AUBURN, Ala. — If he indeed leaves Auburn for the 2017 NFL Draft after the Sugar Bowl, Carl Lawson will leave some huge shoes to fill at the Buck defensive end position.
One redshirting freshman definitely has the size to fill those, and he’s grabbing a ton of attention from teammates in the team’s return to the practice field.
“I think Nick Coe’s going to be like a great player,” defensive tackle Montravius Adams said this week. “I don’t really know how to explain all of it, but I feel that Nick Coe will be a special player here at Auburn.”
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Coe signed with Auburn in the Class of 2016 as a 4-star defensive end prospect from Asheboro, N.C. He recorded 15 tackles for loss as a senior, when he led Asheboro to a berth in the North Carolina state playoffs.
Coe enrolled in Auburn late in the summer after dealing with some academic issues. With so much depth along the defensive line, the Tigers decided to redshirt the towering defensive end.
After playing on the scout team during the regular season, Coe stood out during the first week of Sugar Bowl practices, when the Auburn staff spent some extra time with younger players.
“Nick Coe’s got a chance,” coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this week. “He’s got a very good skill set. He’s a very big athlete. I think spring will be good for him.”
In high school, Coe won a pair of national championships and a state title as a wrestler. Coe’s elite skills on the mat translate well to the football field, according to Adams.
According to defensive tackle Dontavius Russell, Coe is working at Buck, which plays a stand-up role on the edge in Auburn’s base defense. Jeff Holland, who will be a junior next season, backed up Lawson at the pass-rushing position.
With Lawson expected departure, Coe is getting an up-close look at what it takes to be a star at the position during postseason practices.
“I think it’s real beneficial to just watch people and see what works for them and see what you can get from their game and how you can help,” Russell said. “For Nick to be able to watch Carl, it’s the same thing. He can pick up from him and learn from him.”
Like other young players who didn’t see the field this season for the Tigers, the physical gifts are undeniable for Coe. Coaches and teammates say the powerful freshman just needs more time to settle into the college game.
“Nick Coe has a skill set that can play defensive end,” Malzahn said. “There’s no doubt. We’ll have to get out in the spring, but just raw ability, he’s got a lot of raw ability … But I’ve been impressed with him so far.”
Adams will leave Auburn’s deep defensive line after the matchup with Big 12 champion Oklahoma on Jan. 2. But the All-SEC defensive tackle sees a bright future in the players coming behind him, and he’s high on what Coe can bring to the team down the road.
“You see the power, you see how strong he is,” Adams said. “You see how he can disengage. Usually that’s just something that takes a little while for a young guy to learn, but you see he has the strength to do it all. … He’ll be a great player.”