AUBURN – Will Hastings doesn’t see a single change in those eyes behind the facemask of Bo Nix.
He could smile.
That’s just what he wants from his young starting quarterback – still just as focused and on-task as ever before.
“He’s level-headed,” nodded Hastings, Auburn’s senior receiver, on Wednesday night. He and his teammates had just wrapped up the Tigers’ second practice since the true-freshman Nix was named the team’s starter on Tuesday afternoon. “He doesn’t change, doesn’t let the hype get to him – which is the best thing anybody can do. He’s a good dude.
“He’s going to keep it steady, fast and ready to go.”
Auburn keeps charging toward its season-opening showdown with Oregon on Aug. 31 in Texas.
Head coach Gus Malzahn sent social media into a stir on Tuesday afternoon when he announced that Nix would be Auburn’s starter for that game, introducing the son of legendary Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix to the Tigers faithful to plenty of fanfare.
But behind firm walls and closed doors at the athletics complex on campus, Auburn has kept focus locked on its preparation for the season and that showcase showdown with Oregon – and that includes Nix, older players say, even after he’s been named “the guy” behind center for that first game.
“Everybody is still focused,” veteran receiver Eli Stove said. “Bo is focused, for sure.”
Senior center Kaleb Kim just shrugged and smiled.
“We’re doing the same things every day, so you know how that goes,” he said, of himself and the starting offensive line now working ahead of Nix alone on that first-team “orange” group.
“We’re all excited to see what he can do. … He’s just a sharp kid,” Kim also said. “The way he’s picked everything up so quick. People don’t really understand, especially as a quarterback, how much it is to take in to go from a high school offense to a college offense. He’s handled it like a champion.
“We’re all just thrilled to have him as our guy, and we’re behind him fully.”
Auburn fans could’ve thrown a parade, but behind closed doors, life goes on for the Tigers, still focused on their goals.
The same goes for redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood, who battled Nix for that starting spot and who Hastings, as a senior leader, went up to after Malzahn’s decision was announced.
“I was talking to Joey and I just say now-a-days it’s the whole social media aspect of it,” Hastings said. “Now, coaches have to name a Quarterback 1. Joey will play.
“Joey will play a lot,” he said firmly, echoing Malzahn’s words from a day before, saying Gatewood is still set to help the team this fall. “I’m super happy for Bo, I’m close with Bo, the dude is very smart and he’s going to make big plays, but Joey will, too. He’s a good kid. Just as smart. Just one of those things you have to choose one quarterback to start the first game, but both are really good athletes and really good kids.
“I’m excited for both of them to lead our team.”