A lot has changed around the Auburn program since the last time quarterback Bo Nix walked off the field.
In the time since Nix and the Tigers left Starkville, Miss., on Dec. 12 with a victory, Auburn moved on from head coach Gus Malzahn, put together a nine-day coaching search and hired new head coach Bryan Harsin. Those events occurred while the players were away for a holiday break before they returned after Christmas to begin preparation for Friday’s Citrus Bowl against Northwestern.
Nix didn’t hesitate on Wednesday to acknowledge the time since Auburn beat Mississippi State 24-10 has been nothing short of a whirlwind.
“We went into two weeks to where we had a lot of things going on, a lot of changes. I feel like as a football team we've done a really good job of hanging in there and making sure we made it back to practice,” Nix said. “I think that our guys have done a good job of sticking together. Kind of as the quarterback, one of the main things that I wanted to do was make sure guys stayed positive and stayed confident and that whatever happens was going to be the best for us.”
Nix talked about the future of the Auburn program, one that now includes Harsin leading the way.
Nix explained Harsin has let the team know it will be in good shape going forward and that Harsin is determined to build a coaching staff that can maximize the players’ abilities. Nix explained Harsin’s message so far boils down to keeping everyone together and making sure the team gets rolling in 2021.
For Nix, the key to making the future a bright one starts with beating Northwestern to start the new year.
“It's huge. Bowl games can be great for the offseason, offseason prep, spring ball. It can really jumpstart you into the next year,” Nix said. “To have guys come out and play good, it'll be very huge for their confidence and their impact for next year.”
Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris credited Nix’s approach in the lead-up to the showdown with the Wildcats.
“I think Bo's done a really good job of getting himself ready. I know he was excited to get back in here after Christmas and to finish this thing out just like we started,” Morris said. “That's a big task that we have ahead of us, but to end this thing with a bowl win would be a great accomplishment for this team and for this team moving forward.”
Nix said he’s done his part as far as leadership while crediting the coaches, who have emphasized the importance of staying focused and taking the game seriously. Nix explained the bowl game is the next tangible thing on the Tigers’ radar, so they should take advantage before they break for the offseason.
Nix also talked about how important showing up ready to play will be against a 6-2 Northwestern team.
Nix said the Wildcats have a great defense that is well-coached and physical, and he added mistakes they make as a defense are few and far between. Given that, Nix said the team has to play really sound football to have a chance – something that is far from assured with wide receiver Anthony Schwartz opting out of the game and running back Tank Bigsby’s status uncertain.
Nix’s second bowl trip as a Tiger looks much different than his first, as the Tigers have stayed on campus this week and will do so until Thursday, the day before the game. While there have been no tourist trips or fun excursions as part of this game, Nix actually welcomed the different setup given the situation, explaining it has allowed himself and his teammates to stay in their comfort zone at home and treat the bowl like an away game.
Nix and his teammates will have endured countless changes by the time Friday’s opening kickoff arrives, but the mission of ending the year with one more victory remains the same.
“Obviously it's been different, but I think we've taken it from a different approach. I think we have really been relaxed and had some fun with it,” Nix said regarding bowl preparation. “Guys are excited, and I think with a few days off we've come back kind of energized and ready to go and excited for the game.”