Nixon Sees Big Things for OL and Gillislee

One player that has definitely been through the highs and the lows of Florida football is senior offensive tackle Xavier Nixon. The Fayetteville (NC) native started off strong in 2009 when the Gators went 13-1 and he finished with a freshman All-American season. Since then the Gators have struggled and he has struggled with his health and play on the field. That should change in 2012.

Xavier Nixon is a team first guy and sees the opportunity for his senior season as one that will put things back on track. He likes the focus of this Gator team and offense in particular. He is expecting big things from an offensive line that took a lot of heat a year ago for not playing well.

"The sky is the limit," he said of he and his line mates. "We can be as good as we want to be. We just have to continue to work hard as we can, watch film, and getting our bodies right."

Florida head coach Will Muschamp called the 2011 Florida team soft and was generally caustic in his talks about the squad during the offseason. Nixon understood the point from the head coach and knew well enough he was right from their record last season.

"A loss was pretty much motivation enough, but anything the coach has to say we don't take it negatively," he said. "We take it as a positive and know he just wants the team to get better."

One of the changes in the program has been the introduction of a new strength and conditioning coordinator. Jeff Dillman has taken a new approach to the team and has been busy trying to strengthen and toughen them up. This includes a sizable change in Nixon who will start the season more than 20 pounds of muscle and strength over the start of last season.

"We have just become a lot more powerful and more explosive athletes," Nixon says of Dillman's addition.

One more change for Florida is the team's presence on social networks like Twitter. Florida has never been outlandish, but the agreement with the coaching staff is that they can keep posting on the social networks, but they have to stay away from anything team related.

"We had a couple of conversations about that and we are just going to come to work," Nixon said. "We are done talking, that era is over with. Come September, we are going to show what the Gators can do."

There is a nice three tackle rotation now with Nixon, junior Matt Patchan, and sophomore Chaz Green. All three have experience in big time football and will play a lot this season. Green thinks a lot of the older Nixon who has kind of taken him under his wing.

"X is like a big brother to me," Green said of Nixon. "He trained and taught me a lot. He is always helping me and we are good friends. We are close and I respect him."

One thing the guys above all think is that the running game will be dramatically improved this year, especially between the tackles. Leading that charge will be senior Mike Gillislee who came in the same year as Nixon.

Mike Gillislee, ever since he got here, I have seen him work out and practice," Nixon said of his teammate. "His work ethic is amazing every day. He just comes to practice with such drive. It gives me a lot of motivation. I told him when he got here he was going to have a chance.

"He has stayed the course since he's been here. He has never been a downer because of minutes and snaps. I think he is going to have a great year.

Unlike Nixon who was thrown to the wolves as a freshman, Gillislee was kind of always waiting in the wings. Playing little and always down the depth chart. Nixon says the running back has always worked hard, he is just now getting the opportunity.

"I see the same Mike Gillislee," he said. He's just going to get his chance."

Fightin Gators Top Stories