SAN ANTONIO – Florida's coaching staff spent an inordinate amount of time trying to secure a commitment from Xavier Nixon and the efforts paid off Saturday when the Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt offensive lineman picked the Gators instead of Miami or LSU.
Position coach Steve Addazio, named the new offensive coordinator after Dan Mullen took the Mississippi State job, was the lead recruiter and he did everything in his power to land Nixon - from visiting his school, to visiting his mother at work to talking with Nixon's father in Afghanistan while he was doing an overseas tour. Nixon's mom and dad are active duty in the Army.
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"I like coach Urban Meyer," Nixon said this fall. "I believe he is shooting me straight there. I can compete for SEC and NCAA titles there and play in major bowl games."
The persistence shown by Florida's staff was worth it because Nixon, rated as the third-best offensive tackle nationally, the No. 3 player in the North Carolina top 30 of 2009 and the No. 40 recruit in the Rivals100, was arguably the best and most consistent lineman on the East squad this week at U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice.
Nixon, a 6-foot-6, 263-pound recruit, made two visits to Gainesville this fall and as his recruitment took shape it was clear Florida had a serious shot at landing him.
All this week, Nixon did a good job of not letting the cat out of the bag but the consensus opinion was that the Gators were out in front for his services. When asked earlier this week if there was a frontrunner Nixon said all three schools still have a chance and gave no indication he was ready to commit to Florida.
But now that the decision has been made, Nixon finds himself in a situation where he can go to college and be in the conversation for early playing time. Meyer has a track record of putting the best people on the field regardless of their class.
Nixon is physically mature enough to compete for playing time. The only offensive tackles rated higher are Richmond (Va.) Meadowbrook's Morgan Moses and Alabama commit D.J. Fluker. Each is a five-star prospect. Florida pledge Nick Alajajian is fourth on the list. All four players are here in the Army game.
"He's really a can't-miss type of kid," Jack Britt coach Richard Bailey said. "There are a lot of kids out there that you can say, 'Boy, if he just works hard or if he stays out of trouble, he has a chance to be a good player.'
"You don't have to say that about Xavier. You know he's going to work hard. You know he's going to do the right thing. You take that and combine it with a whole lot of God-given talent and you know you've got somebody who can't miss. Someone like Xavier is as sure a bet as you can get coming out of high school."