April 5, 2010

Nixon lived up to five-star billing

After becoming the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Florida Gators since 1992, Xavier Nixon is looking to take his game to the next level in 2010.

He took over the starting job at left tackle in the South Carolina game last year, allowing offensive lineman Carl Johnson to move back to his more natural position at guard.

Nixon talked about his jump into the starting lineup.

"It was just a situation, you know, you've got to man up and just be ready to play," he said. "You can't ask any questions, you've got to take your coaching, keep your mouth shut and keep going."

He admits that he had a bit of a learning curve in his freshman season as he competed to earn the starting spot.

"Last year the competition was intense, playing all the guys we did," he said.

A guy that prefers run blocking, Nixon said he has worked in the offseason to improve his pass protection and center of gravity. He knows playing the left tackle spot for a right-handed quarterback is a huge task.

But he said several times that he's grateful for the opportunity and hopes to make the most of it in 2010.

"I take pride in being a Florida Gator," he said, "coming out here every day and playing with these guys."

Hailed as one of the best units in the SEC heading into 2009, the offensive line offered stiff competition when Nixon arrived as a freshman. He even joked that when he got to campus, he couldn't tell the difference between Florida's top two offensive linemen - the Pouncey brothers.

"I'd just call them both Pouncey," he said with a chuckle.

Now he can tell them apart, and his relationship with Mike Pouncey has helped him develop as a player. He stressed Friday that Pouncey's knowledge of the game has made him want to study football more.

Nixon said that Pouncey's knowledge of the game has made his transition to center a piece of cake.

"He makes it look easy," he said. "He's a great offensive lineman. It's been an easy transition for him because he really knows the game of football."

After watching Pouncey for the past year, Nixon has started learning the ins and outs of each blocking scheme and what to expect from opposing defensive linemen.

He said he has come a long way in learning the game and hopes that his knowledge of the game can continue to improve during his career at Florida.

Along with adding to his knowledge of the game, he also wants to add about 20 pounds before the 2010 season starts. He said he weighs around 290 pounds now and wants to get up to 310 pounds before the season starts.

The offseason strength and conditioning program made him lose a significant amount of weight. He described the workouts as "incredibly tough" and said he will need to really focus on eating to get back to his ideal playing weight.

"I can't explain (the workouts) to you," he said. "You think about trying to go hard and make it to the next station."

If his ability to stay healthy so far is any indication, Nixon did pretty well in the offseason workouts. While many of his teammates on the offensive line have missed time this spring due to injuries, he has been a constant at left tackle.

That's great news for Florida. If they can get that kind of consistency from him during the regular season, he could develop into one of the best tackles in the conference.

"I'm just trying to come out here every day and go hard," he said.

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