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Nix likes future of linebacker corps

First-year coach anxious to get back on field

June 23, 2012 · Athletic Communications
Tyrone Nix, Middle Tennessee’s new Co-Defensive Coordinator and linebackers coach, joined the Blue Raider football staff at the start of the spring semester, and brings a wealth of experience and awards to the defensive side of the ball. As a player at Southern Miss from 1990 to 1993, Nix was a standout linebacker and lettered all four years. He was team captain in 1993. Coaching stops include Southern Miss (ten years), South Carolina (four years) and Ole Miss (four years). At each school, Nix’s defenses were nationally ranked, and he was nominated as National Assistant Coach of the Year at least once at each school. He was a national finalist at Ole Miss, and was promoted to Assistant Head Coach in January of 2010. Nix recently talked with GoBlueRaiders.com about his impressions and thoughts as preseason camp inches closer:

GBR.com: You have been highly successful everywhere you have coached, but you have your work cut out for you at MT as only one starting linebacker returns, and you have no seniors to provide experience and leadership.“I am excited. That means we have a lot of youth, which means the future is bright, and it’s an opportunity for some guys to play to their expectations. The lack of experience concerns me somewhat in our starters, but everything else is a positive. It means there is no guaranteed positions; its open competition. Guys have to work for the right to play, and that’s the biggest challenge out there.”

GBR.com: When you got here, how did you evaluate your personnel?“Like any player, you have to prove yourself, and last year things may not have gone like you wanted them to go, but it’s an opportunity for every player to prove that he can play, or he can’t play, and not worry about mistakes made in the past. From a coaching standpoint, everywhere you go, you take what you have learned to the next stop, and you hope you can improve the next group even more from you experiences.

“These kids have been great. I didn’t want to know about their past, I just concerned myself with what was going on at the moment. What is their attitude like? What is their work ethic like? If we have those things in place, we feel like we can do some special things. I tell our kids that its perception vs. reality. The perception is that we are not very good, we are not very experienced, and nobody gives us a chance. Reality is going to show, when we attack the field this fall, whether the naysayers are really right, or are we going to prove them wrong. They are looking forward to the challenge.”

GBR.com: Linebacker is a tough position to coach because of all the different areas that you have to cover, as well as special skills required to get the job done. Talk about that.“Linebacker requires a special set of skills, and everybody can’t play the position. I was fortunate that I learned it at an early age in my collegiate career, and had some form of success. These days and times you have to be a better athlete, you have to be smarter; you have to be faster and stronger. It’s tough. I think it may be the toughest position on the field. It demands a lot, and the guys that can play the position have some special characteristics about themselves. We have some guys that have untapped potential here. Rod Blunt may be the most vicious linebacker that I have coached in my coaching career, and I think he has a chance to be special. More of these guys will show their personality and toughness as we get further along. Rod is our only returning starter, but Christian Henry played a lot, Corey Carmichael played a lot, but Rod may be the only one that started and played the whole game, and he plays like it. I like that, and I hope the rest of the guys pick up and play to his level.”

GBR.com: At the end of spring practice, what were you most impressed with? And what areas need the most work?“Going into spring practice, I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, I had watched film, and what I saw on film weren’t things that would make you happy or excited as a coach. But the best thing about it was I felt like they could be corrected. “Coming out of spring, I felt that we made tremendous improvement every day we were out there. The spring game was probably our worst day of all, and even then, I felt like if we can improve as much during the summer camp as we did in the spring, we have a chance to be competitive. I went into the spring concerned and unsure, and came out excited and happy that we have a chance to do something special.”

GBR.com: The spread offense has changed the face of defensive football. What kind of pressure does that put on a defense as a whole and linebackers in particular?“It makes you play with a different type of linebacker. To me, the good thing about it is that we play the spread offense here, the Sun Belt is more of a spread league, and our offense may be one of the best ones out there, so we got hands-on experience and hands-on reps every week defending it. That’s an advantage for us. “A linebacker has to be different. When I played the position (at Southern Miss), there were two backs in the backfield all the time, and a tight end in the game, and sometimes two. It was more of an A-gap to A-gap, downhill, smash, hit the guy type of game. Be as physical as possible. Now it requires more athletic ability, it requires guys to be better in space, and that is where the game has changed. My size right now (240 lbs) would be a D-lineman compared to years ago when I played LB at that weight. Now we have linebackers that are 205-210, but they are runners. It takes runners and hitters, and we have lot of both out there now. But most of your big guys now play up front.”

GBR.com: Where is your area of recruiting responsibility?“I don’t have a specific area. My job is to go evaluate the defensive players after we find them, and help bring them into the program.”

GBR.com: We have noticed that you are a somewhat vocal coach.“(Laughing): Now, I’ll get after it. It won’t be because I don’t have any words. But I’ll say this, I always tell the kids ‘No matter how hard I am getting on you, or the things I am saying to you, as long as I am talking to you, you have a chance. When our conversation ceases, it’s probably time for us to part ways."

GBR.com: Any final thoughts?“It has been a pleasure to work with Coach Stock again, and all of these guys on the staff. I look forward to it. I like the way the kids work, I think we have some talent here, and it’s just a matter of coming together, believing and getting some leadership. And that is what you can’t predict, who’s going to become your leaders. Every good defense that I have been a part of has had a “bell cow”, a leader. I have yet to find that person here, and that is my major concern, to find that “bell cow”, who is going to rally them up when the coach is not on the field.”

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