Bo Nix settles into his new team, new QB competition

Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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EUGENE, Ore. — Bo Nix has seen this all before.

A three-year starter at Auburn, Nix transferred to Oregon in the offseason and now finds himself in a competition at quarterback with young prospects Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield.

Nix competed with LSU transfer T.J. Finley at Auburn during fall camp last year. He won the job, but was replaced by Finley in mid-November when be broke his ankle.

Nix said it’s been the same every fall camp since he was a freshman: He pours himself into securing the job.

“I wanted that really bad obviously,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and so I put my life to it, and that’s just what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, all this these competitions. I mean, you really do have to put your life to it and everything’s got to be about it.”

The former five-star recruit started the first 34 games of his career at Auburn before the season-ending ankle injury. Last season threw for 2,294 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Known for his mobility, he also ran for four touchdowns. But the Tigers, under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin, struggled somewhat and finished 6-7 for their first season below .500 since 2012.

Nix joins a team that is going through its own transition: The Ducks are embarking on their first season under Dan Lanning, former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Georgia.

Nix said that even in SEC country Oregon is a well-known and respected team, which is why he settled on the Ducks.

“The brand of Oregon, the `O’ itself signifies so much in college football, year in and year out, they have a chance to be in the top four in the country,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to be able to play and have a chance to play in the playoff. And I know that with my skills I could contribute.”

The move also reunites him with new Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who was Auburn’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when Nix was a freshman. That year Nix won SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

Nix, the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, is more comfortable in Eugene since getting married in the offseason. At 22, he’s among the oldest players on the team.

“Especially now being here, I feel like the oldest guy. Even though it’s not necessarily my age. People kind of look at me because I’m already married, I’ve been through a lot, they kind of assume that I’m just a lot older,” Nix said. “Which is a good thing, because we have a lot of younger guys that haven’t had same experience.”

Thompson, his main competition, played in three games last season as a true freshman while redshirting. He passed for 87 total yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

But players say Butterfield, who appeared in one game last season, is in the mix, too.

“We’re going to compete at quarterback like we do at every position,” Lanning said. “I’m really excited that we have quarterbacks that can play winning football at the University of Oregon,” Lanning said. “If I felt like it gave us a competitive advantage to tell you, I would. I don’t.”

While Nix is the presumed front-runner in the competition because of his experience, he also serves as a mentor to Thompson and Butterfield.

“Bo is a natural born leader. He’s like a coach on the field sometimes. He’s obviously older, he’s going into his fourth year in college and he’s been-there, done-that in the SEC,” Thompson said. “So he knows his way around the field and he just does a really good job vocalizing stuff like that. And he’s a really good athlete, we all know that.”

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.