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James Franklin delivers bold assessment on ‘significant step’ of this Penn State defender

According to James Franklin, Penn State CB Johnny Dixon has taken a significant step forward during fall camp.



Penn State Football, Johnny Dixon, Terry Smith
Auburn Tigers quarterback T.J. Finley (1) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions defensive back Daequan Hardy (25) and defensive back Johnny Dixon (3) as Auburn Tigers take on Penn State Nittany Lions at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Penn State Nittany Lions leads Auburn Tigers 14-6 at halftime.

Now approaching a week until kickoff, there are still several unresolved position battles taking place across the Penn State football depth chart. While head coach James Franklin wasn’t ready to go out on a limb regarding several key competitions, such as quarterback and wide receiver last night, he was willing to make a bold claim regarding one Nittany Lion defender. During media availability last evening, Franklin praised Penn State CB Johnny Dixon for his performance during fall camp.

James Franklin says Penn State CB Johnny Dixon has taken “a significant step” during fall camp

While many have been focused on the position battles raging on the offensive side of the football for Penn State this offseason, one of the more significant competitions has occurred in the Nittany Lion secondary. Although Penn State has perhaps the best cornerback in America in Kalen King, the Nittany Lions will have to replace the talents of top NFL Draft pick Joey Porter Jr. on the other side of the field.

Penn State has several players with experience that could fill Porter’s role outside, as well as a handful of young rising talents looking to make an impact early in their careers. However, according to James Franklin, the corner who has stood out the most during camp is senior Johnny Dixon.

“At corner, I think the guy that really has had a strong camp is Johnny Dixon,” Franklin said Wednesday when asked who has been able to separate themselves in the Nittany Lion secondary. “[He] has taken a significant step. We think we got two really good corners. And two corners that are very physical and are tough guys, which can be unusual.”

Nittany Lions need Dixon to elevate his play this season

Dixon was perhaps the most likely player to fill Porter’s role. In 2022, Dixon started six games and was voted an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media. He finished the year with 23 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, and two interceptions. Dixon made 10 tackles in 2021 after transferring from South Carolina.

However, Dixon must take a step forward if Penn State football hopes to maintain its status as one of the top defenses in the nation this season. Having two high-level NFL corners in Porter and King significantly benefited the Nittany Lion defense last year. Penn State made many teams one-dimensional in 2022, something it’ll look to repeat this season. Most importantly, the Nittany Lions will need to depend on elite play in the secondary to compete with the top-end wide receiver talent at Ohio State and Michigan.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.