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How does Harsin get the best out of Nix?


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The big question: How does Bryan Harsin get the best out of Bo Nix?

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February 21, 2021 9:00 am

While previewing each SEC team prior to spring practice, USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg posted a key question for all 14 teams for the 2021 season.

The one for Auburn is likely on the minds of Tigers’ fans everywhere: Will Bryan Harsin get the best out of Bo Nix?

Myerberg writes:

“An up-and-down freshman season was followed by an uneven sophomore campaign for Nix. The hope is that new coach Harsin can maximize his skill set and bring some balance to an Auburn offense that ranked eighth in the SEC last season in yards per play. Harsin was a strong developer of quarterback talent at Boise State.”

Strong developer of quarterback talent. We definitely heard that last year when former head coach Gus Malzahn brought in Chad Morris to both call plays and help Nix become who everyone thought he would be as a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and after a season in which he won SEC Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

Yet that never transpired. In fact, as Myerberg points out, Nix’s play was worse as a sophomore. His touchdown passes fell by four while he threw one more interception than he did as a freshman in 2019. His completion percentage was just two points higher at 59 percent, but it was his inability to stay in the pocket that frustrated fans — and most likely his coaches — the most.

Of course this can be added up to an offensive line that was downright shameful. There’s no other way to describe the pass blocking by the Tigers over the 11 games in 2020. Nix, scrambling for his life, lost confidence in them and at the first sign of pressure, sometimes just one second after the snap, he found himself running.

There are a lot of places where Auburn needs to improve including the offensive line but the focus, as always, will be on the quarterback. Harsin has had some major success with signal callers that have less of a pedigree than Nix. In 2014, Grant Hedrick put up a 157.20 passer rating, completing 70.8 percent of his passes for 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns while also rushing for eight scores.

Brett Rypien eclipsed the 150 passer rating two straight seasons in 2016 (155.70) and 2018 (155.98). Granted, these numbers aren’t coming against defenses of the caliber of Alabama, LSU or Georgia, but the numbers between what these two quarterbacks did for the Broncos and what Nix has accomplished in two seasons are still intriguing.

So how will Harsin along with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo fix Nix? I believe it all starts with confidence.

A kid that was used to succeeding at everything in high school has met many challenges at the collegiate level. He’s no longer the alpha dog on the field and can do whatever he wants. Was he overrated as a 5-star coming out of high school? Possibly. Yet there’s a reason he was one of the top recruits in the nation.

The player who in his first collegiate start put it on himself to get to the first-down marker on a do-or-die fourth down and then put up the pass to Seth Williams’ to beat Oregon has all but disappeared. He’s a broken shell of what he was in September of 2019.

Harsin will work with him on that along with his delivery. So many times during the past two seasons, Nix has had to, or just decided to, throw off his back foot. Someone getting any zip on the ball this way is not possible. It shows signs of panic and distrust, in himself and the offense surrounding him.

He’s also struggled in staring down his intended receiver and reading his progressions, something that should have developed over the past two seasons. Harsin and Bobo have already likely showed him this in the film room but to see it on tape and then going out and doing it is another thing.

Nix has a strong enough arm and enough intelligence to turn this around quickly. All the tools, including his ability to run the ball when needed, is there. Yet he just hasn’t found his stride for some reason yet. Maybe it is coaching, maybe it is interference or maybe it is just because too much was expected from him from the start.

Either way, Harsin and Bobo face a difficult challenge in turning Nix into the stud behind center that Auburn needs to make any noise in 2021. Let’s see if they can work their magic.

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  • WarTiger changed the title to How does Harsin get the best out of Nix?




I think he’s the most complicated potential...I don’t want to use the word “bust”, but underperforming Auburn QB in recent memory 

Jeremy - mental, Kiehl - lost himself in that pro style nonsense from 2012, Stidham - OL trust 

but Bo has a combination of all of those traits, to varying degrees. You really can’t point to one thing and say “If that didn’t exist, he’d live up to the 5 star billing”. I hope he gets a ton of work with a QB coach that’s not his father during the off-season, and hoping Bobo works his magic

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It's pretty simple.  Harsin has a standard and Nix will have to meet it.  We can say this about the entire offense.  Players were not getting coached.  HHowever talented you were on arriving on campus was how talented you would be the rest of your career at Auburn.

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On 2/25/2021 at 5:56 AM, Hay Field 101 said:

Well according to that picture he could get him to shave that jungle under his arm that should give him an extra 30 yards on his long ball

so he has a hay field under his arm? lol  i say every day at practice he screws up he has to carry a bright pink football so even the students can remind him to buckle up and get better.............

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I think moving him to holding for kicks would be a good start ... as for QB, dont expect it to happen.  He either rises to his competition or not...you know, like every other player.

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I remember a very good QB coach in the NFL saying, a high level QB has to have 2 things to be able to attain that level of a great QB. Those 2 things are 1. The 'IT' factor and 2. Accuracy.

Bo has a long way to go to attain those 2. He has some of the IT factor, but to stand in the pocket, or move within the pocket to buy time is a sense a QB either already has, or has the discipline to acquire it.

His accuracy is another thing. If, and I mean IF, Harsin/Bobo can get Bo to improve on his footwork, and setup before he throws the ball, then he has a chance to get to that top level of a college QB....

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2 hours ago, steeleagle said:

I remember a very good QB coach in the NFL saying, a high level QB has to have 2 things to be able to attain that level of a great QB. Those 2 things are 1. The 'IT' factor and 2. Accuracy.

Bo has a long way to go to attain those 2. He has some of the IT factor, but to stand in the pocket, or move within the pocket to buy time is a sense a QB either already has, or has the discipline to acquire it.

His accuracy is another thing. If, and I mean IF, Harsin/Bobo can get Bo to improve on his footwork, and setup before he throws the ball, then he has a chance to get to that top level of a college QB....

Good assessment. No doubt he has heart and talent, but unfortunately that does not always translate to a top tier athlete in any sport. I for one am hoping he gets a full spring w the new coaches, takes their coaching to heart and then come fall practice, Chalyil Garrett will push him for the job. This is a new regime and basically nobody, but Tank is immune to losing a starting position. 

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He needs to process information faster and needs to trust his fundamentals.

The toughest thing is processing information, see K. Frazier, very smart, but could not process quickly from the qb position, most people can not do this.

Bo shows great fundamentals in non-stress(live) situations. He had great 7 on 7 tape.  When the lights are on the fundamentals seem to go out.  

This is the one thing that worries me even more so than the first thing.  I think he has the ability to process information and can learn to trust his pocket more, but can he drill himself enough to break the bad habits of poor fundamentals when things go live.  The fact that there was no improvement in this area from year one to year two is what gives me some doubts.  

He needs to become a better leader, he needs to take his emotions and project them in a positive way to his teammates.  There is always a time to jump on someone for screwing up, but all the time is for being the positive encouraging force on the sidelines.  Own your mistakes.

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18 hours ago, CleCoTiger said:

Bo was a sub-60 percent passer in high school. What makes folks think he's gonna be a better passer against SEC/Power 5 defenses than he was in high school?

Because he has SEC/Power 5 receivers and coaches and linemen???

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i think folks thought bo would take the next step in college ball and it has not happened. we got excited when he helped us beat oregon with a non perfect game. and if the coach is using a multiple set my thoughts are it is probably more complicated and his struggles will get worse. now i hope he never loses another game but i think the coaching staff also let him down somehow as i do not believe he is unteachable. i think when the light clicks on bo will be hell on wheels. anyway i found  my bo knows  nix t shirt so maybe i can get that bad juju gone  lol.

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On 2/27/2021 at 8:11 AM, Grumps said:

Because he has SEC/Power 5 receivers and coaches and linemen???

Aren't those SEC/Power 5 receivers, coaches and linemen playing against SEC/Power 5 DB's, linebackers and linemen and being coached by other SEC/Power 5 coaches? My question remains, why would you expect a sub-60 percent passer in high school, where he was an an All-State/five star man amongst boys playing on a state championship caliber team and getting coaching from his dad, a former winning QB in D1 at AU, to suddenly become a better passer in college against a higher level of competition than he was in high school? Me? I wouldn't.

Edited by CleCoTiger
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3 hours ago, CleCoTiger said:

Aren't those SEC/Power 5 receivers, coaches and linemen playing against SEC/Power 5 DB's, linebackers and linemen and being coached by other SEC/Power 5 coaches? My question remains, why would you expect a sub-60 percent passer in high school, where he as an an All-State/five star man amongst boys playing on a state championship caliber team and getting coaching from his dad, a former winning QB in D1 at AU, to suddenly become a better passer in college against a higher level of competition than he was in high school? Me? I wouldn't.

My biggest question is: Did his winning in highschool make him grade out as a 5 star? As you stated, if he’s never been a accurate passer even dating back to highschool, then it is probably too much to expect him to all of a sudden become a great QB at a SEC school. I just hope his footwork, his mental strength and coaching will help him improve. He’s talented but needs to take a step forward. 

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5 hours ago, Old fan 47 said:

My biggest question is: Did his winning in highschool make him grade out as a 5 star? As you stated, if he’s never been a accurate passer even dating back to highschool, then it is probably too much to expect him to all of a sudden become a great QB at a SEC school. I just hope his footwork, his mental strength and coaching will help him improve. He’s talented but needs to take a step forward. 

Him being an incredible athlete at the high school level got him that. But at the next level , very rarely can you just out athlete people. 

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5 hours ago, Old fan 47 said:

My biggest question is: Did his winning in highschool make him grade out as a 5 star? As you stated, if he’s never been a accurate passer even dating back to highschool, then it is probably too much to expect him to all of a sudden become a great QB at a SEC school. I just hope his footwork, his mental strength and coaching will help him improve. He’s talented but needs to take a step forward. 

247 had him as a 4*.  I watched him live numerous times in HS and you could tell he had glaring issues with accuracy and footwork. I honestly think if his name wasn't Nix, he would have been graded a mid-range 3*.  I agree with the other guy posting in here.  If he wasn't dominating the HS scene, not sure why people are expecting him to succeed in the SEC. 

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15 hours ago, DAG said:

Him being an incredible athlete at the high school level got him that. But at the next level , very rarely can you just out athlete people. 

I think he's shown this at times. I think we'll see legitimate development out go Nix. Missing an extremely crucial spring and has horrendous coaching/scheme.

Bo has talent. He can make all the passes when he's not throwing off his back foot. He works hard. I think we'll see a better QB in '21. He's not had the elite level of coaching he's getting now.

Edited by W.E.D
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I think it's reasonable to assume that if he can get his footwork right his accuracy should improve. I don't know about the pocket awareness though but we'll see. I don't by the he lost faith in the o line so now he's absolved from not being able to function like a QB. 

That's like in basketball saying the guy doesn't see the floor well because his teammates can't shoot......

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4 hours ago, W.E.D said:

I think he's shown this at times. I think we'll see legitimate development out go Nix. Missing an extremely crucial spring and has horrendous coaching/scheme.

Bo has talent. He can make all the passes when he's not throwing off his back foot. He works hard. I think we'll see a better QB in '21. He's not had the elite level of coaching he's getting now.

Most people consider Chad Morris to be pretty good with QB's. Witness former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd's take prior to the 2020 season for what he expected from Bo Nix with coaching from Morris:  https://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/auburn-football/in-chad-morris-we-trust-former-clemson-qb-tajh-boyd-predicts-huge-season-for-auburn-qb-bo-nix/

On edit...

Just to be clear, I am not predicting that Bo Nix won't get better or that he will go down as a bust. I had high hopes for him when he signed and would be thrilled to see him live up to expectations. I just don't buy some of the reasoning I'm seeing in posts I've responded to.

Edited by CleCoTiger
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I think Nix will be seen as having taken a step forward next year. Specifically, I think there are three factors that will contribute to an increase in his completion percentage of 6% or more (cumulatively). This won't put him at the top of the league in that stat, sure, but it will be the sign of progress that we've all been waiting to see.

  1. Better coaching on QB fundamentals: I expect, conservatively, a 2%+ increase in overall accuracy based in improved fundamentals. (In other words, on 2 out of every 100 passes he throws, improved QB fundamentals will lead to a completed pass, rather than an incompletion.)
  2. Improved O-Line Play: I think more consistent OL play will allow for an additional 2%+ improvement in completion percentage.
  3. Improved play calling / Expanded playbook: I think improved play calling and an expanded short passing game will allow for an additional 2%+ improvement in completion percentage.
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58 minutes ago, cole256 said:

I think it's reasonable to assume that if he can get his footwork right his accuracy should improve. I don't know about the pocket awareness though but we'll see. I don't by the he lost faith in the o line so now he's absolved from not being able to function like a QB. 

That's like in basketball saying the guy doesn't see the floor well because his teammates can't shoot......

Right ? That is exactly what I was thinking. Since Lebron James can’t trust his teammates does that all of a sudden mean he is absolved from doing the basic things of being a productive basketball player?

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It will all come down to coachability from Nix. If he isn't coachable, no coach or instruction will improve his performance

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