When Travis Etienne decided to forgo the NFL Draft earlier this year in favor of playing his senior year at Clemson, Lyn-J Dixon found himself in a precarious situation. It was widely assumed that Etienne was as good as gone and that Dixon would assume the role of the Tigers primary ball carrier.
That isn’t how things played out though. With what is one of the more crowded running back rooms in the country already, and with guys like Demarckus Bowman now on campus, nobody could have blamed Dixon if he had decided to transfer.
Let’s face it, the coming season was supposed to be the year Dixon finally got to prove his worth as a starting running back on one of the nation’s best teams. Now he finds himself in a familiar role once again, as the backup to the back-to-back ACC Player of the Year.
“I think he was hopeful in a way, but not in a bad way,” Tony Elliott said during the spring. “Nothing personal to Travis. They got a great relationship. But he was kind of hopeful Travis would move on, so he could step into that role. He’s a competitive guy. He was geared up to step up into that opportunity and actually step into that role.”
The fact that Dixon decided to stay speaks volumes about the kind of player he is. Just because he isn’t starting, doesn’t mean Dixon can not be productive. Despite being disappointed about not having the opportunity to start, Elliott knows he will still get Dixon’s best.
“Really, really proud of Lyn-J,” Elliott said. “Because the easiest thing to do would have been to pack up his bags and move. But he decided that, ‘You know what, I’m going to step back. I’m going to see this as an opportunity to mature and grow and play with a pro and learn how to prepare like a pro. And not worry so much about the quantity of reps I get, but rather the quality.’ As he’s gone through the spring, he’s had a different mindset and different look in his eye. He’s ready to compete.”
Whether it is in a starting role, or in a role spelling Etienne, Dixon can be a valuable commodity for this team in 2020. Whether he is getting five carries a game of fifteen, Dixon needs to make the most of them.
Bowman is a serious talent. Maybe the most talented running back recruit the Tigers have ever signed. Backup role or not, Dixon needs to assert himself now, it’s his time to shine.