I had an opportunity to talk with Lake Travis High School's running backs coach, Jonathan Coats, about Shawn Nixon. This is what he had to say about the 4-star RB stud.
JP: Shaun was committed to Texas A&M for a long time, what made him commit so early in the process?
JC: There was a lot of hype around Johnny Manziel, and as a coaching staff we had a good relationship with Coach Kingsbury there. I actually took Shaun to the spring game there, and we went to see a practice. He just got caught up with the turnaround there. He went to watch them play LSU at home during Manziel's Heisman year and he got caught up in the atmosphere. He committed then, and that slowed down the recruiting process for everyone else on him. How Texas A&M had turned around since Coach Sumlin took over really got him going.
JP: You mentioned Kingsbury, when he moved to Tech did they come after him hard?
JC: Tech was actually one of the first schools to offer Shaun, prior to Kingsbury moving over there. Shaun just seemed to like A&M better. He never visited Tech to my knowledge. I don't think they had much contact with Texas Tech after he had committed.
JP: When did TCU really get into the running for Shaun?
JC: Shaun and Baker Mayfield went and visited TCU and had a private workout (with possibly one other RB and QB), and they never offered until recently as far as I know. He did really well but an offer never came so he was cold on [TCU]. All the credit should go to Coach Glasgow, because we have a really good relationship with him. Our head coach and he are really good friends. Our defensive scouts go to visit TCU every year so we have a relationship with them. Coach Glasgow had been around campus the last couple of months or so and was able to get Shaun to go on a visit. That was what sold Shaun.
JP: How did Shaun feel about decommitting from Texas A&M?
JC: Well he was upset about being so solid with Texas A&M for a long time and then changing his mind. I think that he, for some reason or another, had delayed making an official visit to A&M for a long time. It kept getting pushed back during the season with SAT testing and everything going on, so he had never really seen behind the scenes much.
JP: What did he like about TCU?
JC: When he got to TCU he liked how the environment was smaller, how the dorms were close to the facilities, but at the same time they have just as nice of facilities as A&M. I think he just felt a little more comfortable there. Our coaching staff actually coached in an All-Star game there and we stayed in the dorms at TCU. So I actually told him about the dorms and how good the food was. It's funny what kids care about.
JP: Well I can definitely testify that the dorm and food situations have improved greatly, even since my time on campus as an undergrad a short while ago.
JC: Yeah it's weird. Shaun went to Baylor for a game and when he came back he said they made him sit in the sun in 110 degree heat. That's the kind of think that stands out to a kid, you know?
JP: Tell us a little about him on the field. What kind of runner is he?
JC: You know, he's not a big back. He's 5'9", probably a little taller than that, close to 190. He is a one-cut runner. There are times where we have to adjust his alignment because he hits the line of scrimmage hard. He's fast. He's very good with his stiff arms, with ripping through and finishing runs. He's relentless and does not want to go down. You'll see he breaks arm tackles, and has this natural shake once guys grab him the first time. We've worked to develop a spin move along with some other things, and it's allowed him to really extend runs.
JP: So at 190 do you think he can put on more pounds?
JC: Oh yeah, I think after 3 months up there he'll be 205. His dad played Canadian football and was a running back too, and he was about 225. His potential very untapped from the physical side.
JP: What kind of receiver out of the backfield is he/did you ever use him as a WR?
JC: His sophomore year we didn't really need any receiver help, we had four Division 1 receivers. His junior year and this past year we started him out as a slot receiver, and he was excellent. I thought he would end up as a slot at A&M, and I know that Texas was recruiting him a little bit later to be an inside receiver, so he has that ability. We used him in empty back sets at times, but we really needed him to carry the mail this year. As a junior he was a receiver probably half the time, and he's got great hands. He's not your typical running back in that he can run routes. That was some of the value that A&M like was that they could put in a RB and then go empty and not have to sub anyone out.
JP: With the new offensive staff at TCU, do you think that had an impact on his decision?
JC: I don't think that necessarily sold him, but we made him aware that these guys work with the same offense that we run. I don't know if that sealed the deal, I think it was really that ability for him to get that family feel. It is a plus though.
JP: So who is coming down the pipe for Lake Travis in 2015 and beyond?
JC: In 2015 we've got a kid who plays outside linebacker for us named James Bailey, he's about 6'2". He decided not to play basketball this past year to maintain his weight and get ready for college, he's definitely a division one guy. Our quarterback Dominic De Lira is starting to get some attention. He played well this year in his first year on varsity. We've got a really young group. There's a kid who will be a sophomore next year who will be a D1 kid for sure, Malik Barkley. We've got a defensive tackle that TCU may be interested in named Tevin Paul that will be a junior next year. A lot of our talent is really young.