"I think we're progressing the way we need to right now," said Dixon. "The young guys are competing and trying to get on the field, and the older guys are doing a great job of teaching and leading.
"They are coming together. We've had some aches and pains, but if we continue to work as a group and pick up the slack we'll be alright. These guys are really doing a good job."
When asked about his true freshmen, Dixon's smile said it all. He has been happy with the rapid development of his three young wideouts: Donald Bowens, Jarvis Williams, Darrell Davis. All three players hail from the state of Florida and ended up in Raleigh after considering a host of offers.
Bowens, at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, has the size,speed, and hands to be a consistent deep threat in the passing game and physically is the most impressive of the trio. Williams, a former All-State selection in hoops, checks in at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, and he has the ability to go vertical or dominate smaller defenders in the redzone. Blessed with great hands and outstanding athleticism, he could be a major factor for the Wolfpack. Davis, who at 6-foot-6 and 206 pounds is the biggest of the three, will work the middle of the field to make the tough catches, and he has the speed to take a short pass for a big gain, as evidenced by his 60-yard touchdown catch on a quick slant in the last scrimmage.
|"These guys are really doing a good job."|
Physically, there is no question about their ability, but Dixon has been equally thrilled with their work ethic and competitiveness.
"I know these guys don't mind working," he said. "When I had a chance to talk with them this summer, they were already trying to find the best ways they could come in here and compete. They have definitely done that.
"They were willing to do that. We spent a lot of time talking about the things we're going to do, and they listened. Now you can see it playing out because they have a nice jump on things and are really doing well."
Probably the biggest impact the freshmen have made has been on the upperclassemen because now they know that they can't just coast through fall practice and into the season or they might not be starting the season opener.
"They know that these freshmen are talented," said Dixon. "I told them when these guys were coming in that I'm trying to bring guys in that can beat them out. With that attitude, these guys are competing with themselves, and I don't have to get them to compete against each other. I always try to get guys better than the ones I've got already.
"They know that. They can't relax and say, 'it's my turn now.' It doesn't work like that. It's what have you done for me lately, not what did you do for me last year. That's the way we work around here, and I think a lot of those guys are understanding these talented freshmen are pushing them. They don't have it made beacause they are older. It doesn't work that way. It's about productivity."
Senior Lamart Barrett and junior John Dunlap have quality experience, and redshirt freshman Geron James is coming along. All three are looking to make their mark this season because they realize the opportunity is there.
"I really feel good about what we've got going on here," Dixon stated. "There are some veteran guys that haven't played a lot, and they are hungry. They are teaching and still learning, but the effort is there.
"I also have some young guys that are hungry to learn. With that, I know they will go out there and perform."
The wild card just might be Blackman. A preseason All-ACC pick as a specialist, Blackman will be playing wide receiver this season after moving to the position from running back in the spring.
|"He's had a wonderful transition."|
"Darrell Blackman is coming in here... he's like a freshman learning the concepts and techniques because it is new to him," said Dixon. "He's had a wonderful transition. We're utilizing him in a lot of different ways. He's a guy that needs the ball in his hands as much as possible, and we're moving him around so teams can't key on what we're trying to do with him.
"He's an excellent route runner. Certain routes he can do very well and others he is polishing up on. He also has great hands and is very explosive. Like I said, he's had a wonderful transition."
At a position that some considered a weakness entering the season because three seniors graduated, Dixon sounds like he believes the talent is there to make a difference in 2006. Maybe his confidence lies in the versatility that he has to work with. He has explosive players in Blackman and Dunlap and a quality possession receiver in Barrett. However, he also has four wideouts 6'3 or taller that can create major problems for smaller defensive backs.
"As a coach, versatility with my wide receivers is something I've always wanted to have," Dixon stated. "That's always been something I've wanted to have. I'll have a quick guy, a big guy, and a strong and athletic physical guy. I want to try and have three different types of guys that bring a lot of different things to the table. I think I've got that this season."