Dixon, who is the career Mississippi State leader in rushing attempts (910), yards (3,994) and rushing touchdowns (42), also led the SEC in rushing last season with 1,391 yards, the best ever single-season total for a Bulldog back. He also set the school's all-time single-game mark by amassing 252 yards on 33 attempts in a game last season at Kentucky.
A beefy 6'1 and 235 pounds, Dixon is the ideal size to be a sledgehammer-type back, grinding tough yards up the gut and bleeding the clock at the end of games. However in college he liked to show off his deceptive speed and run around the edges. 49ers coaches are working with him to alter his playing style to one that would take advantage of his strengths, and to run less upright and with more body lean. The Niners don't need him to be the next Frank Gore here - they've already got one of those. They just need to get first downs on 3rd-and-1.
The biggest obstacle for the young rookie, who is a lifelong 49ers fan despite being born and raised in Mississippi, will be learning how to pass block and pick up blitzes in a pro system, something he didn't have to do very often, if at all, in college. Dixon has repeatedly insisted he's up to the challenge and has shown enthusiasm for it during drills in camp.
Will that fervor hold up once training camp starts and everyone's in pads and doing two-a-days? We'll have to find out.
DE McDonald apologizes to teammates, coaches
In other camp news, defensive end Ray McDonald, who was arrested over the weekend in San Mateo County on a suspicion of DUI, met briefly with reporters to announce that he was sorry for being a distraction on Monday morning and that causing a fuss wasn't at all his intention.
He went on to explain that he can't comment on any of the specific details of what did or did not transpire, because it's an ongoing legal matter, but that he'd never been in trouble for something like this before. He didn't appear too distracted in practice, hustling and working as always.
LB Willis back practicing in team drills
Finally, star linebacker Patrick Willis practiced in team drills for the first time this off-season, and didn't look the least bit rusty. On one of his first plays he tipped an Alex Smith pass and the ball fell softly into the hands of safety Michael Lewis for an interception. Willis didn't get all the first team reps, not by a long shot, but he looked as fast as ever during his time on the field.
"If we had to put the pads on and play a game today, I definitely could," he told the media gathered around his locker afterward, while revealing that he'd been bugging the trainers to let him go for some time now. When asked how close to 100 percent his knee feels, the All-Pro replied, "I feel good, and for me when I say that, it means 100 percent."
Willis admitted he didn't play as fast as he would've liked during his first practice, saying, "I've got to get my eyes right," meaning his ability to read and diagnose plays, but predicted that it would come back to him quickly. Trainers still aren't letting him go all out like the other starters, but after today's test run, that's not going to be too far off in the future.