Nixon Making Best of Freshman Year

The Florida Gators are in the midst of defending their national championship and one of the main things they have going for them is depth. On the offensive line, that has been helped by a quintet of freshmen that the Gator staff likes as a whole. In that unit, Xavier Nixon is none that has really stood out so far. On Saturday he got his first action as a Gator and it made a real impression on him.

A year ago, Xavier Nixon was in the south end zone at Florida Field and taking in a regular season game in The Swamp. He knew then he wanted to be a Gator and being on the field Saturday brought back that memory.

"It was amazing, from the Gator walk on, all the way to the game is one of the best experiences of my life," Nixon said about game day. "I thought about it earlier in the day that the roles were reversed and now I am a player and recruits are coming to watch. I just thought it was crazy that the cycle continues and it's just great to be here."

Nixon and his four freshmen line mates are a pretty close knit group. On Saturday two others in the group, Nick Alajajian and Jon Halapio, played in the opener. The second team line played very well on Saturday and there didn't appear to be a noticeable drop when the young guys went in the game.

"We all came in together and we have been working together since the summer, so we have a little something going on," Nixon said. "I think it makes the experience a lot easier for all of us, since we can all relate being freshmen...We hang out every day. We hang out with the older guys too. The whole line is close."

Nixon signed with Florida even with the large recruiting class. He isn't afraid to compete and get after it and knows when he is ready to be on the field, he will be on the field.

"I felt like my time was going to come, just like all these other guy's time came," Nixon said.

Nixon has had a great fall camp and first game. All of that despites still suffering from a high ankle sprain that has limited his mobility a little bit and kept him in constant pain on the field. The pain is significant, but there was no way it was going to keep him from practicing and getting better.

"It's not 100% right now, I have a high ankle sprain and it takes about 4-6 weeks to heal," he said. "It's coming along good. You can't miss any practice, you have to fight through the pain

The toughest thing for him so far is knowing that if he was healthy, he could even be better.

"(The toughest thing is) just knowing I am not going 100% right now," he said. You want to go 100% but your body has to take time to heal."

With the pain it is hard to judge himself on how well he did in the game. Suffice it to say, the staff was pleased.

"I felt like I did bad, but watching the film with the coaches I did better than I thought," Nixon said. "I could have done better, but week by week, I will get better. The main goal was to fire off the ball. I had minor mistakes but that can be fixed along the way."

Nixon is actually almost done with an amazing transition. When he quit playing high school basketball in March, he weighed 245 pounds. Great for a tight end, but not exactly the weight you want to see on an offensive tackle in the SEC. When fall camp started, Nixon weighed in at 305 pounds, 60 pounds heavier than he played at in basketball season.

"It's a little harder with the running," Nixon said of the added weight. "I don't feel as fast I used to, but my body has to get adjusted to carrying that weight. After basketball season I was about 245. I got a meal plan and started eating about 5-6 times a day and the weight started coming.

"I actually feel better because I have always been a little smaller,so it was good weight."

Along with the ideal weight that Nixon transformed into, he has also been helped along with a style of play that is very similar to what he played in high school. That was another big factor in the nation's top high school offensive tackle prospect coming to Gainesville. It has allowed Nixon to speed past the other guys this preseason.

"It's the same stuff, just different names to it," he said. "We ran the spread and option...it was an easy adjustment."

A big time basketball player in high school, Xavier Nixon has great feet to go with the long arms, and strength that come naturally. His intelligence allows him to use all those tools to succeed. Look for Nixon to push the starters at tackle this year and make an already solid line, even better.


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