Nixon Looks to Build on Career Season

In 2008 Mike Nixon led the Sun Devils in tackles with 90 stops, which was equivalent to the total numbers of tackles he had in his previous two years. Up until his junior year the LB never recorded an interception and last year he collected a quintet of them. It may be hard for Nixon to follow up his own act this season, but as a senior he certainly wants to leave a strong lasting impression.

"It's great to be back on the field," said Mike Nixon of spring practice. "We've had a sour taste in our mouth (after a 5-7 season) all winter and spring is the first step of really doing something to change it."

The 6-3 234 linebacker stated that his lost five pounds in the off-season. "This will allow me to run a little better," Nixon commented, "and (defensive coordinator) coach Bray loves speed. You can never have enough speed."

Nixon, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Phoenix Sunnyslope high school, joked that he isn't "quite as light as my baseball weight…I just want to move a little better than I did the last couple of years."

Baseball is never too far from Nixon's thoughts, and the fact that his former team conducted their first ever spring training here in the valley was especially pleasing to the one time Dodger catcher.

"It was great to go out there to Glendale," he said, "having dinner with some of my former teammates. I was able to see them during the regular season, especially the minor league guys, and this nice to get see him here in the spring too.

"The Glendale facility is nicer than Vero Beach (the old Florida Dodgers' facility)."

Even the semi-casual Sun Devil fan can't help but notice the increased depth at linebacker, and Nixon knows that the quality of this unit should only improve when the fall newcomers join the ranks.

"We're going to be nine-deep in the fall," Nixon remarked. "We are going to have a lot of guys that are really able to contribute and play. It will add a whole different aspect to our defense. We'll be able to rest a little more during games because we'll have a good rotation going.

"If we're fresher we should be able to play better as a unit."

Even during a disappointing 5-7 season, the Arizona State defense did at times show a lot of promise and the linebacker corps was at the forefront of that display. It's a unit that was impressive despite showing more often than not base formations with very little blitzing.

"We showed that we have good fundamentals," Nixon stated. "But now that we're more athletic and faster we should be able to blitz more than we did.

"If you look at a game by game basis, we played some great games as a defense but obviously had some games where we didn't play well and got into 14-0 holes early. That put our offense with their back up against the wall. This year we need to get leads and put the pressure on the other team."

Nixon is slotted at the starting WILL (weak-side) linebacker, but in recent practices he has vacated that spot to seldom used Sophomore Oliver Aaron, and fellow sophomore Brandon Magee, so the tandem can showcase their skills in that role. The ever versatile Nixon was playing at the SAM (strong-side) as a result and in general doesn't mind wearing the different hats at linebacker.

"If those guys can play well then coach Bray can use me as a swing man," Nixon explained. "Last year I only played at WILL out of necessity and couldn't give guys a break at SAM just because of the depth."

Nixon started 11 games in 2008, after starting in just eight games total as a freshman and a sophomore. The linebacker acknowledged that his increased playing time was one of the main contributors to achieving the feats he had last year.

"If you're out there playing whole games" Nixon stated, "you will be in a position to make a lot of plays. Playing more means that you're also more comfortable which helps you be more consistent in executing. If you play with confidence coach Bray will put you in a position to succeed.

"But you never prefect in this game and my goal is to continue and improve every game."

It's obviously a little too early for Nixon to start feeling reflective about the upcoming campaign, which will be his last as a member of the maroon and gold. "It's not nostalgic yet because the last few things I'm remembering are mat drills and conditioning and those are things I won't miss," Nixon said laughing. "But once the season starts I'm sure it will kick in."

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