Auburn, Ala.--There have been a lot of good stories so far during the 2014 season for the Auburn football Tigers, but perhaps the most important has been the development of defensive end Davonte Lambert for Coach Rodney Garner up front.
A junior college standout who originally committed to Tennessee before switching to Auburn, Lambert impressed his teammates during the summer workouts and was primed to hit the field early for the Tigers, but injuries early in preseason camp hindered his development. Once he was back to full speed it didn’t take long for the big lineman to make his mark.
Tied for the team lead in sacks with two following the win over Kansas State, Lambert was again in the starting lineup against Louisiana Tech. While he was credited with just one tackle in the win, Lambert also assisted in tackle behind the line of scrimmage and had a pass break-up on a batted ball. That activity has been impressive for the transfer and he said getting more comfortable in the defensive system has been the key.
“I must say, it took until the second week of camp because, you know, when you first come in, it's a grind,” Lambert said of his comfort in the defense. “You have to get adjusted to everything. That second week kind of opened my eyes and made me realize it's not that hard.
“Each week I'm feeling really comfortable knowing the plays,” he added. “It didn't take me long to find out what I'm doing on each play so I studied the playbook and jumped right in.”
Being a quick study has allowed Auburn to pick up some of the slack at defensive end left by the departure of Dee Ford and the injury to Carl Lawson. Now leading the team with two and a half sacks in four games despite limited playing time early, Lambert is bringing steady pressure, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he has been even more impressed by how steady the junior college transfer has been.
“He had some production before, but I think his consistency is starting to come about,” Johnson said. “A lot of things that you don’t see that we see on film, even when he’s not making a big play, his alignment and his technique and his separation of off blocks and holding point on the run game, all those things have gotten a lot better. I think he had one of those big pass bat-downs the other day at a very critical time. He really has played a lot better. He got to start this last game and he’s playing at a really good level right now.”
Lambert will need to keep improving and that begins this weekend as the Tigers take on No. 15 LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium. A physical running team with athletic quarterback Brandon Harris expected to take on a larger role as the new starter, LSU is a big challenge and a big game for Auburn as it starts a tough stretch of games that will continue through the remainder of the schedule. Lambert said he gas heard all about this week's game and how much it means to his teammates following the loss last year in Baton Rouge.
“I'm very excited and know that I've got to watch the film and know exactly what I'm doing each play so I feel real good about going in and starting against LSU,” Lambert said. “The older guys, they told us to make sure we get in the film room and study because it's a different opponent. We have to make sure we watch film and know what we're doing.”
One of the most physical teams Auburn will see this season with a deep backfield, LSU will try to pound the ball time and time again to set up the play-action passing game. That is something Auburn’s defense has already dealt with once this season against Arkansas in the opener. While LSU is more athletic at the quarterback position and at wide receiver, Lambert said that experience will give them a head start on preparing for what they will see this Saturday.
“It helps a lot knowing that our defense can stand up to a tough runner,” Lambert said. “We made plays and we stopped them. Teams come in with a great running game, and we know that we have a good game plan, and we can stop them.”