Kentucky fans have been in an odd position over the last couple of weeks. With two strong victories and a potentially dominant defense, the fans are left looking for something to grumble about. Rich Brooks mentioned in his post-game press conference on Saturday that he was surprised at the grumbling on his call in show, and I was somewhat taken aback by the complaints from fans during our show last night. While many of the complaints deal with the QB position, the more interesting issue to me is the status of UK’s running back slot. Going into the season, it was clear that Kentucky would have a three-headed QB monster, with Tony Dixon as the initial starter, Derrick Locke getting significant time and Alphonso Smith in a supporting third role. Now however, as the season progresses, it is looking more and more like that formulation may be altered.
At the core of the change is the somewhat disappointing play of Tony Dixon. For the last few years, when healthy, it was clear that Rafael Little controlled the running back position at UK. Now however, that primary responsibility was supposed to fall on Senior Tony Dixon, whose combination of speed and power was supposed to give more versatility to the position than that brought by Locke and Smith. In addition, Dixon was thought to provide the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, an important addition with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm. Early on however, the results havent been strong. Dixon has struggled to make any head way through the middle, hasnt had plays called that would bring him outside and has dropped at least one pass headed in his direction. During the Louisville game, Dixon’s struggles mirrored that of the other RBs, but against Norfolk State, Derrick Locke and even Moncell Allen, had a great deal of success running the ball, while Dixon still struggled.
Rich Brooks suggested yesterday that next Saturday will be the first game in which Dixon is completely healthy. And one hopes that is the case, as the lack of a burst that has been seen from Dixon may be completely explained by his lingering injuries. But if not, things could get dicey for Dixon in the coming weeks. For Kentucky to have success, they simply MUST run the ball….and Locke has shown he can get down field and Dixon has yet to do so this year. If Locke (who is faster than Dixon), also shows an abilty to break tackles more often than Tony, then the argument for him being the #1 back becomes hard to refute. This Saturday’s game is huge for Tony…..his Coach is publically acknowledging that he will be completely healthy and a fanbase desperate for some semblance of a running game is hoping for some affirmation. This is Tony’s week and he is the player I will be watching most closely on Saturday.