IOWA CITY, Iowa — Daviyon Nixon’s season is over before it begins.
The junior college defensive tackle won’t play in 2018, coach Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday. The NCAA has ruled Nixon ineligible and is requiring him to take an academic redshirt.
He won’t take a tougher hit in 2018, but Nixon must find a silver lining. This can’t become a wasted season — his future is too promising and he can’t let bad news derail his progress.
“If he did what he had to do he would have been able to play,” his father, Rodney Nixon, told Land of 10. “But now he has a whole year to mature and grow, to get accustomed to the college life.”
Rodney said he didn’t know his son was ruled out before Iowa announced it. Yet, he wasn’t surprised. The family knew it was a possibility after the NCAA allowed Daviyon, who didn’t qualify out of high school, to enroll at Iowa after one semester in junior college.
He’s trying to take the disappointing news in stride and find a way for it to benefit his son. He said he hopes Daviyon does, too.
A year at Iowa, even without 12 regular-season games, is better for his development than another year at junior college. At times, Nixon was a man among boys. The former 3-star prospect was more athletic than some junior college quarterbacks he faced, let alone offensive linemen. How much more growth can he make in that environment?
A year of practice against Big Ten-caliber offensive linemen makes the redshirt a better option for him.
“At least he gets used to the system,” Rodney said. “I can tell you right now next year he’ll probably have a starting spot. He’ll be a monster if he sticks with it.”
The hope was Nixon would become that player this season. He was an under-the-radar recruit in high school in Kenosha, Wis. His size, strength and athleticism stand out on the interior of the line. It’s why Alabama offered him in junior college.
His grades, though, kept the Crimson Tide from recruiting him in high school. He signed with Iowa but headed to Iowa Western Community College instead when the NCAA deemed him ineligible. He won an appeal to enroll at Iowa for the spring semester.
Now, he’s with the team but won’t make a tackle this season.
“It’s just something we knew was a possibility,” Ferentz said. “It’s really not a big deal.”
Yet it can’t be glossed over, either. Yes, Nixon will still play for Iowa down the road, but not having a potential instant-impact defensive lineman hurts.
Iowa doesn’t have enough, not at defensive tackle. Matt Nelson is a rock inside but is out for the spring following offseason shoulder surgery.
Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff are now the two most important defensive tackles on the roster. Each showed flashes last season but weren’t consistent enough. At least one is likely to start now.
Iowa needs both of them to put together a strong spring and follow it up with impressive summer workouts and preseason camp. How good the defensive tackle group performs likely hinges on their growth.
With Nixon, the defensive line had a chance to be special. Defensive end already is with Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse and A.J. Epenesa returning. If things had broken right, Nixon would have given the defensive tackle position depth and playmaking potential few Big Ten teams can match.
Now, there is very little wiggle room; an injury could become a problem as there is little experience behind Nelson, Reiff and Lattimore.
Nixon wasn’t the most valuable or important player on the team. Quarterback Nate Stanley holds that honor.
Still, the loss of Nixon hurts. He was one of the team’s best bets to break out this season and now must wait another year to do so.
“He’s been great,” Ferentz said. “He just has a great attitude. He works hard, and he’s got a positive attitude. He’s significantly talented on top of that. So it’s going to be good for him.”
If needs to be. Nixon doesn’t have another choice.
Losing Nixon is bad, but a positive can come from this. It’s on Nixon to find it.