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A topic of conversation amongst Auburn fans for two years.
Can Bo Nix reach the level fans thought he could reach coming out of high school?
In 2019, Nix was arguably carried by his defense. As to be expected. I mean, it’s a freshman quarterback that had to play seven top 25 teams, six of which finished in the top 10. Most fans would be happy with 9-4 (the bowl result, however, I can understand fans being upset with).
But what frustrated fans was how poor Nix played on the road. His numbers dipped dramatically in road games against Texas A&M, Florida, and LSU. he didn’t even throw for 200 yards in a blowout win on the road against Arkansas. Nix was an underachiever on the road.
He entered 2020 with a lot of hype and expectations. Chad Morris was running the show. There was seemingly no way Nix didn’t improve.
Statistically, Nix regressed. What was 16 passing touchdowns to six interceptions in 2019 turned into 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 2020. His mechanics didn’t improve. He continued to stray away from the pocket, even when he had protection (71% of Nix’s dropbacks were kept clean by the offensive line, per PFF). And his road stints were bad.
His TD/INT ratio at home was 8/1. His ratio on the road was 3/6. His overall ratio over the course of his Auburn career is 15/1 (home) and 11/12 (road).
What changed this offseason that could help Nix get better?
Auburn got rid of the coaching staff that was not good at developing quarterbacks. They hired Bryan Harsin, who in turn hired Mike Bobo, the former Georgia OC. Bobo has said this offseason he’s been working with Nix on everything that makes him bad: mechanics, decision making, presnap reads, etc. Was it coach speak? Or was there some legitimacy to it?
Then came Auburn’s first scrimmage. According to reports, Nix threw at least two interceptions, one that was entirely his fault, and another that was a miscommunication. According to Harsin, both Nix and Finley weren’t making good decisions. Turnovers and reads for Nix appear to be a continuous issue for a quarterback that is three years into SEC ball. We will see what the coaching staff dials up for him during Auburn’s open scrimmage this Saturday. I can’t imagine Bobo will make Nix look bad in front of the public. But if Nix can’t perform, Auburn fans should be seriously evaluating the quarterback position. How many reps should both Finley and Dematrius Davis be getting?
If Nix can’t do it against the first-team defense in a scrimmage, can he do it in Happy Valley? Can he do it in Death Valley? I see this next scrimmage as an opportunity for Auburn to approach the quarterback situation similar to the way they’ve approached the offensive line- cross-training. In this case, however, it’s cross-training the second and third team QBs with the first team. I’m not calling for Nix’s job. I hope he does become the five-star prospect we all saw coming out of high school. He has the athleticism to do it. But Bobo and Harsin should be prepared to pull the plug if things get ugly. And after hearing an entire offseason about changes, based on what happened in the first scrimmage, nothing’s changed.
Auburn needs to continue to evaluate itself going down the road. If there was a year to make changes, this would be it.