Lance Dixon reaches a new level of comfort as a defensive leader
WVU’s villain has grown up and he’s excited to show it off this fall
West Virginia may have caught lightning in a bottle when it brought in linebacker Lance Dixon.
It’s rare for a team to add a freshman transfer to their roster. It’s even rarer for this addition to finish in the team’s top 10 in tackles in his freshman year, especially if he’s missed part of the season due to injury.
Dixon is now a leader on defense in his second season at West Virginia, and with a year under his belt, he’s more confident in his place on the court.
“There is definitely a level of comfort. It’s also experience,” Dixon said. “Having four years of experience in the game is definitely a plus. It takes a little longer for some guys, I guess it just took a little longer for me.
Like many transfers, his current status as a second-year redshirt comes with a slight asterisk. While he started his WVU career as a redshirt freshman, he already had two years of playing experience dating back to his real freshman season at Penn State in 2019. He donned a red shirt this season but has appeared in three games.
Dixon’s playing time as the Nittany Lion increased in 2020, earning a debut that year as a redshirt rookie. This season, however, did not count against his eligibility due to the NCAA’s COVID relief. So when he arrived in Morgantown in the summer of 2021, he still had four full years of eligibility. He also found a defensive scheme that better suited his style of play as a converted safety.
“I would say I run a lot more, can open up and show my speed a little more,” Dixon said. “Plus being able to move faster, being able to get guys away. Have more options there.
Dixon ended 2021 on a high note, recording his best game of the season in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with 11 tackles, leading the game in that category. He hopes to make it a starting point for his first season as a full-time starter at bandit.
Weeks before the season, it looks like he’s about to do just that, as he’s even impressed his coaches so far in fall camp.
“I love where Lance Dixon – it’s been his best camp in two years,” WVU linebackers coach Jeff Koonz said. “To understand his techniques much better in the scheme, where it fits in, how it fits in, where he needs to be on every play and he made a lot more plays because of that.”
The former defensive back also hopes to thrive on WVU’s defense this season, which he called “the fastest defense I’ve had.” Dixon returns alongside some returning stars like cornerback Charles Woods and defensive lineman Dante Stills, so the framework for an already successful unit was already in place.
Dixon must also work in tandem with new players, like energetic linebacker Mike Lee Kpogba, who brings a new layer of leadership to the defense. Although he has yet to play a game for the Mountaineers, Kpogba is already making it easier for Dixon as a leader and player.
“In terms of speed, I think we have that,” Dixon said. “We just need to dot our i’s and cross our t’s and be good with it, we’ll be fine this year.”