Editor’s Note: It’s a crucial year in Auburn. Gus Malzahn enters his fourth season in a bit of a rut, but he has proven he can quickly change the trajectory of the program when his team’s back is against the wall.
Auburn needs to find a quarterback, develop receivers and lean on a defense many expect to be much improved under coordinator Kevin Steele. Will all of the pieces come together in time for a successful season?
SEC Country takes a look at the 25 Most Important Tigers (and others) who will determine whether Auburn’s season is a success or failure.
17. Marlon Davidson, defensive end
The unfortunate foot injury suffered by Paul James III opened the door for freshman Marlon Davidson in the spring. Davidson ran through the door and plowed offensive linemen at defensive end, proving he’s worthy of a starting job heading into summer workouts.
The Greenville, Ala., native was a touted prospect, of course, but it’s rare to see a defensive lineman jump on the scene during his first few months on campus.
“I’ve been here five years, and as far as freshmen coming in to play — especially in the spring — he’s as good as I’ve seen,” Auburn offensive guard Alex Kozan said. “Marlon Davidson has really impressed me. He’s got to keep working, keep improving, but he’s solid. I think he’s ready to play now.”
RELATED: Davidson the surprise of the spring
Expect Davidson to compete with James III for the starting job on the opposite side of Carl Lawson, and don’t be surprised if it’s the 281-pound Davidson winning the job as a freshman. Coaches love his effort, his power and the final steps to a possible All-SEC season as a freshman include polishing technique and digesting the playbook this offseason.
Davidson had eight sacks and 19 tackles for loss while forcing four fumbles, picking off two passes and scoring two defensive touchdowns at Greenville High last season.
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