Already without Dee Ford and Craig Sanders off last year’s team as well as reserve Justin Delaine, who is no longer with the team, Coach Rodney Garner knew he needed help at the position. Because of that the Tigers signed junior college standout Davonte Lambert as well as Raashed Kennion, Justin Thornton and Andrew Williams from the high school ranks.
With senior LaDarius Owens expected to anchor one end position and returning sophomore Elijah Daniel coming off a strong spring, the Tigers have some potential at the position, but not much proven depth. Because of that Garner gave double-duty to Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams in the spring, working them both at tackle and end.
Getting ready to open preseason practices in just over two weeks, Wright said he’s excited to see how things shape out at the position and he’s ready to do his part if needed.
“One thing I won’t do is second-guess Coach Garner, whether on or off the field” Wright said. “We’ve got LaDarius coming back and Elijah and also me and Mon split time at the position. I believe we signed three or four freshmen defensive ends who all look great. I know Coach G has it all and will handle it correctly.”
Gabe Wright pressures Bo Wallace
No matter how the position comes together in preseason camp, the loss of Lawson is a big blow for the Auburn defensive line. Having his surgery in May means just four months before the season opener on Aug. 30 against Arkansas. That would be an extremely short timeline for a return with somewhere later in the year more likely, but Wright said he’s not selling Lawson Short on his comeback because of his physical presence.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Wright said. “I believe he’s a phenom. He’s a guy that I really believe can be three and done, honestly. That whole freshman class last year brought some talent and some things I really haven’t seen growing up. I like to think myself as athletic, but Carl, Mon and Elijah are all guys that can play all four positions on the defensive line, which is truly incredible.
“An injury, you can’t prepare for it, but Carl’s body was in excellent shape,” he added. “His leg muscles and quad muscles were so strong that he’s not losing anything. He’s a hard worker and I know he’ll bounce back pretty quick.”
Currently weighing in at 290 pounds after getting down to around 284 in the spring, Wright is still 13 pounds short of what he weighed at his heaviest last season. While he’s prepared to play defensive end and help out wherever he’s needed, Wright said first and foremost he’s still a defensive tackle and he feels ready to have a big season now that he’s in the best shape of his life.
“Honestly, the decision to lose weight was just me personally along with my nutritionist and the strength staff,” Wright said. “I have been wanting to drop down body weight and body fat since I have been here, which has been done. I saw the picture and I was amazed at the weight I lost.
“Coach G actually wanted to put me in there last year,” he added of the end position, "but he said I wasn’t mentally ready. Like I said, I respect and I don’t second-guess his decisions. If I’m called upon I will answer the call, there is no doubt about that. it just shows his confidence in me.”