Mobile Christian star linebacker Sterling Dixon made an unofficial visit to LSU last weekend and said the Tigers are pushing hard to get him to switch his commitment from Alabama. But he has scheduled an official visit to Tuscaloosa next weekend. (Photo from Instagram)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
Mobile Christian four-star linebacker Sterling Dixon is experiencing what it’s like to feel the relentless pressure he so often inflicts on quarterbacks.
Dixon said LSU is making a strong push to flip his commitment from Alabama.
“Right now, I’m committed to Alabama but other schools are throwing the kitchen sink at me,” he said.
Dixon (6-2, 205) — the Class 3A Lineman of the Year in 2022 who is rated the No. 17 linebacker in the nation in the class of 2024 in the On3 composite — committed to the Crimson Tide last December but LSU coach Brian Kelly and Auburn coach Hugh Freeze have not stopped trying to change his mind.
“(Colleges) have been recruiting him since he was a freshman and it has never stopped, even after committing to Alabama,” said Leopards coach Ronnie Cottrell, a former recruiting coordinator at Florida State and Alabama. “The pressure on major college recruits today is enormous. The process is very intense and Sterling has handled it professionally and been very fair. A lot of players could not juggle the process he has been through like he does.”
Dixon made an unofficial visit to LSU last weekend and said he is 90 percent committed to the Tide. He was going to Miami next weekend but is instead planning to take an official visit to Tuscaloosa.
“I want to keep my visits tight,” Dixon said. “I might slide Auburn in there. Coach Freeze is calling me every day and coach Kelly is doing a good job. … As of now, it’s about 90 percent Alabama and 10 percent just looking at how other schools would use me. You’ve always got to have a plan B.”
Turnover among Nick Saban’s defensive coaches may have given LSU in particular a chance to sway Dixon.
Associate defensive coordinator Charles Kelly recruited Dixon before leaving to become Deion Sanders’ defensive coordinator at Colorado. Austin Armstrong came from Southern Miss to coach the Tide’s inside linebackers, then left to be Florida’s defensive coordinator. Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and inside linebackers coach Robert Bala are now recruiting Dixon.
Wherever he goes, Dixon said he plans to enroll early and added there are advantages in playing for either the Tide or LSU.
“Why not Bama?” he asked. “Why not be the best and be developed? You go there, it’s a 40-year decision. There’s something different about that university. Coach Saban does a good job with discipline and teaches you to be grown up and he holds you accountable.”
Dixon said LSU is an especially attractive choice because Kelly and defensive coordinator Matt House will move him around as they do star outside linebacker Harold Perkins. At Alabama, Dixon would be an inside linebacker, a position the natural edge rusher is still learning.
“You never know where Harold Perkins is going to be,” Dixon said. “Coach House fits the system to the player and not the player to the system and that’s big for me being an edge rusher. At Alabama, I’d be an inside linebacker and I’m still learning that. I feel like I fit into LSU’s scheme great. They have also treated my family well.”
Going into his senior season, Dixon said he is working to improve his footwork and awareness as an inside linebacker.
“Just working on the small things about being an inside linebacker, getting my footwork together, being good in space, coverage awareness,” he said. “I had 18 sacks last season and coach House broke my film down and showed me I had a false step almost every play. You can never stop working.”
Cottrell said Dixon is always absorbing knowledge to improve himself.
“Sterling is a student of the game and he always wants to perfect his craft,” Cottrell said. “He’s been mainly an edge rusher for us but this spring we had him at all four linebacker positions. He studies films of outstanding players at outside linebacker and inside linebacker. He’s been so successful, yet has a thirst to be better. His maturity is very different from the kids I’ve had in the past. He knows what he wants to accomplish.”
Dixon — who said he still has a three-year plan to graduate and go to the NFL — has also been offered by Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan, Oregon, Penn State and Southern Cal.