Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Andre Dixon led Connecticut in rushing in 2007 and then all but disappeared in 2008. Coach Randy Edsall didn't think Dixon had worked hard enough last offseason, and Dixon got himself further in the doghouse with a DUI arrest in December.
But since then, Dixon has done just about everything right. Edsall says he is one of the best leaders on the team. And the senior has had two 100-yard rushing days in his first four games this season.
Dixon talks about this and more in our Friday Q&A:
Even though you guys have a new coordinator and a no-huddle offense this year, is the running game still basically the same?
Andre Dixon: The running game was successful, so I don't think anybody in their right mind would want to get away from it with what Don [Brown] did in the running game. A lot of things we still do are similar things from last year.
They don't get much notice, but how good is your offensive line?
AD: Those guys, I'm always telling people how hard they worked over the summer, and it definitely shows. They come off the ball and make the creases and holes for us so we can do what we do. Our linemen are doing all the right things and opening holes every play and showing leadership, so they're doing a great job.
You and Jordan Todman have made a great one-two punch. How nice is it that you can both stay fresh throughout a game?
AD: Yeah, we keep each other fresh and that slight change when a different back with a little different running style can throw the defense off. They're used to that one back being in there and they're worn out. And when you can throw a fresh back in there anytime you want to and there's no drop-off, it's a great thing we have here going on.
What's the feeling like when you both go over 100 yards in a game?
AD: The crazy thing is, it hasn't happened here until this year, and it's happened two times already. That's pretty crazy for two guys to go over 100. Sometimes we feel like Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown over here. It's great, and it's hard to come by.
Randy Edsall described you this week as one of the team's best leaders, which is amazing considering all you went through in the past year. How did that happen?
AD: Before coming in this year, I looked at my past like it didn't really happen. I had to really drop it and say I'm going to move on and not worry about what happened to me. I'm going to leave it in the past.
But I also took from the bad things and that helped drive me. I said, "People think this is going to be my end. People think I'm done. I have something to prove still." All the negative things that happened drove me this offseason and in workouts to become a leader. Even in my own little workouts and the mental part, watching film, I said I have to have myself ready. This is my last time around, man, so I had to put all the chips on the table.
Would you say you were a leader before?
AD: I think I was always a leader. I was always one who wanted to talk in the huddle to the guys, cheer up the linemen and get these guys hyped up before practice. Now I feel like I've cranked that up a little bit more, knowing every practice, every game is my last time.
How gratifying is it, then, to do what you're doing now on the field?
AD: It's amazing. It's good when you know you worked for something and you know nothing was given to you. You went out and you worked for it and now you're reaping the benefits.
The one thing I continue to tell myself is that as soon as you're satisfied with what you've done, then that's when you stop making progress. I'm never going to be satisfied. I'm going to continue to work and I think this season will be a great one for us.
Do you feel like you have proven what you set out to prove?
AD: I want people to see that. I don't want them to think '07 was just a one-and-done type of deal. I don't want them to say, 'Dixon had an OK year, he's an OK player.' I can still play this sport, and I'm definitely out to show people that.
How about the challenge of going against Pittsburgh's defense, which has been really good against the run?
AD: The Pittsburgh defensive line, when I watch film of them, reminds me of North Carolina. They have big guys, fast guys, they're physical. They make plays down the field and in the backfield. We struggled with North Carolina somewhat, especially in the running game, and we definitely have to be more physical than them up front. We've got to make plays across the line. We've already faced a good defensive front and saw what happened when we didn't execute as a team.