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Lawson leaves for NFL; Smith’s return a boost to O-line
Two important decisions were made by two important Tigers on Wednesday.
First, junior defensive end Carl Lawson, as expected, announced via Twitter, that he’s headed for the National Football League.
It’s not surprising. In fact, it’s been thought Lawson was leaving since before the season even started. Lawson had one of the longest lines at Auburn’s fan day in August, where he sat with the senior class at the end of the field in the Auburn Athletics Complex.
As difficult as it is for Tiger fans to officially learn of the news, it’s a decision fans can’t fault Lawson for making. He’s got a bright professional future in the NFL and he made it through a season completely healthy.
The latter is something that can’t be taken for granted. Auburn’s defense was lucky to have him for one season and young Tigers will benefit from having spent time around him.
— carl lawson (@carllawson55) January 4, 2017
— Auburn Football (@FootballAU) January 4, 2017
The second big announcement was from offensive lineman Braden Smith, who is returning to the Plains next season.
As great as Carl Lawson made Kevin Steele’s defense this season, Smith is a far more important piece for Auburn’s 2017 hopes.
The defense has depth and several options to replace Lawson. It will also be easier for a young player to step into a unit that played so consistently this season.
The Auburn offense, obviously, is an entirely different story.
Smith was a monster in the trenches and will bring experience and leadership the Tigers will need. Now that Jarrett Stidham, Sean White, John Franklin III, freshman Woody Barrett and others will be in a heated battle for the starting QB job, they’re going to need a beast like Smith to block … for whoever wins the job.
— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) January 5, 2017
The Gus discussion
Emotions were running high as soon as the final seconds ticked off the game clock in the Superdome.
Immediately, the commentary from fans — and disappointment — was raging.
Calls for a new head coach were being made on social media and Auburn fans watching both in New Orleans and at home.
And some of the concerns seem valid. It’s hard not to wonder why quarterbacks at Auburn haven’t been developed more and why it took so long for the coaching staff to give Kamryn Pettway a chance to show what he could do.
The reality is being a head coach is a job that few would want if they knew all that goes on behind the scenes. Some players are better in practice.
If Pettway hadn’t gotten injured, if Sean White hadn’t sustained his shoulder injury, maybe the Tigers would have beaten Georgia. That changes the momentum and vibe of the Alabama game.
Auburn may not have defeated the Crimson Tide, but the way the game started, the Tigers might have had a chance.
The important thing is Malzahn got the piece he needed to fix Auburn’s offensive woes next season. The expectations, rightfully so, will be high. But this team wasn’t expected to end up in the Sugar Bowl. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and in some ways, the team exceeded exceptions.
As the quarterback battle continues, the focus will shift. Quarterbacks, not Malzahn’s job security, will be the story.
- AL.com says senior quarterback Jeremy Johnson is eager ‘to get coached up a little more’ when he leaves the Plains.
- Auburn senior writer Charles Goldberg says Auburn’s underclassmen are ready to take on leadership roles.
- SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk says Auburn target Devon Hunter is keeping his options open after nearly becoming a Tiger.
- AL.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky says the Sugar Bowl showed Auburn doesn’t belong on a national stage.
- SEC Country’s Justin Ferguson says defensive end Carl Lawson is headed for the NFL, but offensive lineman Braden Smith will return to the Plains.
- Adam Spencer of Saturday Down South says Auburn fans aren’t happy with head coach Gus Malzahn after the Sugar Bowl.
Happening on the Plains
Auburn basketball fell to Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym in Nashville on Wednesday night.
Jared Harper, Mustapha Heron and Daniel Purifoy did most of the scoring for the Tigers, but, overall, the team struggled defensively again.
Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis exploded for a career-high 33 points.
Auburn will have a chance to turn things around on Saturday when the Tigers take on Ole Miss in Auburn Arena.
GAMEDAY vs. Vanderbilt
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 4, 2017
Auburn softball begins practice on Thursday on the Plains.
Preseason meeting ✅
— Auburn Softball (@AuburnSoftball) January 4, 2017