AUBURN, Ala. — Deshaun Davis waited longer than he would have liked for his opportunity to excel on Auburn’s defense.
When the linebacker’s time finally came last September, it didn’t matter that the Mobile, Ala., native had stood on the sidelines for nearly three years (first rehabbing a knee injury, then redshirting). Lining up opposite Clemson’s Deshaun Watson also proved to be insignificant.
“When he finally got that chance he showed everybody what they’ve been missing,” linebacker Tre’ Williams, a childhood friend of Davis, said. “He really showed out. That’s the player he’s been all our lives. That’s the same person you’re going to see this year and on forward.”
Davis and Williams finished last season as Auburn’s second and third-leading tacklers, respectively. The duo tallied a team-high 10 tackles apiece in the Iron Bowl, and in Auburn’s Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Davis capped a breakout season with a team-high 8 tackles.
The linebackers have plans to continue that dominance on the field in 2017. First, however, the upperclassmen are focusing on developing depth in what’s likely already Auburn’s deepest unit this spring.
“You always got to get better at something. I want to mold the young guys,” Davis said. “That’s what Coach (Kevin) Steele asked me to do. What we really want to do, is improve our depth. We know for a fact we got four guys that can play and you can put those guys on the field with us four linebackers and mix them up however you want to and there wouldn’t be any decline in production. What we are trying to do this spring is bring those other guys, the first three days they really had a great spring.”
After patiently waiting to compete for a starting role, Davis brings knowledge of what it takes to land in that position.
“I knew I was going to get an opportunity, but I knew at the same time it wasn’t going to be given to me,” Davis said.
With that understanding, Davis spent additional time in the weight room as well as countless hours studying film. Both were significant factors that helped him have success while garnering his first consistent SEC experience.
Williams is one of the only soon-to-be seniors on Auburn’s defense. Still, it’s the first spring he’s begun under the same coordinator. He believes that consistency will allow returning players to adopt more of a teaching role — something they are eager to take on.
“It really helps. It gives us an easier role being a leader because you know we already know the defense, so we can teach those young guys that,” Williams said. “As far as technique-wise they can just watch how we do it. Then they can go in and do it, and if they do something wrong it’s easier to coach them up while (coach Travis Williams) T-Will coaches somebody else up. We’re able to coach somebody. It works both ways.”