New Smyrna Beach defensive back D'Cota Dixon said Wednesday that Michigan State is in the driver's seat in the recruitment battle for his services, but he also said he has plenty of options to consider before Feb. 5, National Signing Day.
Dixon has narrowed his list of 17 FBS offers to a top five with the Big Ten champion Spartans leading Louisville, UCF, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and the only visit he has taken so far was to Michigan State in October.
UCF is in the hunt, and Dixon said the recent Central Florida "chilly" weather, which has hovered in the low 40s, has him thinking he may not be a good fit for the cold-weather climates of places like East Lansing, Mich., and Madison, Wis., but weather is not likely to be his determining factor.
Michigan State is his leader, but it's also the only school he has visited, so he could be swayed in other directions come January, when he plans to visit the other four schools.
He visited Michigan State for the Spartans' 42-28 win over.
"I would say Michigan State ... that's my leader," Dixon said. "I loved Michigan State. It was pretty cool. It was like family when I went there. I got to interact with all of the players and a lot of students and got to see how the life as a Spartan would be. I pretty much just fell in love with it as soon as I got there, as soon as I stepped on campus.
"I wouldn't say I am completely in love with it, because I haven't really been to other colleges, but that’s the only one I’ve been too so far and I was really amazed with it.”
His main contacts have been defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzio and head coach Mark Dantonio, and he has a good relationship with both.
His other Big Ten interest is Wisconsin, where he plans to take a visit Jan. 24. He’s being recruited by Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and safeties coach Bill Busch, who have both been to his house twice in the past few weeks and also dropped by the school.
“They showed me a brochure and everything to expect at Wisconsin. I like it a lot,” Dixon said. “They obviously have good academics, which I'm very interested in. They've been there with me for a while and they've shown me a lot of love. They win ball games. I think they've won three of the last four Big Ten championships.
“They also have a safety and a corner leaving and they want me to be like a nickel. I feel that I can be that guy that they need and I feel like it would be a good opportunity to get some playing time as a freshman.”
As for Louisville, where Dixon plans to visit Jan. 17, he already has a bit connection with Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong, who coached his older brother Daryl Dixon while at Florida. Daryl is in his fifth year as an assistant coach at Ball State.
“So there’s a really good connection there and I like the expectations they have,” Dixon said. “They have Calvin Pryor, who will probably leave early for the NFL Draft, and then they have another senior safety [Hakeem Smith] so I think Louisville, if I work hard, would be a great opportunity.”
He will visit West Virginia on Jan. 24 and he has what he calls a “great personal relationship” with assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest.
“Coach DeForest is just a great dude … not just a coach, but a great guy in general. He has great morals that I respect and I have a great relationship with all the coaches there,” he said.
The only school he has not set up a visit with is UCF, which some people consider to be a longshot to win Dixon’s services. He says not so fast, and the warm climate and friendly environs of home certainly could play a role.
“UCF is close to home … it’s not cold,” Dixon laughed. “I know up at Michigan State and Wisconsin it’s super cold right now and to be honest with you, as cold as it’s been over here these past three days, I’ve been kinda chilly … I don’t know if I can do that up north. At least at UCF it’s a warm climate.”
He’s being recruited by UCF wide receivers coach Sean Beckton and defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan.
“I’ve actually checked UCF out. I went there last summer and went to a practice and got to see how the players interact with the coaches and went to the dorms and things like that, so that was a great experience,” Dixon said. “I like UCF a lot and, plus, they are having a great season.”
He’s hoping to figure a way to squeeze in a visit to UCF sometime after the Knights get back from the Fiesta Bowl, which is Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. He said he has cultivated a strong relationship with Coach Beckton.
“Oh yeah, me and Coach Beckton, we joke around a lot and we can talk about a lot of things,” Dixon said. “He can relate to me a lot and I can relate to him. He’s real cool.”
Dixon will also be looking to schedule surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which he suffered during his sophomore season and has played with it since.
“Yeah I gotta get it fixed. I don’t want to play another season, ever, with a torn shoulder like that. It was just painful,” said Dixon. “It popped out a couple of times this year, but I played through it all. I never missed a game because of it.”
He said he’ll probably announce his decision on National Signing Day, but he has a lot to get done between now and then. Michigan State holds the upper-hand at this point, but it’s a long way to signing day for Dixon, even though there are only 47 days remaining.