Heading into his third season at Auburn, all eyes will be on quarterback Bo Nix this fall. His performance in the team’s spring game drew some mixed reviews, but 247Sports’ Josh Pate isn’t worried about Nix’s showing on Saturday afternoon.
New Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin is still implementing his offensive system, and it will take some time for Nix to feel fully comfortable within it. Not only does Nix have to learn Harsin’s system, but he has to forget some aspects of Malzahn’s system. That’s why Pate said that looking only at the spring game box score doesn’t paint the full picture of the Tigers’ quarterback.
“Bryan Harsin and his staff are brand new there,” Pate said. “As we’ve talked about throughout the duration of spring, the first order of business for them was doing a healthy inventory of the entire team. Start with the quarterback. Figure out what we have from the neck down, skill set, and from the neck up, mentally. How much do we have to deprogram? How much do we have to back it up in reverse before we can put it in drive and start to go?
“I don’t know if you picked up on this, and Harsin started talking about it a little bit in his postgame yesterday, there was a lot of that on display. Some of you looked and just wanted to see completion percentage. How many throws does he make? If you notice something else happening procedurally yesterday, they were throwing some stuff at Bo Nix. What it was is they were testing him operationally.”
Harsin and his offensive coaching staff are looking to put more control in the hands of Nix, so they were trying to put him into various situations to test him, Pate said. The Auburn head coach wanted to see how his signal caller would react.
“What I noticed was they were putting him in a lot of situations where he handled the checks at the line of scrimmage,” Pate said. “To many of you, who have a more modernized but typical offense that your team runs, you think, ‘What’s the big deal there?’ If you watch Auburn football, Gus Malzahn’s entire modus operandi is to take as much of the decision-making off the player as possible. He wants to make the changes. He wants his offensive staff to essentially think for the quarterback on the sidelines. Whether you buy into that or not, it’s not the way they’re going to do it anymore. It’s not the way Bryan Harsin wants to do it.”
Because of all that, Nix had to do a lot of things in the spring game for the first time. The good news for Auburn fans is that there is still plenty of time for him to get it all down pat.
“There were a lot of adjustments, a lot of checks, and there were a lot of things Bo Nix was being asked to do for the first time at the line of scrimmage yesterday,” Pate said. “It didn’t have a lot to do with his throwing motion or mechanics. That stuff was a mixed bag, but we’ll see how that comes along when they have the benefit of hundreds of reps in the summer with 7-on-7, and then they have an entire fall camp.”