After missing out on the state’s top player, the Rebels are up off the crootin canvas thanks to a commitment from four-star linebacker Breon Dixon, who made his announcement Sunday during the Under Armour All-American Game.
Dixon’s pledge is critical for two reasons. For starters, it provides timely momentum for a program that watched Cam Akers don a Florida State hat last week. Secondly, Dixon, who’s rated the No. 11 inside linebacker in the country, provides immediate support for a position of critical need.
Hugh Freeze thought he had a blue chip linebacker on the line earlier in the fall, but four-star Starkville prospect Willie Gay decommitted in October. Dixon becomes the third ‘backer to join the 2017 class, joining three-star Josh Clarke and three-star JUCO Brenden Williams. Ole Miss will certainly try to land some more between now and Signing Day.
Dixon, who decommitted from Georgia back in August, picked the Rebels over Louisville. The 6’0, 218-pounder from Suwanee, Ga. comes from Grayson High, a powerhouse school that also produced the Nkemdiche brothers, current Clemson Tiger Wayne Gallman, four-star South Carolina commit Jamyest Williams and four-star prospect Deangelo Gibbs.
How does he fit in?
Dixon is an explosive talent with impressive speed to go along with a stout frame. He’s powerful at the point of attack and has shown an impressive ability to stay on receivers’ hips and make plays on the football. His size and talent should allow him to be an immediate contributor in Wesley McGriff’s new 4-3 scheme.
Ole Miss needs talent at linebacker in the worst way. The position was a revolving door of transfers, freshmen and former walk-ons in 2016, which was the biggest factor in the Rebels putrid run defense. Linebackers were routinely out of position against the run, which usually meant that any rusher who broke past the defensive line didn’t get touched until he’d hit the third level (Ole Miss allowed 2.4 times as many rushing yards before contact than Bama allowed total rushing yards during the regular season).
DeMarquis Gates is the only reliable returning member of a corps that ranked 119th in linebacker chaos rate. Detric Bing-Dukes showed some ability to plug running lanes but was a liability against spread teams. Willie Hibbler, a true freshman who played tight end in high school, looked exactly like a true freshman who played tight end in high school. Rising seniors Ray Ray Smith and Taylor Polk simply aren’t SEC-caliber players. Former three-star Donta Evans will see his first action after redshirting in 2016.