Photo of Dennis Dixon
Grade
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  • 6'4" Height
  • 205LBS. Weight

Overview

After biding his time as the Oregon backup, Dennis Dixon was firmly entrenched as the Ducks' starter in 2007, when he gained national recognition as he returned Oregon to be ranked among the nation's elite. But after lifting Oregon to a prominent BCS position, Dixon suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Dixon tried to play one week after suffering the injury against Arizona State, but was forced to the sideline against Arizona, missing the team's final three games.

Despite his injury, Dixon was named Pac-10 Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Until he was hurt, he was considered a favorite for the Heisman Trophy.

Dixon was named one of three finalists for both the Maxwell Award and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award in 2007. In addition, he was selected as one of 15 National Scholar-Athletes by The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame and is a finalist for the Foundation's Draddy Trophy. Ever the team-first athlete, he rejoined the squad as a student assistant coach, mentoring his replacements at quarterback during the final weeks of his college career.

One of the most mobile passers to play at the university, few quarterbacks in school history displayed the explosiveness or versatility of Dixon. He demonstrated the physical gifts consistent with "special" players and possesses a great arm, erasing the misconception that his passing skills were marginal compared to his running ability.

In the 2005 offseason winter conditioning program, Dixon posted the fastest clocking in the 40-yard dash (4.49) of any quarterback in the history of the Oregon program. His 3.81 timing in the 20-yard shuttle during spring drills in 2007 was the third-fastest mark among Oregon all-time passers. He also displayed impressive strength during his senior year, improving his power clean to 264 pounds and was also timed at 6.91 seconds in the three-cone drill.

At San Leandro High School, Dixon was a two-sport standout, excelling in football and baseball. He was the top vote-getter (eight votes) among quarterbacks on the Long Beach Press-Telegram's Best of the West list and earned Parade All-American honors as a senior, leading the team to an 11-1 record in 2002. That year, he completed 164 of 268 passes (61.2%) for 2,736 yards and 30 touchdowns.

The three-year starter compiled a 36-3 record and was named to ESPN's Top 100 team (ranked 94th overall and 12th at quarterback). During his career, he amassed 5,951 aerial yards while throwing for 79 touchdowns. He was regarded as one of the state's best prep outfielders in baseball and was selected in the 20th round of the 2003 major league baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

Dixon decided to take a year off from academics after graduating from high school in 2003 and did not enroll at the University of Oregon until the 2004 winter semester. He played in six games that season, as a reserve behind Kellen Clemens. He hit on 6-of-15 throws (40.0%) for 73 yards and carried ten times for 40 yards. He also recorded an assisted tackle.

Dixon garnered Academic All-Pac-10 Conference honorable mention in 2005. He struggled initially after replacing an injured Kellen Clemens in the starting lineup for four games and appeared in 11 contests. The sophomore managed 777 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions on 69-of-104 attempts (66.3%). He accounted for 143 yards and a score on 49 rushes (2.9-yard average) and participated in 153 plays, gaining 920 yards in total offense.

Dixon was again an Academic All-Pac-10 Conference choice, this time earning second-team honors. He started the first 11 games, but suffered a concussion vs. Arizona that forced him to sit out vs. Oregon State and into reserve duty vs. Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl. He connected on 197-of-322 tosses (61.2%) for 2,143 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Dixon had a string of pass attempts without an interception that began during his sophomore year snapped at 161 in the third game of 2006. He also showed his mobility, ranking third on the team with 98 carries for 442 yards (4.7-yard average) and two scores. He posted two solo tackles and generated 2,585 yards in total offense on 416 plays.

With his first season as a starter complete, Dixon returned a much different, more confident player in 2007. Prior to his injury, he led the Pac-10 in passing efficiency by completing 172-of-254 passes (67.7%) for 2,136 yards and 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also was dangerous as a runner with 105 rushes for 583 yards (5.6-yard average) and nine touchdowns.

Under Dixon's direction, Oregon led the Pac-10 in both scoring offense (36.7) and total offense (462.1). He was named Pac-10 offensive player of the week three times this season following Oregon victories vs. Michigan, Stanford and Arizona State. He ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency, a key statistical benchmark for quarterbacks, and had directed Oregon's spread-option offense so well that the Ducks were ranked second in the Bowl Championship Series standings, putting them in position to possibly play for the national title.

With Dixon sidelined, the offense struggled, losing three of their final four contests.

In 39 games at Oregon, Dixon started 25 times. He registered 5,129 yards with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions on 444-of-695 passes (63.88%). He rushed 258 times for 1,208 yards (4.7-yard average) and 12 scores and also recorded three tackles (two solo). He participated in 953 offensive snaps, gaining 6,337 yards in total offense (162.49 yards per game). He was sacked a total of 24 times for losses of 131 yards and turned the ball over five times on 14 fumbles.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Has a tall, lean frame with athletic muscle tone, minimal body fat (4.5%) and a frame that can carry at least another 15 pounds of bulk with no loss in quickness...Has a tight waist and hips, with good thickness in the legs and thighs...Demonstrates very good balance and body control driving back from center and his quickness needs to be accounted for by the defense when he runs with the ball, as he has the valid second gear to separate...More patient in the pocket, but will not hesitate to run with the ball, adding a dangerous weapon to the ground game (ranks second in school history in yards rushing by a quarterback)...The team used the shotgun formation mostly, but Dixon has the quickness and athletic agility to move in the pocket and drive back from center to his throwing point...Best staying in the short area when throwing off the sprint, but can push the ball downfield on roll-out action when he steps into the throw...Quick and decisive, making good progression reads...Has worked on becoming more compact with his over-the-top delivery, showing a quicker release than he did in the past...Efficient using a sidearm release on the move (can adjust his release to the situation) and has effective throwing mechanics...Steps into his throws better and his compact, natural release has greatly reduced turnover totals...Has the functional arm strength to make all the throws, but needs to be conscious of his footwork, as he must step into his long tosses in order to prevent the ball from spraying...Can fire the ball into tight areas and showed in 2007 that he can unleash the deep ball without having to wind up like he did in the past...Looks to have much better velocity and zip on the ball after refining his release point as a senior and it is now rare to see his targets having to adjust...In the short area, Dixon's touch is evident, as he is doing a better job of setting his feet in order to have better accuracy...As evident by the 2007 Michigan and Stanford games, he now knows how to lay the ball out for the receiver to run under without having to make adjustments in the route...Knows when to take something off his short tosses and does a nice job of feathering the ball over the receiver's outside shoulder and away from the defender when attacking the deep zone...Steps into his throws better and has a more fluid finish (no longer pats the ball before throwing)...Even though he is still a very dangerous runner, he is more confident in his protection and will step up into the pocket or slide to avoid...Teammates have confidence that he will make the right decisions as he is more likely to go through his progressions rather than try to force the ball to his primary target...With his quick, rhythm throws on the move, his backs and slot receivers have greatly benefited, as he shows much better vision in locating alternate targets...Shows strength on the run and the loose hips to elude...With his peripheral vision, he does a nice job of sensing backside pressure and is more alert to when he has to step up and out to avoid pressure and buy time to allow the play to develop...Has the valid foot speed to be dangerous on the move...Even though he could use more bulk and strength, he has the functional leg drive to break tackles and shows good body lean to fall forward for extra yardage...Especially effective throwing to his left on the roll out and has the straight-line speed, along with the elusiveness to take the ball to the house when running past the line of scrimmage. Negatives: Needs to add more bulk to his frame in order to absorb punishment in the pocket at the professional level...Did not communicate well with the previous offensive coordinator, but the arrival of Chip Kelly as the team's new coordinator and quarterbacks coach saw the staff cater their game plan to Dixon's assets...Threw under duress frequently in the past and was too jittery in the pocket, but he learned to take time to make his reads and checks and will throw the ball away rather than try to create something out of nothing...Not known as a "gym rat" in the offseason training room and needs monitoring in order to do the little extras, but the new offensive coordinator had him more involved in the game planning than the past regime...Can throw on the move, but must be alert to setting his feet and stepping into those throws, or it will affect his accuracy...When he throws across his body or off the wrong foot, his passes tend to spray, causing his targets to adjust off their routes...As a junior, he was always waiting for the "hook" from the coaching staff and lost confidence in his ability to read coverage and would force the ball too often, especially on deep routes (had five games with multiple interceptions)...In the past, he did not always follow through when throwing deep, as he had a bit of a long throwing arc...Under the old coordinator, he looked very skittish standing in the pocket and would bolt at the first sign of pressure...Doctors anticipate he will need a minimum of six months to recover from December left knee anterior cruciate ligament reconstructive surgery, making it hard for teams to get a good evaluation on his recovery leading up to the April draft...The injury could possibly make him reconsider his career path, as he is already property of the Atlanta Braves baseball organization. (In a late November interview after his injury, the QB was asked about whether he would play baseball or football and responded, "I'll talk with my family at the end of the season," Dixon said. "I'll see what my (NFL draft) forecast is and how I do at the various evaluations and talk to my family. It will be a thorough decision process. ... I have a lot of options. The sky is the limit."). Compares To: WARREN MOON-Ex-Houston/Minnesota/Seattle/Kansas City...Like Moon, Dixon is emerging late in his career, having found the ideal tutor in offensive coordinator Chip Kelly. He is a dangerous scrambler who is showing much better patience in the pocket and better confidence in his ability. He is using his fine peripheral vision to make better checks and progression reads and no longer plays with an attitude that he has to make something spectacular happen on every play. He still needs to be conscious of stepping into his long throws better, but unlike another Oregon one-season wonder, Akili Smith, Dixon appears to have more value as an athlete and a better concept of how to execute a game plan.
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.
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