Steve Sturm, IlliniGuys Football Analyst
December 14, 2022
Wisconsin's loss turned into Illinois' gain with the flip of former Badger commit Collin Dixon to Illinois. Dixon isn't quite a 4-star player on any rating system, but he's awfully close so this is a big-time addition for Illinois at a position where Illinois is going to need help in the near future. Dixon is good enough to earn playing time right away next year, but its down the line that Illini fans will really appreciate him.
Its been a long time since Illinois has signed a wide receiver that dominates the opposition as thoroughly as Dixon. Occasionally Illinois has had players who could run away from defenders and make them look silly. There are a few players like that in this recruiting class, in fact. However, its been quite a while since Illinois had a player who could do that while also maintaining the physicality that Dixon displays in this video:
Pat Bryant added a lot of strength in his last year but even he wasn't quite the level of prospect that Dixon represents because Dixon's strength is just outlandish for a high school player. His body control is also impressive, as are his hands. He also has a reported 4.49 40 time at a summer camp and an 11.17 100 meter dash in track, so he's going to be able to run away from some Big Ten defenders as well. All of those traits have led him to a senior year with 88 catches for 1493 yards and 19 receiving touchdowns. Including kick returns and defensive work plus and his work in his sophomore and junior years, Dixon had 50(!) touchdowns.
While Tallmadge high school isn't playing the toughest competition in Ohio, it is comparable to 5A competition in Illinois so the guys he's beating are still quality players. That is one reason Dixon isn't a 4-star player, and the other is that he might not be sudden enough in his movements to get open against the high level cover corners. Dixon is more of a truck with the agility to come down with tough catches than he is a gazelle that can stop and start well enough to make double moves. However, this is a guy that can produce even in that sort of role like Brian Hightower plays. And, if you've been reading my trench reports you already know that Hightower plays a big role in the Illinois running game because of his excellent blocking ability. You'll see the same from Dixon and he shows a taste of it in these films.
Unlike many incoming freshmen, I'm going to figure out Dixon's place on the team with an eye toward a role in 2023. Dixon's play-alike, Brian Hightower, will return in 2023 but Jonah Morris will be leaving the college ranks after six years and Dixon might well gain all of Morris' snaps right away. Illinois also used Miles Scott in a blocking role frequently and I could see Dixon taking those snaps right away. The rest of Illinois' receiving corps will also return, but Illinois kept Casey Washington and Pat Bryant in the same sort of role last year, while Isiah Williams and Hank Beatty figure to stay in their current roles too. Early reports on Ashton Hollins and Shawn Miller were also good, so they could earn their way onto the field next year as well with a year in the weight room. Illinois has a couple of other quality prospects coming in with the Class of 2023, particularly Kenari Wilcher and Teremun Lott, but Dixon is on a physical level above the Floridians. Regardless of 2023 though, Illinois is going to lose Hightower and Washington after 2023, which is why it was important to add Dixon this year.
So, how excited should Illini nation get with this addition? Obviously I believe this is a high quality player. He might well be Illinois' best pure receiving commitment since AJ Jenkins. Not only that, but Illinois got him to flip from a Big Ten school that sees itself as Illinois' superior. However, you have to put this commitment in perspective. There have been quite a few recruiting classes in recent memory in which Dixon would have been the star. However, if you believe recent recruiting rankings he's more like the 4th best. Not only that, because Illinois' roster has improved so much in two years and the receiving corps is returning almost everyone, Dixon is going to have to work to get on the field in his freshman year. So, while many years Collin Dixon would have been a 9 or 10 on the excitement scale, times have changed for the better and he's a 7.
If Illinois gets another Wisconsin flip... then we're talking about a different story though....
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