Everything is cool now with Bo Nix. The taunts, the critics, the failures -- all buried in some sort of dark past. The issue being the entire nation witnessed that dark past in the fishbowl that is the SEC.
"Last year, I was just kind of over it. Each week it was something else," Oregon's quarterback told CBS Sports this week. "There was, quite frankly, nothing I could do about it. I just remember kind of being miserable. It wasn't fun anymore."
Last year was Nix's third at Auburn. By the end, part of his legacy was being some sort of college football platitude. There was Good Bo and Bad Bo. You never knew what you were getting. In three years, Nix had three different coaches calling plays. There was the usual Auburn maelstrom. Mostly, there was too much losing.
"I'll say this: intense," said Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham when asked to describe that Auburn culture.
The 32-year-old Dillingham is not only Nix's fourth play-caller in four years, he spent the 2019 season as Auburn's offensive coordinator. That was Nix's freshman year. That's also the main reason they reunited this season. Familiarity has bred two surprises: No. 8 Oregon is in the College Football Playoff hunt, and Nix is elbowing his way into the periphery of the Heisman Trophy conversation.
"Auburn is always intense," Dillingham added. "It's intense when you're winning because, when you're winning at a high level, it's the year you need to win a natty. It's intense when you're losing because you shouldn't be losing. It's intense 24/7."
That's as concise and accurate a description of everything Auburn football as exists. It's also a proper backdrop for The Bo Nix Reinvention Project. In case you missed it, the former Tigers whipping boy is coming off what is likely the best game of his career.
For the second time this season, Nix threw five touchdown passes. This time against then-No. 9 UCLA in what was the Pac-12 game of the year to this point. The Ducks won comfortably, positioning themselves as the Pac-12 frontrunner. Nix might have lit the fuse on the whole thing.
He won't say that, but what we're witnessing is what was always simmering inside 247Sports' No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019, the son of Auburn legacy Patrick Nix. This time, all that promise might stick.
Oregon is intense, too, just in a different way. Its modern identity was forged out of Chip Kelly's Win-The-Day tempo. Mario Cristobal, prior to departing for Miami, established SEC-level physicality. It was up to new coach Dan Lanning, his offensive coordinator and his quarterback to slap their own identity on a program with its fourth head coach since 2016.
For Nix, he is more than a transplant. There is a refreshing freedom to suddenly being able to change any play. He is a husband (married in July). There is serendipity to a career that started with a win against Oregon (2019 season opener) but ended at Auburn last November with a broken leg.
It's a career that is restarting -- not exactly out of the public eye but -- out of the way in the Pacific Northwest. Seven games in, and especially after Saturday, anything seems possible.
"It helps me know I'm in control of the situation," Nix said.
Oregon's current six-game winning streak is just now beginning to overshadow the 46-point, season-opening thrashing the Ducks took at the hands of reigning national champion Georgia. For those steeped in Nix lore, the story was familiar. The quarterback threw two crippling interceptions and lost to the Bulldogs for the fourth time in fourth career meetings.
In the aftermath of rout, Dillingham told his players, "How and why we failed had nothing to do with Georgia and everything to do with us."
In the last six games, only one other quarterback in the country has been more accurate than Nix. Of his 19 career interceptions, only one has come since the Georgia loss. Since that day, the new Nix is both confident and emboldened.
"Now, if we played them again tomorrow, the game would be completely different, and everybody knows that," Nix said of the Dawgs.
Wait, that requires a follow up. Do you believe Oregon would beat Georgia today?
"I do," the senior said. "From the first game of the season, a lot of teams get so much better."
In one sense, what do you expect Nix to say? Being that leader, he has to project confidence. But at another time, in the depths of being Bad Bo, that statement never would have been uttered.
Everything indeed is cool with Bo Chapman Nix.
"Yelling at Bo doesn't serve any purpose because he has already yelled at himself," Dillingham said. "He wants to know why. If something doesn't go right, don't yell at him. He's already pissed. Why didn't it go right?"
This transfer-coach, player-coordinator, dude-dude partnership is a key reason Oregon has continued the momentum started under Cristobal. It's safe to say Nix probably wouldn't be at Oregon if he hadn't played under Dillingham. The way the offensive boss described it: He did everything but stand on the table urging Lanning to take Nix the moment the signal caller entered the portal.
"We gotta do everything we can to get this guy," Dillingham recalled saying.
In 2019, Gus Malzahn was calling plays even though Dillingham had Auburn's OC title. That happens in various programs. It's not ideal for young OCs like Dillingham straining at the leash. On Saturdays, he would be in the coach's booth calling out sets the defense was in, suggesting where to attack the opposition.
To say it wasn't optimal, though, wouldn't be fair. Nix was the SEC Freshman of the Year. Auburn beat Alabama and won nine games in 2019.
"I didn't really run the show," Dillingham said of his one and only season on The Plains. "That was a Gus show. Bo always knew the philosophy I wanted to have, the control I wanted to give the quarterback."
That cuts as close to Oregon's turnaround as anything. Lanning's defensive chops are established. That's why he has the job after overseeing one of the greatest defenses in recent history last year at Georgia.
The relationship with Dillingham was forged when the two were on Mike Norvell's staff at Memphis from 2016-17. The start in Eugene has been impressive.
That play-changing freedom is palpable. Coming into this season, Nix had eight career multi-touchdown games. This season, he already has five. Nix is one of only five quarterbacks to throw five touchdowns multiple times this season. Only four other quarterbacks are more accurate than Nix (71.5%). With his legs, he is fifth nationally in yards per carry.
Perhaps most telling are the explosive plays. Oregon is tied for first in the Pac-12 in gains of 50+ yards. It is tied for second in passing plays of at least 40 yards.
UCLA was blitzkrieged Saturday. Eight of Nix's 22 completions went for at least 17 yards. And if you want to go there, Oregon also has the most yards gained this season on Georgia (313).
"I've been playing in what I call 'supposed to' football," Nix said of his past. "'The ball is supposed to go here. If it does that, you're in good shape.' The worst thing an offensive coordinator wants is … 'OK, I'm calling this play, and I have no idea where this ball is about to go.'"
Then there is the secret sauce that has liberated Nix.
"Every once in a while, on fourth-and-8, [Dillingham] understands. 'All right, Bo. Make a play if it's not there,'" Nix said.
Not surprisingly, Oregon is third nationally in fourth-down conversions (12 of 13, 92.3%).
You can understand why Dillingham's name has come up -- at least in the periphery -- for the Arizona State and Auburn openings. He is a Phoenix native who attended ASU. His football career ended because of a torn ACL in high school. To supplement his income during college, Dillingham coached just about every youth sport for the City of Scottsdale. That included middle school track, football, basketball, even dodgeball.
"We used the five Ds," said Dillingham, jokingly pulling from a training method utilized in the 2004 movie starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. "That was sort of our practice plan. I got the wrenches out and everything. Kids were tougher 11 years ago. Wrenches were still allowed."
The coach smirked, letting the levity sink in. Might as well admit, "Duck, dodge, dip, dive and dodge" applies to football, too.
They are a pair -- the quarterback and his coordinator -- both looking for something better.
"You're already 5-9, white and unathletic," Dillingham told himself after blowing out his knee. "You may as well just progress your career to another avenue."
Dillingham coached seven years at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the staff consisted of current Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler, Denver Broncos assistant GM Darren Mougey and Idaho State coach Charlie Ragle. Former Michigan All-American and three-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Taylor Lewan passed through Chaparral during that time.
Nine years later, the stage is bigger, as is the importance of communication. Nix and his coordinator both profess to know what the other is thinking.
"I think it's great for him just to be a 21-year-old kid in college [when] everybody thinks you suck and really having no pressure," Dillingham said of Nix. "Come in and play football. Nothing else. No games. No drama. Football. It was rejuvenizing for him."
Every morning, Nix kisses his wife, leaves their Eugene townhome and heads out to another football adventure. When asked if the last four years have been a test of his deep faith or example, Nix ponders a second before responding, "Both."
"Up until college, life was easy," he mused. "Mom and pop, playing high school football. I never went through real-life stuff. … But at the end of the day, when it came down it, I understood football was going to come and go. It wasn't the end of the world completely. That's why I was able to get out of [the bad times], I believe.
"I knew the ending wasn't just football."