody more physical who could line up and gain a yard when everybody knows what’s coming.
Now, this isn’t to discount what Dixon brings to the table. Again, if Wright gets hurt, Tennessee football now has another option. Also, the Vols do have a void in the return game that hasn’t been filled, and Dixon could help address that issue.
In 2020, Dixon returned nine kickoffs and averaged over 23 yards a return. 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 a touchdown.
Early in his career, Dixon looked like a rising star. As a freshman on the 2018 national championship team, he rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns while averaging nearly nine yards a carry. Over his first two years, he had 166 carries for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 162 yards.
That average of over seven yards a carry was incredibly impressive. However, in 2020, his production dipped with only 42 carries and only four and a half yards a carry, and then he only played three games last year. It sounds like some off-the-field issues and clashes with the coaches kept him off the field.
Whatever the case, he never got the chance to get going, but he showed what he could do early on in his career. Combine that with experience and Heupel’s system, which is built on the running backs, and he brings a lot to the table for Tennessee football, even if he doesn’t fill the void left by Whitehead’s injury.