Plain Dealer: Roosevelt Nix Remains a Dominant Defensive Force
By Elton Alexander, Plain Dealer
Related Article: Beacon Journal
KENT, Ohio — In Mid-American Conference football, where offenses dominate and scores in the 30s and 40s are common, it's tough to say much defense is being played.
Yet there is still a gleam of hope in the MAC's East Division, and it is coming from Kent State and its sophomore defensive lineman, Roosevelt Nix.
Only one MAC team, Northern Illinois, has scored more than three touchdowns on Kent's defense this season. A big reason for that is because the MAC's 2010 Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Nix, has suffered no sophomore slump.
It would be no surprise if the 6-0, 245-pound disruptive force earns the MAC's top defensive honor again.
His numbers are down a bit from last season, but his impact on the game isn't.
"He's very sudden, very quick," Akron coach Rob Ianello said as the Zips prepared to face rival KSU this week.
"He's got to be one of the top players in the league. That's my opinion," Kent coach Darrell Hazell said. "That is where your game plan starts: 'How are we going to block this guy? How are we going to keep this guy out of our backfield all day?' You can't single-block him, from Alabama [the season-opener] on down."
In 2010, Nix led the MAC in sacks (10) and tackles for a loss (20), despite not starting, playing in an eight-man rotation on the defensive line and getting just 43 tackles on the season.
This season, he is a starter but is still part of an eight-man rotation, and he still makes his presence felt -- even if his numbers are down a bit from last season: 27 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for lost yardage, 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.
"I feel like I'm having a successful year. But I'm not playing to be anything, I'm just playing football," Nix said.
Hazell said Nix's limited numbers speak volumes, noting that the minus-30 yards in sacks and minus-57 yards in tackles for loss indicate Nix isn't just getting through gaps and making tackles, he's running opposing players down behind the line of scrimmage.
And even when Nix doesn't get a notch on his belt, he's still in the picture.
While Kent's recent 24-21 win against Central Michigan was by virtue of a missed chip-shot field goal by CMU, Hazell said there may have been a reason the kicker shanked it.
"If you watch the film, somehow, Rosey makes a hole on the left side," Hazell said. "The kicker misses just as Rosey's jersey shows up, right at the last second. It's got to be a distraction [for the kicker]. Very disruptive, unbelievably disruptive."
None of which is lost on Ianello or the Zips.
"Two guys show up," Ianello said of the missed kick. "Nix is one of them."
On top of it all, Nix has played the entire season with a dislocated big toe.
"To me, he's shown tremendous toughness, with an extremely painful injury," Hazell said. "All year, he's played with that and been one of the most dominant guys in the league, in my opinion."