Former Auburn QB in familiar territory on other side of country

AP photo by Butch Dill / Bo Nix, shown during his time representing Auburn at the SEC's football media days event in 2021, is now at Oregon and in another competition to be the starting quarterback for a Power Five program.

EUGENE, Ore. - Bo Nix has seen this all before.

A three-year starter at Auburn, he transferred to Oregon in the offseason and now finds himself competing with younger teammates Jay Butterfield and Ty Thompson for the Ducks' starting quarterback spot.

A year ago, Nix was up against LSU transfer T.J. Finley during Auburn's camp. He won the job but was replaced by Finley in mid-November after breaking his ankle.

Nix said it's been the same every preseason 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 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 injury ended his 2021 season, during which he threw for 2,294 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Known for his mobility, he also ran for four touchdowns. But playing under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin, the Tigers struggled to a 6-7 finish for their first season below .500 since 2012.

In going from the Southeastern Conference to the Pac-12, Nix joined a team that is going through its own transition: The Ducks are embarking on their first season under Dan Lanning, the defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs' national championship run last season.

Oregon will hold its first practice Friday, starting the march toward a season-opening matchup with the Bulldogs in the Sept. 3 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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 the SEC's freshman of the year honoree.

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 the same experience."

Thompson, his main competition, played in three games while redshirting in his first college season last year. He passed for 87 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. However, Oregon players said 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. 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 Butterfield and Thompson.

"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."

Finley arrested

Finley was arrested Thursday after turning himself in on a misdemeanor warrant for attempting to elude a police officer.

Auburn assistant police chief Clarence Stewart said in a release that Finley also received traffic citations and was booked at the Lee County Jail on a $3,000 bond. The 20-year-old quarterback was later released.

Harsin said Finley will practice with the team when preseason camp opens Friday.

"We're aware of what's going on," the Tigers coach said.

Police twice attempted to stop a male who was operating a motorcycle without a helmet in the same area on July 26, Stewart said in the release. The man, identified by police as Finley, rode away "and committed several other traffic offenses in the process," Stewart said.

"Officers terminated the pursuit on both occasions as a matter of safety," he said.

Finley is in a crowded competition for the starting job. Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford are also up for the job, and freshman Holden Geriner enrolled early and went through spring practices.