Humble Nixon Grinding Out the Spring

John Brantley can take solace in knowing his blind side is taken care of for the rest of his Gator career. It will all be dependent on the health of his left tackle Xavier Nixon, but if healthy Nixon should start contending for post season honors as a sophomore. Nixon stepped up big at the end of last season as a true freshman and is still learning as he pushes his way through a tough spring.

Xavier Nixon earned his first start against South Carolina this past season. The true freshman from Fayetteville (NC) had to start on the road protecting Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow who earlier in the year received a concussion during a football game. No pressure, right?

Nixon handled that pressure and is now just working through the tough haul of spring practice trying to be one of very few offensive lineman that hasn't been limited to injury so far.

"The grind every day and really no days off," Nixon answered when reporters asked what has been the toughest aspect of spring practice so far in 2010. "We are either on the field or in the film room.

Nixon understands there are things that he still needs to work on, even though he earned freshman all-SEC honors last season. He also is going to have to put some weight back on that he has shed this spring.

"I need to improve a lot more on my pass sets and lower my center of gravity," he said. "My goal is to be 310 when the season comes around. I think it will be hard, but you have to do what you have to do to be a great player. I will probably have to eat 2-3 more meals a day and snacks in between to get bigger.

"I lost it when I came back from our last break and spring ball started. We were running back and forth and back and forth and the weight just came off...from the mat drills, sprints in the morning, and being out here in this heat."

Everyone knows who the starting left tackle at the University of Florida is. Don't expect the humble Nixon to be braggadocios about it just because it is the most coveted position on the offensive line.

"I take pride in being a Florida Gator, coming out here and representing that Orange and Blue every day," Nixon said when asked if he was proud to be the starting left tackle for the Gators. "It's a great job and I love doing it."

Last year he learned a lot from being thrown into the fire at such a young age. The Gators earned a tough, hard fought win at South Carolina last season in Nixon's debut as the starter and from there he built on his game knowledge to be the dependable player he is today.

"The competition was intense last year coming in at the end of the year playing against all the teams we know South Carolina and Alabama," he said. "It has got me a lot tougher along with coming out here against some of the best like my teammates to get me ready to go.

"It was a situation where you just have to man up and be ready to play. You have to take the coaching, keep you mouth shut and keep going."

Nixon is getting a lot more comfortable in the offense as time goes by. It's a natural transformation and one that came a little quicker for him than most offensive linemen that usually don't see the field until their third year in college. He and the rest of the young guys on the line are working to become a strong unit from top to bottom.

"I feel like I am starting to learn the game a lot more and becoming a better player," he said. "Everyone is prepared. We spend a lot of time together in the film room and on the field together. It's a tight knit group. I trust all my offensive line companions. Whoever is in, I know is going to do a good job.

As for what to expect this season from the Florida offense. Head coach Urban Meyer isn't sure, and Nixon doesn't really care what they do as long as it works.

"I don't know (what our identity will be), I am just out here working hard doing what I'm told to do," he said. "Whatever comes out at the end, that is what it will be. We will be Florida Gators at the end of the day."

"(Running the ball and pounding the other team) would be fun, but we have trust in (John Brantley) to sit back there and throw it. So, whatever happens ...happens."

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