For better or worse, Keisean Nixon inherited a certain mantle from former South Carolina football defensive back Jamarcus King.
Through the first half of the season, he was the most targeted DB USC had. His yards per target wasn’t awful, but it both gave the impression he was being picked on and left some fans uneasy when the ball went his way.
But against Ole Miss, a game when USC gave up yards in bunches, Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp came out of the game lavishing praise on Nixon.
The senior from California was named the team’s defensive and special teams player of the game. He had a few warts, as did everyone on USC’s defense, but he also helped the defense stand tall in the late going.
“Gave up the one post, but past that, a contested ball to Lodge on a slant on an RPO, really played well on the game,” Muschamp said. “Tackled well on the perimeter. Did a nice job for us.”
His final numbers were 13 tackles, seven solo, half a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
He had some points where he got burned, but the Ole Miss receiving corps is deep with next-level talent.
Nixon has had an up-and-down season in what has been a curious USC career. He arrived late out of junior college, and hardly played any defense last season after uncertainty if he’d play safety or corner.
He was projected to play nickel this season, but after Jaycee Horn’s emergence, he ended up on the outside in his final college season. For the year, he’s got 43 tackles and six pass break-ups.
He’s had some bumps, including being pulled several times. But on Saturday, he delivered in his coach’s eyes, and with attrition hammering the safety spot, he might be called on for even more work.
Not that he wasn’t chipping in elsewhere, as the thicker corner also contributed on special teams coverage, including smothering a pair of fourth-quarter punt returns, and again impressed Muschamp.
“He had three tackles as a gunner,” Muschamp said. “Did a fantastic job.”