ROCK HILL | Northwestern High School's defense is anchored by one of South Carolina's best defensive line tandems.
Gerald Dixon and Roderick Byers both play end for the Trojans and could end up taking their skills to the same college program next season. They are both considering USC and plan to make their final decisions before the end of the 2010 prep season.
Dixon, who is 6-foot-4, 280-pounds, and Byers, who is 6-5, 270, both have plenty of upside. But the superlatives start with their approach to football and life.
"First, they are great kids," Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace said. "Both of those young men are of impeccable character and absolute integrity. ... I've watched them since the ninth grade. They work extremely hard, and they are great people. They want to be good, and their passion for the game is great."
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Both players play defensive end for the Trojans, but there is a chance that they'll both have interior roles at the next level. Dixon could morph into a 3-technique tackle or play end in a 3-4 defense, while Byers could play end in a 4-3 or 3-4 or move inside to tackle in a 4-3.
Their size and athleticism creates those options and has made them attractive in the recruiting game.
"Size, speed, technique," Wallace said of their best attributes. "Rod rushes the passer well. Rod's good with his hands. Gerald runs well.
"I think Gerald will play inside. Gerald's a 3-technique or a nose man. Rod could play inside when you see some of the people playing on the edge and how fast and quick they are. Who knows how big Rod is going to get? He could be 6-6, 280 one day or 285."
Dixon believes his best quality is his ability to stop the run. Byers believes he is both strong enough and fast enough to be a balanced end capable of stopping the run and rushing the passer.
Ultimately, their college roles will likely be determined by the program they choose and what scheme that team utilizes. Dixon has offers from USC and Maryland, while Byers has offers from USC, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland, Oregon and Texas Tech.
Dixon is favoring South Carolina at the moment. He's familiar with the Gamecocks since his father, Rock Hill assistant coach Gerald Dixon, played linebacker at USC before a 10-year career in the NFL.
"South Carolina [is] my top school right now," he said. "I like that they are close to home, and there are a lot of guys there that I know. It feels like home a little bit. ... I like it there, and I like the atmosphere."
Dixon plans to make a decision by early November. He said the chance to play early along with proximity to home and academics will play the biggest role in his decision.
Dixon's decision could also be swayed by that of his stepbrother, Gerald Dixon, who plays at Rock Hill's South Pointe High School. The other Dixon also holds a USC offer along with a litany of others.
Byers is working on a condensed timeframe as well, and his recruitment, at least at the moment, focuses on two schools, too.
"South Carolina and Georgia Tech are still above everybody else," he said. "... They are recruiting me the hardest right now.
"I like them both because they are close to home. I like South Carolina because of the different schemes they run and young players get to play and get a chance. Georgia Tech [uses] a 3-4, which [will allow me] to play defensive end. I may end up moving to a defense tackle at the next level, but at Georgia Tech I'll still have a chance to play end."