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He is no Bryce Young or Matt Corral and remains near the bottom of the SEC in the key passing statistical categories.
But Auburn junior quarterback Bo Nix has slowed his game down, is less erratic, is more comfortable and is better overall since a benching during Auburn’s near-upset loss to Georgia State on Sept. 25 before backup TJ Finley led the Tigers to a 34-24 win.
At the time, Nix was averaging 149 yards passing and trying to scramble too much at times. He has now thrown for 200 or more in his last three games as No. 18 Auburn (5-2, 2-1 SEC) prepares to host No. 10 Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. Auburn is a 2.5-point favorite by FanDuel.
“I like him more in his game now,” senior left guard Brandon Council said on a player teleconference. “He’s more in the pocket. He scrambles when he has to. He makes the big plays for us. He does it all. I believe he got more comfortable with the offensive line this year. He definitely trusts us. So, I believe that helps his game a lot more — gives him time to go through his reads and check-downs.”
Nix had his best game of the season in a 38-23 win at Arkansas on Oct. 16 before an open date. He completed 21-of-26 passes for a .808 completion percentage for a season-high 292 yards and two touchdowns with his best efficency rating through six games at 192.80.
In a 24-19 win at LSU on Oct. 2, Nix did it all, completing 23-of-44 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown and rushing 12 times for 74 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m trusting myself,” Nix said Thursday. “I think I’m confident. I’m trusting how my coaches have got me prepared and ready for the games — knowing that I can do the things that I set out to do.”
The first noticeable difference in his game is he plants his feet in the pocket for longer now, which offensive coordinator Mike Bobo particularly likes.
“Coach Bobo all the time tells us, ‘Your feet tell a story,'” Nix said. “And so when you get back and get set, if you’re continuing to shuffle up …”
It’s not working.
“Just feeling more comfortable throughout the game with the scheme,” he said.
Nix had to adjust to a new coaching staff, including Bobo and new head coach Bryan Harsin, the former head coach at Boise State, and it had to adjust to him.
“I think, one, he understands what we’re trying to do, which takes time,” Harsin said. “That’s not his fault by any means. It just takes time. You can’t just get the guy in there, and everything’s going to happen all at once.”
In some ways, Harsin and Bobo started from scratch, though Nix has been Auburn’s starter since his freshman year in 2019 under coach Gus Malzahn, who was fired after the 2020 season.
“I think he’s fundamentally improved himself — his footwork, upper body mechanics, where his eyes are, finishing throws, being accurate,” Harsin said. “It just takes time to really iron some of those things out and fine tune it. We’re still a work in progress, but he works hard at it.”
Nix is currently No. 10 in the SEC and No. 85 nationally in efficiency at 130.5 on 128-of-211 passing for 1,487 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions. Ole Miss junior quarterback Matt Corral is No. 3 and No. 10, respectively, at 168.2 on 14-of-207 passing for 1,913 yards and 15 touchdowns with one interception. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is No. 2 in the SEC and No. 5 nationally with a 177.1 rating.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has noticed a change in Nix.
“Much like our guy, he’s having a better year making decisions,” he said. “Probably more comfortable in another year of starting. Before, it was play well at home, not as well on the road. Now, he’s doing both. He just seems to be playing really confident.”
Advice from his father, former Auburn quarterback Pat Nix (starter in 1995-96) and the coach at Central High in Phenix City, Alabama, continues to ring true.
“One thing that he still tells me to this day is it’s about your eyes and feet,” Nix said. “That’s the most important part of playing quarterback. If my eyes are in the right spot, I’m consistent. And when I can get my feet in the right place, when I have good, quick drops, when I’m in rhythm and my feet are set and my eyes are good, I’m even better. Those things tie together.”