STARKVILLE — Tailback Anthony Dixon will not be a forgotten man in the spread offense of new Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen.
It is Mullen”s hope that the former 1,000-yard rusher will be again next fall his senior season.
Mullen said there is a misconception that a running game is not important in the spread, but he begs to differ.
“We”re going to be a big running team,” Mullen said. “In our version of the spread offense, we”re going to be balanced 50-50. Really, all the spread offense is about is trying to make the defense defend the entire field.”
Mullen and running backs coach Greg Knox expect Dixon to be a valuable weapon for the offense. That could mean Dixon will be more of a part of the passing game than he has been in the past.
Knox said any lingering frustration that Dixon may have had following last season”s 4-8 record hasn”t been evident during offseason conditioning.
“Through the winter workouts, he”s shown a lot of mental toughness,” Knox said. “We know he has the physical skills, but the mental part is really showing up. We”ve been pleased with his work habits and we”re just looking forward to getting him out there this spring and working with him.”
Mississippi State begins spring practice at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and the workouts are open to the public so fans can see for themselves where Dixon stands.
Dixon reported back to school in January at 255 pounds and finished up offseason conditioning at 235. He played at 240 last season.
It doesn”t matter to Mullen how much weight Dixon carries as long as he is in shape and able to perform.
“I want him to be as big and strong as he can be and as fast as he can be,” Mullen said. “Whatever weight that is, if he can handle 235, that”s great, but if he can bulk up and handle 245, that”s great. If he can”t, we”ll have him drop down. There”s not an exact weight we want him, but we want him to be in great physical shape.”
Dixon”s numbers have been up and down while playing for former MSU coach Sylvester Croom.
In 12 games and five starts as a freshman, Dixon had 169 carries for 668 yards and nine touchdowns, and then had 287 carries, 1,066 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games and 12 starts as a junior.
Last season for the Bulldogs, Dixon”s totals dipped to 197 carries, 869 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games, all starts.
Mullen has confidence that Knox will get the most out of Dixon and the other running backsr.
It is a challenge Knox accepts with great excitement and is happy to be a part of what he considers to be a “goldmine” at Mississippi State.
“Over the past 14 years, I”ve been in the Southeastern Conference, I”ve always watched this program,” Knox said. “I think we have a great leader in coach Mullen. He”s a great coach and offensive mind. I think the future is bright.”
Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Knox spent 10 years as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn. His other SEC experience was at Ole Miss (1995-98), but he has also coached at Texas Christian and Stephen F. Austin.
Knox is one of eight new assistant coaches on Mullen”s staff and he said there continues to be a time of adjustment.
“Everyone is getting on the same page,” Knox said. “I think coach Mullen has done a great job of laying out what we need to get done and what we need to get accomplished. He has left it up to us to get it done.
“It will be an exciting time for this program, this staff and these kids. They”ve worked hard and I think they are very excited about the spring.”
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