AUBURN, Ala. — Since Josh Holsey left Auburn football at the end of the 2016 season, Javaris Davis has seemed to be his natural replacement at starting cornerback opposite Carlton Davis.
After all, the younger Davis started five games for the Tigers at cornerback in 2016, picking up SEC All-Freshman honors and even a Freshman All-American nod.
But Davis might replace another senior starter in Auburn’s secondary this fall, as coaches have worked him at the nickel or “Star” position in the first two days of fall camp.
“We’re kind of experimenting with some different looks in that,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Tuesday evening. “Daniel Thomas, Javaris Davis and then (Jeremiah) Dinson, we’re kind of rolling that all around. … At some point in time we’ve got to pick a lane, and we will do that relatively soon.”
The Tigers are cross-training several defensive backs early in fall camp as they look for the best combination to replace Holsey and Rudy Ford while solving their depth issue at safety.
Davis and Dinson are working at cornerback with returning starter Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and John Broussard Jr. Thomas is at safety, along with newly converted wide receiver Jason Smith and the senior trio of Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin.
Dinson and Thomas were the favorites to start at nickel in 2017 coming out of spring practice. But Javaris Davis said he started working at the position over the summer, with fellow Florida native Dinson helping him make the transition.
“We always help each other, because he knows a lot about star and I just started playing it, so he helped throughout the whole summer,” Davis said. “He got me better with star and I helped him at corner. We helped each other with both aspects.”
Davis said if the season started tomorrow, he would start at cornerback for Auburn — but he’d play some nickel.
The sophomore brings top-end speed to the position and a physical nature. Even though he is far from the biggest defensive back on the roster at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, teammates say Davis knows how to lay big hits.
“We always say, you got to have that dog in you when you play,” Roberts said Tuesday. “That’s one thing I can say about (Davis) and Carlton and Tray and me as well, we all got that dog. … That’s a fast kid, though. He’s pretty fast and quick. He can move and get out his break really well.”
Davis said he likes the blitzing aspect of nickel back. The Jacksonville, Fla., native has already shown he can do plenty of damage in opposing backfields. Last season, he led Auburn’s defensive backs in tackles for loss with six — the same as starting defensive end Marlon Davidson.
Davis still has a ways to go in his development at nickel. He’ll continue to battle for the starting job there and at cornerback opposite Carlton Davis. His ultimate goal is to be an all-around weapon for the Auburn secondary in 2017 after a strong freshman campaign.
“I’m real comfortable,” Davis said. “I just have to continue to build. Keep talking, get my communication so I can know everything on defense. I want to know what everybody is doing so I can be a help around my teammates. It will help me, too, also.”