Starting Bo Nix is the ultimate 'New Gus' move, and I'm here for it
The Bo Show is underway on The Plains.
Context is needed for a sentence like that in 2019 to clarify that no, that’s not a Bo Jackson reference. Then again, Auburn fans know exactly what “The Bo Show” means after the offseason that’s been. That is, a hotly contested quarterback battle that will determine Gus Malzahn’s future.
Auburn announced Tuesday that true freshman Bo Nix is the team’s starting quarterback in 2019.
The 5-star freshman will have a chance to take over Malzahn’s offense in his first season regaining play-calling duties. And as everyone knows, that means Nix’s debut will be against No. 11 Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. It’ll mark the first time a true freshman starts Auburn’s season opener since 1946.
A new quarterback, a new year and a new coach? Yeah, those all seem fair.
If 2019 is Malzahn’s last year at Auburn, nobody will accuse him of being afraid to take risks.
“New Gus” began when after taking back play-calling duties following the departure of Chip Lindsey, he lit up Purdue like a Christmas tree in the Music City Bowl. We saw New Gus when at the conclusion of Auburn’s spring practice when he announced that the quarterback battle was down to redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and Nix. It didn’t matter to Malzahn that Malik Willis had the most experience in the system.
New Gus cares not about age or conventional thinking. New Gus is decisive, aggressive and bold. Even his players see that.
“He’s been in the weight room when we down there for player run practices,” senior defensive end Marlon Davidson said about his coach last week. “He’s doing curls and stuff and I’m like, ‘Man? Am I seeing this?’ He’s just different, he’s a different person now. Like coach Malzahn in 2016 to 2019 is totally different.”
So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Malzahn didn’t do what many expected. Many (myself included), thought Malzahn would start Gatewood in the opener and bring in Nix to run a series here and there. Malzahn could have not announced a starter publicly and played it coy until we saw his plan unfold in Dallas.
Instead, Auburn came out and announced Nix as the guy.
New Gus is putting his faith in someone who has clearly won him and the Auburn locker room over. Nix might not be a finished quarterback but then again, this is 2019, when true freshmen can play the position at the highest level.
Perhaps Malzahn got sick to his stomach watching true freshman Jake Fromm torch Auburn in the SEC Championship, or perhaps he shook his head in disbelief when true freshman Tua Tagovailoa stepped in and delivered an all-time comeback performance to lead Alabama to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship. Maybe Malzahn had a smirk on his face as he watched true freshman Trevor Lawrence shred Alabama like nobody has before.
New Gus is planning on watching Nix carve up SEC defenses and cackle with every big-time play he makes.
(Old Gus chuckles. New Gus cackles.)
I’d like to think that the following sequence would unfold with New Gus following Tuesday’s announcement:
New Gus: “Bo is our quarterback. Any questions?”
Reporter: “Are you worried that Gatewood could transfer?”
New Gus: “Worried? If Bo struggles — he won’t — I’m toast here anyway. Why would I worry about quarterback depth when all my eggs are in his basket?”
Reporter: “Well, aren’t you worried about…”
New Gus: “Stop using that word. New Gus doesn’t swear and ‘worry’ is officially a curse word.”
Reporter: “So you’re essentially going with the Hakuna Matata approach?”
New Gus: “Sure, but I’m definitely more of a ‘Scar’ than a ‘Pumbaa.'”
And let’s be honest, New Gus is certainly aware of the fact that his buyout is north of $26 million if he’s fired before Dec. 31. That’s all the more reason to have this all-in approach.
You get the sense that Malzahn is finally letting go. Like, he’s not getting caught up in what hot seat he’s on or if he can win enough games. If he gets fired, oh well. He did things the way he felt they needed to be done. And if it works, well, he’ll be praised nationally … and probably given another raise.
New Gus is more transparent than ever. In Auburn’s video series “The Ride,” we saw Malzahn have quite the admission to his team.
“I’m going to start sharing my heart. You are going to know me better than you have known me before,” Malzahn said. “I’m going to put everything out there. That’s what you deserve.”
That clip was put in between New Gus crushing leg day in the Auburn gym. Of course.
If I’m an Auburn fan, I’m not just fired up about this season because a young, exciting quarterback is taking over. Lord knows we’ve seen that with Jarrett Stidham and Jeremy Johnson, and neither situation ended as well as fans hoped.
If I’m an Auburn fan, I’m fired up because the young, exciting quarterback is being led by someone who seems to have more confidence and clarity than ever. If there’s any thought that Nix will be timid as a true freshman starting in the SEC — all signs point to the Auburn legacy having the mental makeup to handle that like a fifth-year senior — Auburn fans can at least know that the guy in his ear, New Gus, won’t be afraid of anything.
I don’t know that Nix and New Gus are going to lead Auburn to one of those improbable seasons that’ll stun the college football world. Shoot, New Gus still has to face 6 of the top 12 teams in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.
But I do believe that stubborn, Old Gus would’ve been climbing up a steep hill in 2019. New Gus is taking that hill head on, and probably knocking out some bicep curls while he does it.
The Bo Show arrived earlier than many expected thanks to New Gus. As for the arrival of New Gus?
Well, it’s about time he showed up.
Bo Nix cover photo by Adam Gold Broach