One college football analyst expects a second-year jump for Auburn’s young quarterback.
If anyone knows what it takes to be a Heisman-winning quarterback, it’s Matt Leinart. The current Fox Sports college football analyst and former USC QB won the Heisman Trophy with the Trojans back in 2004 after putting up 3,332 passing yards and 33 TDs for an undefeated USC squad.
So, for obvious reasons, it’s probably safe to so say that Leinart knows a future star when he sees one. Luckily for Auburn football fans, Leinart is a big fan of the Tigers sophomore quarterback, Bo Nix.
When discussing the breakout potential of the Auburn QB, Leinart harkened back to Nix’s first career start against Oregon in Auburn’s 2019 season opener.
“What we saw from him week one against Oregon in that type of environment, kind of, ‘welcome to college football.’ I think he picked up a first down on fourth down with his legs late in the game and then he throws this touchdown pass to win,” Leinart said. “You just saw the fire and the spirit that Coach (Urban Meyer) always talks about, you just want that guy in the huddle with you. You want that to be your leader.
Nix came to Auburn as a five-star prospect and the No. 1 dual-threat QB recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. The son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, Bo became the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Tigers since 1947.
While he certainly wasn’t perfect as a true freshman, Nix showed enough potential for experts like Leinart to believe he could make the leap in year number two.
“Now, you look at the numbers and he did struggle against the top teams in his conference — and he’s a true freshman, that was going to happen — but I think year one to year two, and Joel (Klatt) can attest to this, that’s a big jump as a quarterback. You just start to add repetition and those gains are so meaningful. Even without an offseason I still expect Bo Nix to take that leap and become the leader of his football team and a better player with completion percentage and not turning the ball over as much. But that kid just — he’s got that fire you can see and that’s what I love.”
In 13 games last season, Nix completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,542 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound signal-caller was also to consistently make plays with his legs and rushed for 313 yards and seven additional touchdowns on the year.
Nix’s efforts led to him being named the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year. Going into 2020, Nix will be protected by an offensive line that has to replace four of its five starters from last season. On the other hand, the Tigers also return their top-three receivers from last season including star wideout Seth Williams who recorded 59 catches for 830 yards and eight TDs as Nix’s favorite target.
As Leinart points out, Nix did often struggle against the best teams on Auburn’s schedule. His game against LSU where he completed just 15 of his 35 pass attempts for 157 yards. And unfortunately, Auburn will likely once again have a gauntlet of a schedule with away games against UGA, Texas A&M and Alabama on the schedule and several other top teams at home.
Behind the leadership of Nix, Auburn, who finished last season with a 9-4 record and Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota, enters the season at No. 11 in the preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Thursday.