AUBURN, Ala. — If Carlton Davis was uncomfortable adjusting to his first year of Division I football, he didn’t show it.
As a freshman he played in Auburn’s 2015 season opener and made his first college start three games later. Davis had 3 tackles in his first two games and forced a fumble in his first start against Mississippi State. Against San Jose State, Davis had his first interception, clinching Auburn’s 35-21 homecoming win.
Even when Davis missed opportunities — he missed a tackle on Arkansas’ quadruple-overtime TD that beat Auburn last season — he learned from the experience. Davis finished with 3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups and 56 tackles. The 6-foot-1 cornerback became the first Auburn defensive back since 2009 to earn SEC All-Freshman honors.
“I’ve seen a lot [of improvement] because his confidence level went way up,” senior wide receiver Marcus Davis said. “Last year, he was just a freshman, just out there playing off pure talent. But now he’s actually using technique and playing a lot more confident.”
And that’s a good thing after Davis’ off-the-field mistake in April, he was one of four Auburn players arrested on marijuana possession charges. They were granted a continuance in July and are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 1. At SEC Media Days in July, coach Gus Malzahn said the group would not miss any playing time.
Now the sophomore looks ready to lead Auburn’s secondary into the Sept. 3 opener against Clemson. Malzahn hired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and secondary coach Wesley McGriff. The new coaches continue expanding Davis’ understanding of the game. They’ve emphasized technique, and teammates have noticed.
“[Carlton] continues to talk to me and just keeps my head straight,” redshirt freshman Javaris Davis said. “He’s very aggressive. Tough. Dog in him. He’s got that dog in him. I say he’s a veteran now. If you see him, it just comes easy to him.”
Steele thought so, too. In preseason practice, the defensive coordinator said Carlton Davis had cemented his starting position. When freshman CB Jamel Dean (a candidate to start opposite Davis) suffered a season-ending knee injury, Davis continued demonstrating veteran poise.
“He’s doing a great job of staying in compete mode and digesting [the] game plan and putting himself in a position to make plays,” McGriff said. “Carlton’s been doing a great job, and you know as a player like him, he’s continuing to look to elevate his play every play, every day and every year. We’re looking for some really big things out of Carlton.”