AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn may have found its bookend for Carl Lawson in a surprising move up the depth chart this spring.
Freshman newcomer Marlon Davidson has been so impressive — and so dominant at times — the 281-pounder exits the spring as the presumed starter at defensive end and inside at tackle on third-down passing situations.
“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.”
Davidson certainly showed how ready he is during the A-Day game Saturday. He finished with four tackles and started on the opposite side of Lawson with the Blue team (first-team unit).
Physically, Davidson looks the part of a starter in the SEC. The question was whether he could handle the load of learning a new playbook, terminology and adjust to the 120 mph life of a college athlete mentally. “He’s above where I was,” senior tackle Montravius Adams said, reflecting on his first year at Auburn. “I think the sky is the limit.”
The in-state product out of Greenville High was rated a four-star prospect and the nation’s fourth-best strong side defensive end by 247Sports when he enrolled in January.
“Oh, Marlon grew up really quick,” junior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “Just coming in this spring, everybody was thinking he had a lot of growing up to do and had a lot of learning to do, but he did all that in a week or two, so that really surprised me.”
Davidson moved up to the first-team unit midway through spring practices and never wavered. The move seemed surprising, but as the spring continued, it appeared the freshman had earned the nod over junior college transfer Paul James III, who battled a foot injury during the first half of spring practices.
His brother, Kenneth Carter, played defensive lineman for the Tigers from 2010 through 2013, but battled injuries during the last half of his career. Lawson said Davidson has a lot of Carter’s qualities on the field. “Kenny was good,” Lawson said.
Davidson’s instincts on the field seem natural. He was involved in several stops during the A-Day game, pursued running backs and shaded blocks like a veteran and didn’t make many mistakes.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s assessment of the freshman, however, will count the most as the Tigers head into an important offseason of training before returning to practices in August.
“I don’t have brakes. I ain’t tapping no brakes,” Steele said. “We’ll go as full speed and as fast as we can. He is a guy that’s very physically, mentally and emotionally mature for a guy that should be going to his senior prom in the next week or so. If you’d watched it and didn’t know, you’d think he’d been around for a couple of years and that’s the biggest thing. Now, does he have a lot to learn? Absolutely. But he is physically, mentally and emotionally very mature and that helps him.”