Unknown Dixon springs surprise on UK defense

Just who is Malcom Dixon?

“To be honest, I didn’t even know his name,” UK junior safety Winston Guy said. “We were so focused on the starting quarterback, No. 11 (Andrew Trudnowski).”

Suffice to say, Charleston Southern’s 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman wide receiver/quarterback wasn’t on the Cats’ radar entering the game.

It was a situation not unlike what the Cats faced earlier this season when Florida freshman Trey Burton torched the UK defense for six touchdowns after the Cats’ defense failed to gameplan for him; likewise, Dixon came out of nowhere to garner the Cats’ attention.

Yet some differences between Dixon and Burton do exist: Dixon plays for an FCS team, while Burton plays for the reigning Southeastern Conference East division champions. Dixon hadn’t scored a touchdown in his team’s game the week prior to facing UK like Burton had. In fact, Dixon hadn’t thrown a pass, caught a pass or carried the ball all season before Saturday.

All that changed against the Cats. Dixon finished 7 of 8 for 45 yards and rushed for 96 yards on 19 carries.

“Growing up on SEC soil, a lot of us dream about this,” Dixon, a Tifton, Ga., said. “At first, I thought I was going to be a little nervous and then I just got out there and performed how I knew I could, and it was just great.”

At the start of this season, it didn’t seem like Dixon would have a chance to live out his dream of playing in an SEC stadium so soon.

Recruited as a quarterback, Dixon was originally going to be redshirted, but injuries forced him to play wide receiver. When the Buccaneers lost their starting quarterback in week two of the season, Dixon shifted back to quarterback. More injuries at receiver forced Dixon back to receiver, then Charleston Southern head coach Jay Mills decided to have Dixon practice at quarterback the past three weeks for a game like Saturday’s, when he wanted his quarterback to make plays with his legs.

So, in a strange twist of irony, it was the unheralded Dixon that ran the Wildcat formation rather successfully against UK, a team that frequently keeps opposing defenses off balance with the dual-threat ability of Randall Cobb, a receiver who lines up at quarterback.

For one day, this FCS version of Cobb ‘out-Wildcatted’ the master, but he’s not sure if he wants the gig full time.

“Nahh, I’ll let (Cobb) keep doing that,” Dixon said.

Regardless, Dixon’s coach approved of his efforts.

“We’re going to keep (Dixon) on scholarship,” Mills joked. “He’s earned double dessert tonight.”