Quarterback is the most important position in team sports. To do the job well, the quarterback must know his assignment, make sure his 10 teammates on the field are lined up correctly, be aware of each offensive player’s task and have a good idea of what the defensive scheme is, too. Once all of that is accomplished, you actually have to snap the ball and execute the play that has been called.
Auburn returns its starting quarterback from 2019 but has a new quarterback coach and (apparent) play-caller in Chad Morris. Coach Morris will be tasked with enabling Bo Nix to take the leap from a serviceable SEC quarterback to a consistent difference-maker in his second season on The Plains. In addition to Nix, Auburn brought in transfers and high school players to bolster depth at the position.
Today, we look at the most productive returning player, a talented newcomer and a wildcard at the quarterback position. Due to the quarterback’s massive influence and impact on offensive success, the ability of Bo Nix to elevate his play and that of his teammates will be critical for Auburn to compete for the SEC championship.
Most productive returning player – Bo Nix, 10, So.
Key 2019 stats – 2542 yards passing, 58% completion percentage, 16 TDs, 7 INTs and 313 yards rushing, 7 TDs
Bo Nix had more big moments in his true freshman campaign than many players will have in their entire career. From his last-minute game-winning touchdown pass in the season opener against Oregon to the back-shoulder dime to Sal Cannella in the Iron Bowl, Nix proved he could deliver in the biggest of moments. Now, there were games between Oregon and Alabama where Nix was far from stellar, but his performance in 2019 earned him SEC Freshman of the Year honors from the conference’s coaches.
In 2020, the Auburn Tigers will lean on Nix even more heavily as the offense lost four starting offensive lineman and the team’s leading rusher along with the defense having four players drafted by the NFL. Having already played one season against the toughest competition that doesn’t kick off on Sundays, the Auburn quarterback must draw from that experience to navigate the upcoming unprecedented 10-game conference-only schedule successfully.
For Nix to move from SEC Freshman of the Year to SEC Player of the Year, he must find ways to complete a higher percentage of his passes, connect more frequently on deep passing attempts, and resolve to stay in the pocket longer before attempting to escape pressure. Expect Nix to improve in those areas and more simply from the experience of last year and the benefit of another year’s worth of working on his game. If Bo Nix can be a little more consistent with his throws and Chad Morris can scheme some easy completions each game, then Nix could be primed for a breakout season in 2020.
Talented newcomer – Chayil Garnett, 15, Fr.
Key 2019 stats – 2028 yards passing, 18 TDs as a junior, was only able to play in 8 games as a senior
Chayil Garnett is another member of the Tigers’ 2020 signing class that enrolled at Auburn in January. Even though the semester was cut short and there was no spring practice, the fact that Garnett was able to train at Auburn for a couple of extra months will pay dividends down the road. Another reason it was beneficial for Chayil to enroll early is that he missed several games of his senior season in high school due to injury. So, the ability to get more football-specific workouts and training from college coaches could only benefit his development.
Since Bo Nix is the returning starter and there are a couple of other older players in the quarterback position group, Garnett is not expected to be a major contributor this season. However, this is a great opportunity for Chayil to learn from accomplished coaches like Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris and to study the habits of experienced players like Bo Nix. If Garnett can do that this season, he will have a strong foundation built for when his number is called in the future.
Wildcard – Grant Loy, 14, Sr.
Key 2019 stats – 1137 passing yards, 6 TDs and 427 rushing yards, 4 TDs
Grant Loy is a graduate transfer from Bowling Green. Loy was the starter for the Falcons in 2019 and upon earning his undergraduate degree, took the opportunity to play quarterback at Auburn. Loy is a big, athletic player who served as a dual-threat quarterback in the MAC last season.
At Auburn, Loy is expected to be the back up to Bo Nix. Due to his size, it is at least possible that there could be some specific packages game-planned for Loy. Even if that is not the case, it is important for Loy to stay focused on learning the new offense and improving his skill set because of potential injury and the uncertainty of COVID-19 this season.
For other Auburn positional breakdowns:
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw