For the next few months, GatorCountry.com will be previewing the players that will make up the 2012 Florida football team as we lead up to the season.
Each day, we’ll count off a scholarship player until the season officially arrives on Sept. 1 with a home date against Bowling Green.
Today, we take a look at senior offensive lineman Xavier Nixon.
Nixon was a terrific offensive line prospect coming out of high school as a U.S. Army All-American, and he made a quick impact when he arrived at Florida.
As a true freshman, Nixon started the last five games of the season, becoming the first true freshman to start at tackle in nearly 20 years. He picked up All-SEC Freshman recognition and even earned an honorable mention freshman All-American award.
During his sophomore season, Nixon played in every game while starting eight at tackle. He didn’t quite have as much success as he did at the end of his freshman season.
As a junior in 2011, started at left tackle in nine games but was hampered by injuries during the season. He was not in the starting lineup when both Matt Patchan and Chaz Green were healthy.
Nixon appeared to regain his starting job during the spring, bumping Green out of the starting five.
Nixon is about what you’d look for in a prototypical offensive tackle. He has great size at 6 foot 6, 309 pounds, and he is very athletic for his size.
At this point, Nixon’s biggest issue is being able to mentally withstand the criticism he has faced after a disappointing last two season. Coach Will Muschamp has the utmost confidence in him, and if Nixon can play like he’s capable of, he’s a quality starter.
He had problems keeping his weight up the last two season, which was one of his main issues. He was frequently pushed back at the point of attack, never more obviously so than against Alabama in 2010. If he can improve his weight, he’ll be tougher to bully on the edge.
Footwork-wise, Nixon is in pretty good shape. He shuffles his feet well and has good hand placement. It’s just a power and weight issue for him at this point.
Until he can get and keep his weight consistently around 300 pounds, there are going to be lingering questions about how effective the once incredibly promising true freshman can be.
What to Expect
All of the reports on Nixon this spring were extremely positive, and he looked good in the limited views we got of him. He’s certainly capable of being a fringe All-SEC offensive tackle should he regain the form from his freshman season.
However, Nixon will have his work cut out for him just staying in the starting lineup this fall. Green was excellent last year and started every game he was healthy in. Matt Patchan is another veteran who has played better than Nixon last year when healthy.
It’s hard to find much separation between any of the three, but there are the most question marks surrounding Nixon.
If he has indeed gotten his weight up around 300 as reported, he will certainly be in the starting mix. Even if Green ultimately bumps him from the starting spot, Nixon will definitely get a lot of playing time.
That said, right now, we’re expecting to see Nixon in the starting lineup when Florida opens against Bowling Green.