Meet the Rutgers newcomer nicknamed Stretch Armstrong by his position coach









Junior college transfer Malik Dixon battling for a starting job at linebacker.

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Malik Dixonhasnt been atRutgers long, but he may already have the football programs best nickname.
Hes a fun guy to watch, outside linebackers coach Toby Neinas said. The first thing you notice is his range. Hes really, really long. Stretch Armstrong. Hes got really long levers, and a long frame.
So how did Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound redshirt junior hybrid defender from Port Charlotte, Florida, by way of South Florida, Itawamba Miss. Community College and Eastern Arizona Community College, start drawing comparisons to an iconic 1970s action figure toy with elastic arms and legs?
He calls me Stretch because Im real long and athletic, Dixon said. I use my arms and my length to the best of my ability and take advantage of it.
Dixon was the final member of Rutgers 2018 signing class, committing to the Scarlet Knights in January sight unseen -his first visit to campus was when he arrived to start classes - after registering 41 tackles and six interceptions last fall at Eastern Arizona. Dixon was a defensive back in junior college and that is his preferred position, but Rutgers has moved him to strong-side linebacker where he is expected to battle redshirt sophomore Tyreek Maddox-Williams for a starting job.
Neinas said Dixon is very advanced when it comes to playing defensive back and has accelerated the learning curve on the backer part of his game. The defensive staff believes Dixon, a former three-star recruit who has two years of eligibility left, can be a playmaker at the SAM spot given his unique tools.
You can tell hes got a lot of DB skills, and hes been trained as a third-level defender. Were asking him to play a little bit closer to the line of scrimmage, Neinas said. Hes going through an adjustment period right now, and our offense is doing a great job of constantly bringing that SAM backer into the box, and making him basically prove his manhood on the line of scrimmage, for lack of a better term. So theres some adjustment there. For a tall player, its going to be hard to get their pads down. Its just harder. Were adjusting with that. As a DB, youre not exposed to that as often.

Dixon was expected to play linebacker at South Florida as a redshirt freshman in 2016, but tore his labrum after a strong season opener six tackles, sack, forced fumble, pass break-up and missed the rest of the season before leaving the school. Now hes back on the second level, albeit in a different scheme and role.
I like it. Its definitely different, and more consistent contact, but its something that grows on you. You dont want to look bad, so youve got to do what youve got to do, he said. Its something Ive never done before. But at the end of the day, Im doing whats best for the team and trying to do everything I can for the team. Its been smooth. Im on the line now and dropping more into zone coverages, but at the end of the day, there are some DB aspects when it comes to man-to-man and everything.
Rutgers has struggled for production at SAM linebacker the last two seasons, an issue considering the importance the position holds in head coach Chris Ashs defense. Maddox-Williams missed all of last season with a torn ACL after starting six games in 2016. Neinas said he feels the former Timber Creek standout is recovered physically, but may still be on the rebound from the injury emotionally and mentally.
The situation gives Dixon a clear opening to win a job, provided he proves he can produce physically. Rutgers already knows he can cover.
Dixon is long, hes got athletic ability, when hes out in space, he can move, Ash said. He probably still needs to learn how to play on the line of scrimmage against certain personnel groupings. Thats something weve got to find out if he can do. But hes a space player. Hes got great length, he can run, he can cover, he can blitz. Hes pretty versatile, and were really happy that we have him.
James Kratch may be reached at . Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch. Find Rutgers Football on Facebook.





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Meet the Rutgers newcomer nicknamed Stretch Armstrong by his position coach
3 years ago

http://www.nj.com/rutgersfootball/index.ssf/2018/04/meet_rutgers_newcomer_nicknamed_stretch_armstrong.html







Junior college transfer Malik Dixon battling for a starting job at linebacker.

Watch video




Malik Dixonhasnt been atRutgers long, but he may already have the football programs best nickname.
Hes a fun guy to watch, outside linebackers coach Toby Neinas said. The first thing you notice is his range. Hes really, really long. Stretch Armstrong. Hes got really long levers, and a long frame.
So how did Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound redshirt junior hybrid defender from Port Charlotte, Florida, by way of South Florida, Itawamba Miss. Community College and Eastern Arizona Community College, start drawing comparisons to an iconic 1970s action figure toy with elastic arms and legs?
He calls me Stretch because Im real long and athletic, Dixon said. I use my arms and my length to the best of my ability and take advantage of it.
Dixon was the final member of Rutgers 2018 signing class, committing to the Scarlet Knights in January sight unseen -his first visit to campus was when he arrived to start classes - after registering 41 tackles and six interceptions last fall at Eastern Arizona. Dixon was a defensive back in junior college and that is his preferred position, but Rutgers has moved him to strong-side linebacker where he is expected to battle redshirt sophomore Tyreek Maddox-Williams for a starting job.
Neinas said Dixon is very advanced when it comes to playing defensive back and has accelerated the learning curve on the backer part of his game. The defensive staff believes Dixon, a former three-star recruit who has two years of eligibility left, can be a playmaker at the SAM spot given his unique tools.
You can tell hes got a lot of DB skills, and hes been trained as a third-level defender. Were asking him to play a little bit closer to the line of scrimmage, Neinas said. Hes going through an adjustment period right now, and our offense is doing a great job of constantly bringing that SAM backer into the box, and making him basically prove his manhood on the line of scrimmage, for lack of a better term. So theres some adjustment there. For a tall player, its going to be hard to get their pads down. Its just harder. Were adjusting with that. As a DB, youre not exposed to that as often.

Dixon was expected to play linebacker at South Florida as a redshirt freshman in 2016, but tore his labrum after a strong season opener six tackles, sack, forced fumble, pass break-up and missed the rest of the season before leaving the school. Now hes back on the second level, albeit in a different scheme and role.
I like it. Its definitely different, and more consistent contact, but its something that grows on you. You dont want to look bad, so youve got to do what youve got to do, he said. Its something Ive never done before. But at the end of the day, Im doing whats best for the team and trying to do everything I can for the team. Its been smooth. Im on the line now and dropping more into zone coverages, but at the end of the day, there are some DB aspects when it comes to man-to-man and everything.
Rutgers has struggled for production at SAM linebacker the last two seasons, an issue considering the importance the position holds in head coach Chris Ashs defense. Maddox-Williams missed all of last season with a torn ACL after starting six games in 2016. Neinas said he feels the former Timber Creek standout is recovered physically, but may still be on the rebound from the injury emotionally and mentally.
The situation gives Dixon a clear opening to win a job, provided he proves he can produce physically. Rutgers already knows he can cover.
Dixon is long, hes got athletic ability, when hes out in space, he can move, Ash said. He probably still needs to learn how to play on the line of scrimmage against certain personnel groupings. Thats something weve got to find out if he can do. But hes a space player. Hes got great length, he can run, he can cover, he can blitz. Hes pretty versatile, and were really happy that we have him.
James Kratch may be reached at jkratch@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch. Find NJ.com Rutgers Football on Facebook.





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