Rebels settle on freshman Dixon at QB

ELY — Signs have been apparent that redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Dixon would start UNLV’s opening game, and coach Mike Sanford made it official Thursday.

Dixon will be in the lineup Aug. 30 when the Rebels visit Utah State instead of returning junior starter Rocky Hinds.

“Travis has been with us all the way through,” Sanford said. “He’s had a great camp.”

The 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound Dixon entered training camp even on the depth chart with Hinds, who started 11 games last season despite a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The 6-5, 220-pound Hinds, who underwent ACL surgery in January, began to experience swelling in the knee last week but traveled to Ely with the team Friday. He left camp Sunday and went to Southern California to have his knee examined.

There was no word on if or when Hinds would return to camp, and Sanford would not comment specifically about the status of Hinds’ knee.

“I think Rocky’s got to get some medical things squared away, and that’s going to happen at some point,” Sanford said.

In Hinds’ absence, Dixon has been running the first-team offense. He has improved throughout camp, and on Tuesday he capped four consecutive drives with touchdown passes against the first-team defense, including one TD with linebacker Beau Bell bearing down on him.

“I felt I had a great shot” to win the starting job, Dixon said. “I just wanted to come in and compete in camp.”

Dixon said his confidence grew during the preseason.

“I think our team sees that, too,” Sanford said.

Dixon has been more in sync with his receivers as camp has progressed. A strong runner whose passing ability was an unknown, Dixon looked especially sharp Thursday.

“I knew what I had to come out here and do,” Dixon said. “I think the offensive line and the first ‘O’ and everyone else has confidence in me running with the (first team) and confidence in me running this offense.”

Sanford said naming Dixon the starter changes Saturday morning’s scrimmage. Dixon and junior Dack Ishii (6-2, 220) probably will be off-limits on being hit, but the younger quarterbacks still might go live to get in the work.

Ishii could play at Utah State, and Hinds could eventually challenge for his old job. But heading into the opener, it’s Dixon’s team.

“Right now he’s our starting quarterback, and we’ll see from there,” Sanford said.

Dixon comes from a winning background. He led Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., to the 2003 and 2004 5A state championships.

As a senior, he passed for 2,100 yards and 25 touchdowns and threw just four interceptions. Dixon also rushed for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns and was the 5A first-team quarterback.

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