"It is huge getting Jordan back, not only from a playing standpoint, but from a leadership and work ethic standpoint," said Nix. "Jordan's influence in my room is contagious. The other players see his determination and intensity and they follow suit."
Nix acknowledged Wilkins went through a common awakening when something you love is taken away from you.
"Football seems more important to him now after what he went through last season," Nix continued. "One, it's his senior year. Two, he missed it more than he thought he would last year, which made him realize how important football is to him.
"He has had a tremendous offseason and is refocused. He is taking the bull by the horns. He is humble and is putting everything on the line. Jordan is so driven to become an All-SEC type player by his academics, the way he carries himself, the way he attacks the weight room, his classroom habits when we chalk talk, the way he runs. He is a changed individual and is my leader by far."
Nix is also excited about getting Eric Swinney back, sort of, after an ACL injury in the first game cut his season short.
"Eric can do some individual drills, he is cutting and he is progressing rapidly. He will learn the offense, but we can't let him have any contact. He's not ready for that, but he should be full go by June or July and be ready for August practice," Nix stated. "It's been promising to see him making his comeback. We will need him next season and will use him a lot."
Senior Eugene Brazley, who had some productive moments last season when given an opportunity, will add a different dimension to the backfield in '17.
"Eugene will give us more quickness in the backfield and will give us that look. He graduated in December and can concentrate more on football now," Derrick added.
And then there is D'Vaughn "Blue" Pennamon and D.K. Buford.
"I am really excited to see what D'Vaughn can do. He is the biggest, most physical guy we have and I'm anxious to see him take another step. He showed flashes last year, but I think he can develop into a fine big back," noted Nix."He is completely healthy now after messing his hamstring up last season just when he was starting to make some strides.
"D.K. looks terrific body-wise. He had a really good offseason and I;m anxious to see if he can move up the ladder and help us next season.I think we can have a productive year in the run game with these guys and with our plans for the run game."
Naturally, the spring goal is to learn the new offense, but Nix said they are doing "OK" right now.
"I want to see them react when the bullets start flying, but so far, they are grasping things OK," he closed. "There are a lot of similarities to this offense with what we did before. The difference for a big part of it is terminology, so we can pick it up quickly, I believe."