Dixon knows he can help UK's offense

September 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Since he felt he was doing little to help Kentucky on defense, freshman Tony Dixon decided to ask head coach Rich Brooks if he could try tailback.

"I told coach Brooks I was an offensive player and wanted to play offense," said Dixon. "I don't know what would have happened if I had not done that."

Brooks listened and told Dixon he would give him a chance to run the football at UK's next practice, a promise he kept the next day.

"The next practice he called me over, gave me a white (offensive) jersey and my heart got to beating really fast," Dixon said. "I wanted to do well when I went in there. I got in and fortunately had a couple of good runs. I was thinking I had to do something positive to stay on the offensive side of the ball."


The runs were good enough that UK's lack of depth at cornerback was put aside to take advantage of Dixon's speed at tailback.

"I felt comfortable right away. I knew I was a better football player on the offensive side than on defense," Dixon said. "I wanted to be the best player I could be. I knew it would be good for the team, too. I am an offensive player."

Dixon was recruited out of Parrish, Ala., because he had the talent to play either position. However, his forte has always been offense. He rushed for 2,298 yards, including 531 yards in one game, and 36 touchdowns his final season in high school and set a state record with 43 total touchdowns.

He got to play against Louisville and had a 7-yard run on his first play. The next play he fumbled and Louisville recovered. Dixon did not play again.

"My confidence went to the bottom after I saw the ball rolling on the ground," Dixon said. "I went to the sideline and the coaches told me everyone makes mistakes. They picked me up and told me to put it behind me.

"I was kind of wondering why they never put me back in. I still don't know for sure. But in practice, they put me right back out there."

Praise for his true freshmen

Brooks wouldn't say Monday if Dixon would start Saturday against Indiana, but he praised his true freshman. He also said another true freshman tailback, Rafael Little, was healthy enough to play, too.

"Both he and Tony coughed the ball up (fumbled) in practice. They've got to learn to protect the ball. But they could both play," Brooks said.

Dixon has no idea if he'll start, and doesn't care. He just wants to play more and apparently will after spending last week either at No. 1 or No. 2 tailback.

"I am anxious to get back out there and show that I can do better than I did in the Louisville game because of the fumble," Dixon said. "I want to show I am a better player."

Kentucky managed just 66 yards rushing on 26 carries against Louisville, a statistic Brooks says must be improved if the Cats hope to beat Indiana.

"We have to put the loss behind us," Dixon said. "You can't stay low. You have to get better weekly and keep your confidence."

Dixon's speed could bolster UK's confidence and help an offensive line that had trouble opening consistent holes against Louisville.

"I am a speed runner, not a power runner," Dixon said. "I love the outside. I don't mind running inside if needed. I've always had speed and vision. I've always been able to run the football as long as I can remember. I grew up playing backyard football, basketball and baseball, but football was always my dominant sport.

"I just want to see what I can do to help our offense. I know we can play better and that I can play better. We're a lot better than we showed that first game and now we have our chance to prove it."

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