Liked what you saw from Drew Dixon on Saturday night? Too bad, because it’s the last you’ll see of him in 2020.
Dixon, a redshirt junior wide receiver, is the latest Arizona Wildcats player to opt out of the season.
He posted on his private Twitter account that he “made a decision that will benefit me in my career. Ya’ll don’t know me or live with me day-to-day so you’re not gonna get it anyways. Thanks (to those) who do support me and my decisions.”
The opt out comes three days after he had three catches for 46 yards in Arizona’s 27-10 loss at UCLA, his first production of the season. The Tucson native did not play in the opener against USC for an undisclosed reason, then did not have a catch in the loss at Washington on Nov. 21.
Asked about that performance on Monday, UA coach Kevin Sumlin said Dixon “played 70-some plays the week before and nobody knew he was on the field.”
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Dixon, who played quarterback and receiver at nearby Sabino High School, has appeared in 21 games in three-plus seasons with the UA. He made four starts in 2019, catching 14 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Dixon is the first offensive player to opt out since the 2020 season began, though redshirt sophomore running back Bam Smith did so during the preseason. In just the past week Arizona has seen a slew of defensive backs opt out, including juniors McKenzie Barnes and Christian Young, redshirt junior Malik Hausman and sophomore Bobby Wolfe. Additionally, true freshman DBs Khary Crump and Edric Whitley have left the program without ever playing in a game.
Sumlin refuted the opt-out numbers on Monday, saying in some cases the players in question are injured. He added that “there’s been a lot of reactionary stuff” and that “we’ve had guys that have gone on social media and said that, and then you’ve seen them play the next Saturday.”
To that end, Young—who cited an ankle injury for opting out after appearing in just the USC game—tweeted Tuesday that “I just wanna play football.”
While Dixon’s absence shouldn’t have much impact on the offense, considering six other receivers have caught at least three passes, the same can’t be said for the DB departures. The UA only has six scholarship players left for four secondary positions, forcing starters like redshirt senior cornerback Lorenzo Burns to play nearly every snap.
Sumlin said Burns has been “phenomenal,” while sophomore Christian Roland-Wallace has looked great since a rough first game against USC.
Burns said Tuesday that he respects the decisions of those choosing to opt out, though it has made his job harder. “On an individual note, in my mind I just have to be resilient. Football is a hard game. It’s going to test whether you’re playing a lot of snaps or not. It’s physical. So during practice I’m running, I’m talking to myself, making sure I’m staying in the game, catching my breath, taking advantage of those TV timeouts.”
Redshirt senior center Josh McCauley wasn’t as diplomatic.
“Those guys are getting out of the building and the guys that want to win are staying here, and I think that’s really good for us,” said McCauley, a former walk-on who has started 25 games.
All told, Arizona is down to roughly 65 available scholarship players for its final two scheduled games. As part of its COVID-19 protocols, the Pac-12 requires at least 53 scholarship athletes in order to compete in a game this season.