There may be no clearer case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to quarterbacks than Auburn’s Bo Nix.
Analysts have been waiting for Nix to turn the corner for years now, and depending on how you look at the junior, he both has and hasn’t done so. Nix heads into this weekend’s game against Mississippi State with a stat line that looks like one we’ve come to expect from him—20-of-41 passing (48.8%) for 153 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception in a dismal 20-3 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies. But the two games before that one? They don’t tell the same story—the 31-20 win over Ole Miss and the 38-23 win over Arkansas tell more of a tale of major strides taken more than anything else.
In the former, Nix completed 22-of-30 passes (73.3%) for 276 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, also carrying the ball eight times for 30 yards with two rushing touchdowns. In the latter, Nix completed 21-of-26 passes (80.8%) for 292 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, also with five rushing attempts for 42 yards and one touchdown.
So, while Nix may be inconsistent and while he’s received a wealth of criticism for accuracy issues, bad ball placement, and poor decision-making (as the six games this season which he has a completion percentage between 48% and 57% would suggest), it’s clear that Nix can be a dangerous quarterback who can give opposing defenses the blues when he’s at his best, playing as a true dual-threat.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, who will have the job of scheming against Nix and the Auburn offense, spoke to the type of havoc the quarterback who has a little bit of Johnny Manziel to him can wreak. Nix obviously has had problems as a passer, but if he’s anything like he was against the two previously mentioned ranked opponents this weekend, the Bulldogs and teams down the stretch will have to fight him in the air just as much as they do on the ground—which is much easier said than done.
"Tremendous athlete. Obviously, he's throwing it really well this year," Arnett said. "I mean, the stats back it up. He can make throws, quite a few completions, you know, digs across the middle, but it's the ability to extend plays with his legs and then find guys downfield and make accurate passes that scare the heck out of you.
“It's a nightmare, right? You gotta if you're in zone coverage, you have to work your scramble mechanics... It's easy to get lost in man coverage and chase the guy over the field and all of a sudden the play gets extended and guys are running around all over the place," Arnett told reporters. "It's easy to lose your receiver. So that makes it very difficult. Very, very difficult. I don't know anything about Johnny Manziel's size but I'm pretty sure Bo Nix is a little bigger and thicker and so what he does in the quarterback run game is very concerning."
Will Nix continue to grow or go back to his old ways of a quarterback who flashes potential on a fairly regular basis but has a world of shortcomings, or will he continue to build on his recent momentum?
How he plays as the season winds down against Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Alabama will say a lot about where his draft stock stands, though he’s definitely a player who seems like it would be in his best interest to enter the 2023 NFL Draft as opposed to the upcoming one so he has more time to continue developing and stay on the right track.