The big story out of Auburn this week was that Bo Nix will be the first true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback for the Tigers since 1946.
Troy Dye knows from experience not to doubt what Nix can do in his first college game when he takes the field against the Ducks on Aug. 31 in Arlington, Texas.
Three years ago, Dye was the first true freshman to start an opener at linebacker for Oregon since the 1970s and he went on to have a game-high 11 tackles in the Ducks' 53-28 win against UC Davis.
“Apparently, he’s ready for the situation,” Dye said. “The game knows no age. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or a senior, if you are ready to play, you are ready to play. You can’t look at him and say ‘Oh, he’s a freshman.’ He’s a great athlete, he goes to a top school so you can’t overlook that stuff. You have to prepare like he’s been there for four years.”
Auburn was certain to open the season with a freshman at quarterback, but coach Gus Malzahn went with the newcomer to the program instead of redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood.
Four years ago, Nix was beginning a high school career in Alabama that ended with more than 12,000 yards of total offense, 127 touchdown passes and 34 rushing touchdowns.
“I’ve seen him play in high school and he’s a great football player,” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who was an assistant at Alabama during Nix’s two seasons at Scottsboro High School. Nix played his final two years at Pinson Valley. “He does it with his arm and his feet. He’s one of those guys that fights for every single inch on the field. Watching him in high school, he has command of the offense so I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He is a great system fit so we have to be prepared for a guy playing great football.”
Nix played in high school for his father, Patrick, a former Auburn quarterback who was the offensive coordinator at Miami in 2007-08 when Cristobal was the head coach at Florida International.
“I know the pedigree of that family and the way they take pride in being relentless competitors and great performers,” Cristobal said. “There is a reason they have great confidence in him.”
Cristobal noted that most head coaches watch film of all the top prep quarterbacks in recruiting and Dye planned to do the same for Nix this week.
“No college reps so you have to go back and watch some high school tape,” Dye said.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Nix was ranked as the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback by multiple recruiting services.
“If you don’t have college film on someone, it is always valuable to watch any type of footage on what type of player they are,” Cristobal said. “How well they run, how well they throw. He’s not going to disappoint on film. He can throw it, he can run it and what I was impressed with was watching his command of the offense.”
Nix graduated early from high school to join the Tigers for spring ball.
“He’s not your normal freshman, that’s fair to say,” Malzahn said.
The Ducks are preparing to see that as well.
“You just prepare for him like a veteran, like he is a four-year starter,” UO senior linebacker La’Mar Winston said. “If he wins the job, that’s what he’s going to be playing like, I assume. It’s a normal preparation, normal type of deal.”