November 23, 2011

Frosh FB, Larry Dixon continues to emerge

Army fullback Larry Dixon is a long way from his Pacific Northwest hometown of Bremerton (Wash.), where he was an Olympic High three-sport athlete.

But even as a plebe at West Point that grew up in the shadow of Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, he has carved out a rooting interest in the Black Knights for the 109th Army-Navy game on Dec. 10 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

"My friends are excited about the game," Dixon said. "They're a lot more into the game this year now that I'm playing. My friends have been following me and they support me."

Dixon's promising play has provided his friends - not to mention the Black Knights' fans - more to track than even he expected his first year at West Point.

The Starting Nod

The 6-foot-0, 220-pounder has emerged as the starting fullback in three of the last four games and has scored a touchdown in those last four games, albeit technically splitting time with junior Jared Hassin. He's climbed to fourth on the team in rushing despite not topping 100 yards for the season until the sixth game.

"I thought I'd come in and work hard and try to learn the system," Dixon said. "I've surprised myself with the big role I've played this early in my career. It's a testament to (quarterback) Trent Steelman and other guys pulling me along and getting me up to speed as soon as possible so I can help the team as much as I can."

Through 11 games, Dixon has carried 77 times for 477 yards with five touchdowns. His per-carry average of 6.2 yards and his seven-game streak of at least one carry of 10 or more yards shows he has the explosiveness to be much more than a grind-it-out fullback.

"Im a running back with my hand in the dirt," said Dixon, who ran for 5,182 career yards in three varsity seasons at Olympic.

In Dixon's last five games, he's rushed nine times for 92 yards with a long of 57 against Vanderbilt, 10 for 85 with a TD and a long of 30 against Fordham, 11 for 42 with a TD and a long of 13 against Air Force, 9 for 93 with a TD and a long of 55 against Rutgers and 10 for 42 with a TD and a long of 15 against Temple.

He's a north-south runner that has been stopped for a lost yardage on only carry out of 77 attempts this season. That one rush was a 2-yard loss in the season opener against Northern Illinois when he finished with 7 for a net 19.

"After my first game, I was a little unsure of myself," Dixon said. "But I talked with Trent (Steelman) and he told me I had to have confidence in myself. He told me there's a reason the coaches brought me here. They know what I can do. After that I started to realize if I keep my confidence, I can do this."

That Army head coach Rich Ellerson found Dixon in the shadow of a Navy base on the opposite coast shows he and his staff are searching far corners to identify talent. Dixon is one of several freshman this year that have started games, which is unusual when it comes to playing football at West Point.

Youngsters Grow-up

Dixon, quarterback Angel Santiago, center Ryan Powis, linebacker Geoffery Bacon, slotback Stephen Fraser, strong safety Hayden Pierce and cornerback Lamar Johnson-Harris all spent 2010 at the USMA Prep School before enrolling at West Point this year as members of Ellerson's recruiting Class of 2010.
They represent the first dividends from Ellerson's first full recruiting class. Since the head coach wasn't hired until December, 2008, he and his staff got a late start on the Class of 2009.

Despite Army's 3-8 record this season, Dixon says the experience the four freshmen and the rest of the younger players gained suggests a bright future for the program.

"Game experience is the most important thing in college football," Dixon said. "There is no substitute for experience. A lot of guys have contributed this year, and they have gained invaluable experience. We'll have a different type of mentality going into the offseason to get ready for next year. Now that we know what the game is all about."

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