Trent Hixson pushing to make his mark as NU's next center
As Cam Jurgens continues to vault up 2022 NFL mock draft boards, it’s become more evident by the day just how big of shoes Nebraska has to fill at center this offseason.
There was no clear answer at the position going into spring practices. The Huskers had some players with limited experience at center and were discussing moving other players there to find their best five.
As it turned out, the most seasoned returner at that spot - sixth-year senior Trent Hixson - emerged as the frontrunner for the job coming out of the Spring Game.
“Trent has had a really good spring,” NU head coach Scott Frost said. “(Ethan) Piper is behind him and had a good spring too. A lot of what those guys are doing upfront has helped them. I think it is just kind of taking the handcuffs off them and letting them go.
“Trent is one of those guys I would highlight that has really taken a giant leap forward, and I feel good about that position with those two guys.”
Hixson spent the past two years as Jurgens’ top backup, but he only played 61 snaps in three appearances at center last season. His most significant impact came at left guard, where he made two starts at Oklahoma and Michigan State.
The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder out of Omaha (Neb.) Skutt Catholic said his experience at guard made him a better all-around football player because it expanded his knowledge of the offensive line.
He also immediately took to new o-line coach Donovan Raiola this offseason.
“It’s a lot more focused on aggressiveness, but being smart, too,” Hixson said of Raiola’s blocking philosophy.
Hixson added that the offensive coaching changes gave everyone the motivation of a clean slate going into the spring.
“It definitely does because you have everybody on the same playing field,” Hixson said. “Everybody has to compete every single day. It really just adds value because we have stuff from the previous coaches, and we still use that, but we add the new techniques and new style of everything. It’s just more information and more learning.”
While Hixson prides himself on his versatility to play two positions, he feels that his natural spot is in the middle at center. Part of it is that he thinks his frame is better suited for the role, but Hixson also embraces the leadership element that it requires.
“You’ve just got to do some of the uncomfortable stuff that you haven’t been doing in the past to make sure that everybody’s on the same page,” Hixson said. “It’s the little things, like getting here on time when everybody else is about to leave, or even correcting somebody when you know they’ve messed up and giving them the tools to do stuff the right way.”
Having watched Jurgens put up eye-popping testing numbers during Nebraska’s Pro Day last month, Hixson is well aware that he won’t ever be the physical specimen as his predecessor.
But Hixson isn’t concerned about trying to become the next Jurgens. He’s only focused on making his own mark on Nebraska’s offensive line.
“Filling Cam’s shoes, he was definitely an elite player who’s going to do really well in the NFL,” Hixson said. “I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play.”