AUBURN, Ala. — This season, Auburn once again has a pair of blue-chip true freshmen who are already making big impacts on the defensive line.
Together, defensive end Marlon Davidson and defensive tackle Derrick Brown have carved out major minutes on Auburn’s two-deep depth chart, with the former taking full advantage of enrolling early by becoming a starter. They aren’t the biggest stars up front, but they’ve already shown that they will be soon.
“Yeah, Marlon’s done an excellent job,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Thursday on his weekly Tiger Talk radio show. “Derrick Brown is another guy up front that’s doing a really great job disrupting. Those guys have quite a few games under their belt — five games. They’re not playing like freshmen. That’s a good thing.”
Just take a look back to the 2013 season, when another Auburn duo was doing the exact same thing as Davidson and Brown — junior defensive end Carl Lawson and senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who were both 5-star prospects.
Lawson and Adams played roles on Auburn’s defensive line straight out of high school for the 2013 SEC champions. They combined for 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss as freshmen, with Lawson coming in second on the team in quarterback takedowns.
On Thursday night, Malzahn was asked to compare Davidson to Lawson as freshmen playmakers. He said he saw the similarities and went a step further by including Brown.
“Both of them (Davidson and Lawson) are very close,” Malzahn said. “You talk about Derrick Brown and Montravius Adams, they’re very close, too with how they were as freshmen. Both of those guys are off to a good start.”
Through the first five games of the season, Davidson and Brown have combined for 14 tackles, 2 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Davidson starts opposite Lawson at the traditional defensive end position, while Brown is listed as the backup to Adams at defensive tackle.
As a first-time starter, Davidson has quickly earned the respect of his veteran teammates.
“He’s been phenomenal for us,” senior defensive back Rudy Ford said last month. “He’s only going to continue to grow and get better. It’s his freshman year and he’s been out there. You see him running out of stack, as we call it. He’s been running, chasing down the ball. That’s big time.”
Last month, Malzahn said Davidson and Brown could settle into a groove like Lawson and Adams by the middle of the season. Auburn’s upcoming game at Mississippi State (noon ET on ESPN) will wrap up the first half of the 2016 campaign for the Tigers.
“If you look in the past, there’s been some true freshmen defensive linemen in our league that earned it and they were ready,” Malzahn said on September 13. “(Davidson and Brown) are ready to play and they need to keep improving. But I think they will. Carl and Montravius both played as true freshmen, and by the middle of the year, they started to feel comfortable.”