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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon fights for yardage as BYU and Utah play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Redshirt freshman Jaylen Dixon is catching on at a good time for the 17th-ranked Utah Utes. Dixon made a career-high seven catches in the Pac-12 championship game against Washington. In the midst of the 10-3 setback to the Huskies, the Utes lost leading receiver Britain Covey to a season-ending knee injury.

Dixon’s already elevated status, thus, has risen as Utah prepares to take on 22nd-ranked Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl Monday in San Diego.

“He’ll do some of the things in the slot that Britain did as well as a couple of the guys,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ll miss Brit and obviously we wish we had him, but Jaylen does a lot of the same type of things that Brit does.”

Dixon enters the game with 23 receptions for 475 yards and a touchdown on the season. His lone score was a 47-yard connection from former high school teammate Jason Shelley in a 30-7 win over Colorado on Nov. 17.

“He has just stepped up and become a consistent playmaker for us. Right now he is our most potent deep threat and he has tremendous speed,” Whittingham said after the game. “He has blazing speed and you can see him get behind defenders over and over, so that has been a big plus for us this season."

Dixon leads the Utes with 25.4 yards per catch. Besides the long touchdown catch in the snow at Colorado, he also hauled in a 61-yard reception that day.

After a Holiday Bowl practice, Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday told reporters Dixon is a good deep threat for a variety of reasons — chiefly because he catches the ball consistently.

“Sometimes, really fast guys, they just run and that isn't necessarily playing football,” Holliday said. “So he has grown in understanding coverage and coverage rotations, where the soft spots are. On top of that, though, obviously he can run really fast and that helps you be a deep threat."

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Dixon, who is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, was also an accomplished track athlete at Lone Star High School in Frisco, Texas. His athleticism paid big dividends on the football field. Over his junior and senior seasons, Dixon had 2,417 receiving yards and 31 touchdown catches. He earned all-state recognition and was a two-time all-district selection.

“He was very productive in high school, just a real weapon for his team,” Whittingham said.

Dixon spent 2017 as a redshirt at Utah. As such, Whittingham noted he’s got a lot of football left.

“He is starting to really come into his own and we expect a lot of production out of him going forward in the years to come,” Whittingham said.


SDCCU Holiday Bowl

No. 22 Northwestern (8-5) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-4)

SDCCU Stadium — San Diego

Dec. 31, 5 p.m. (MT)


Radio: ESPN 700AM