Aubserver Mailbag 154: What type of impact will Derrick Nix have on the offense?
This week: Offensive outlook, the DC job, soft rims, Jaylin Williams, Dylan Cardwell, Aden Holloway and "Killers of the Flower Moon"
OC Derrick Nix (Auburn Football/Twitter)
Welcome back to the Mailbag. I hope everyone has stayed safe and as warm as possible during this stretch of rough winter weather, especially for those of us down South who aren’t used to it at all.
We’re going to get right to it. Auburn football has a new offensive coordinator and has still yet to finalize its defensive staff — and questions on both are leading things off this week.
Then we jump to a large amount of basketball questions, ranging from the impact of several players during this 10-game winning streak to some extreme future projection.
Thank you as always for reading, listening and subscribing to The Auburn Observer. Let’s go.
Which group of players will Nix help the most to improve next year? Where will we most see his impact? Or is it more of a recruiting play? Or both?
Hugh Freeze got his guy this week, hiring Derrick Nix to be the new offensive coordinator and running backs coach while promoting Kent Austin to quarterbacks coach. Nix has spent the last 16 years at Ole Miss, where he overlapped with Freeze, with 12 seasons as running backs coach and four seasons as wide receivers coach.
Nix’s position groups have been impressive throughout his tenure, whether he was tutoring high-powered running backs or the latest wave of Rebels wideouts. He also has a strong track record as a recruiter, landing three 5-stars and two dozen 4-stars during his time in Oxford.
That last part is important, because it sounds like Freeze is going to call plays in 2024 and not invest as much time in recruiting as he did in 2023. Getting Nix and Charles Kelly on staff are quite helpful for a head coach making that transition, and Auburn is already off to a strong start in the 2025 cycle with a current top-five class.
But I don’t think this is purely a recruiting play. Nix has spent a long time as an SEC assistant coach on strong offenses, including his time with Freeze and Lane Kiffin. Auburn needed a running backs coach and an offensive coordinator, and being able to poach a great assistant from an ascendent rival in your conference is a good sign.
Obviously, Nix’s impact will be felt at running back. He’s inheriting a good room in 2024, with Jarquez Hunter, Damari Alston, Brian Battie and Jeremiah Cobb all coming back to the program for another season. Given Nix’s recent experience with coaching pass-catchers, I’m expecting Auburn’s running backs to be an even bigger part of the air attack next season. Auburn can use all the help it can get in the passing game, and you don’t want to put all the pressure on the “Freeze Four” (or Five).
Auburn should have the foundation of a solid running game in 2024. The Tigers ranked No. 33 in the country and No. 5 in the SEC in rushing yards per carry, and the offensive line made progress in a lot of run-blocking stats. But, as we saw throughout the 2023 season, Auburn won’t be able to truly get to the next level as a program until it’s able to pass the ball efficiently against quality competition.
A lot of that will be on the shoulders of Freeze as the play-calling head coach. Part of why he was hired at Auburn was to bring the passing game success that he had in his past stops. Getting back to a familiar spot with play-calling, as well as bringing in trusted assistants like Nix and Austin, shouldn’t hurt those efforts. Freeze is doing things his way, and that brings a significant amount of pressure — and optimism.
The offensive coaching staff now looks finished going into 2024. What are your impressions and what are your expectations for the 2024 offense compared to 2023?
So.... football... offense? Good?