Division I transfers add depth to GVSU defense

GVL / Robert Mathews
GVSU transfer George White who spent last season at the University of Missouri.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews GVSU transfer George White who spent last season at the University of Missouri.

Brady Fredericksen

Taking in transfers is nothing new to the Grand Valley State University football team. Players from Division I schools come to compete for more playing time and ones from junior colleges come to get their first taste of high-level college football.

For a trio of defensive players – junior defensive back Dana Dixon from Michigan State University, sophomore defensive back Shaquille Jefferson from Indiana University and senior defensive lineman George White from the University of Missouri – coming to GVSU meant a chance to play and experience something entirely new.

It doesn’t stop at new playbooks or new jerseys either; the best example being White’s meeting Dixon for the first time during the media day interviews on Wednesday.

“I was here in the summer for three weeks, so I was getting to know these guys,” said Jefferson, a safety. “To really get to know (the team) we just started joking around and just having fun with each other.”

The program has welcomed transfers and the same goes for the players, who have accepted their new teammates no matter how soon or for what reason they’re at GVSU.

“First of all, we accepted them as a family, as a brotherhood. Second of all, on and off the field, we’ve watched film – there’s been many film sessions,” said junior safety Erik Thompson. “Shaq is my roommate, so we take film home and we actually watch it. (Dixon and Jefferson) are grasping the concept of GV football pretty well.”

As for the on-field action, the transfers are still a work in progress. All three are working to grasp the defensive scheme, but throughout the first week of fall camp, the trio has had a chance to get their feet wet.

“It’s real exciting, especially during practice – I know I’m up there with the ones and twos practicing – and the majority of the playing I’ll be doing on Saturdays is going to be on the defensive side of the ball,” said Dixon, who will see time at safety and cornerback this season. “That’s a change for me now since I haven’t been playing that deep into the game since high school.”

Dixon and Jefferson are expected to be contributors in a secondary that has gone from the weak link on the defense last season to a strength this season. White is expected to give interior defensive line depth.

“It’s a huge difference coming from a Big Ten school as opposed to a junior college. Both these guys have been in meetings, they’ve been in systems that are somewhat complex, so most of this stuff doesn’t phase them,” said head coach Matt Mitchell.

Dixon is the only transfer to come from a program with a defense-first philosophy under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. White played under an offense-first coach in Gary Pinkel at Missouri and Jefferson comes from what he called “nothing but offense, offense, offense all the time” under Kevin Wilson at Indiana.

“We always take them how we can get them around here,” Mitchell said. “You worry a little bit as a head coach about chemistry and how those things are going to sort out … this isn’t our first rodeo with transfers, our guys are competitive, if he’s a threat, raise your game.”

The football part of things has been a smooth transition for the trio so far, but the knowing where anything else is on campus part is still a work in progress.

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