When asked last week what he looks for in a running back, Washington coach Kalen DeBoer emphasized an attribute:
“We use the running back a lot in the pass game,” DeBoer explained. “It isn’t like we’re just handing off inside zone to this guy. These guys are going to catch a lot of balls.”
And, from a skill set standpoint, Will Nixon fits the bill.
Nixon, a former wide receiver at Nebraska, announced a transfer to UW on Wednesday morning. He’s expected to flex between the wide receiver and running-back positions, though he’ll likely be listed as the latter. Nixon has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
The redshirt freshman is the Huskies’ third commit and second transfer this week, joining Virginia running-back transfer Wayne Taulapapa and California prep wide receiver Keith Reynolds.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Waco, Texas, native appeared in three games and caught one pass for 5 yards as a second-year freshman at Nebraska last fall. He missed the 2020 season with an injury.
Nixon was originally ranked as a three-star recruit and the No. 113 wide receiver in the 2020 class by 247Sports. He chose the Huskers over offers from Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Purdue, Baylor, Duke, Kansas State, Maryland, Penn State, Virginia Tech and more.
It’s worth noting that the Boilermakers’ co-offensive coordinator and wide-receivers coach at the time, JaMarcus Shephard, is currently UW’s associate head coach and wide-receivers coach.
As a senior standout at Midway High School in 2019, Nixon rushed for 1,837 yards and added 250 receiving yards, with 29 total touchdowns.
In a written evaluation in 2019, 247Sports recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks described Nixon as a “versatile playmaker with ample experience at receiver and running back who could foster creativity in personnel packaging. Shows good initial burst. Displays encouraging balance and body control. Runs with good pad level. Strong with the ball in his hands and can fight through arm tackles. Adequate long speed to hit the long ball but can improve top end, as well as overall explosion.”
Nixon’s father, Jeff Nixon, is the current running-backs coach for the Carolina Panthers and former co-offensive coordinator at Baylor.
At UW, Nixon could be used similarly to wide receiver Giles Jackson, who has the athletic flexibility to take a handoff or flex outside. Washington’s wide receivers room also features the likes of Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, Taj Davis, Lonyatta Alexander Jr. and more.
The running-back position, meanwhile, appears to be in flux — with transfers Taulapapa and Aaron Dumas joining the program this offseason and others likely on their way out. Scholarship running backs Richard Newton, Cameron Davis and Emeka Megwa are all out for the spring with injuries, while redshirt freshman Caleb Berry has also yet to practice after testing positive for COVID-19.
For Nixon, that personnel uncertainty provides an opportunity.
Time will tell whether Nixon takes it.