One of the players the Tigers are expected to build around is redshirt sophomore end Carl Lawson. Missing the entire year after having knee surgery, Lawson is back and looks to be moving around well through the first two days of spring practice.
It’s not just his work ethic on the field that has impressed Muschamp so far about Lawson, but also the things he does off the field. Always very serious where football is concerned, he has shown his new coordinator how much he’s ready to get back on the field next fall.
“He didn't really do a lot in bowl practice other than just some individual stuff, but he's been engaged,” Muschamp said of Lawson. “We're going to limit him to about half the reps in our team periods right now even in helmets and we'll continue to do that when we're in full pads.
“We're going to really monitor him and watch his reps through spring practice, but I've been extremely pleased first of all with his leadership ability and how he positively affects the guys around him," Muschamp added. "He plays extremely hard. Football is very important to him. He's in the film room all the time, he's asking questions constantly. He texts me all the time about questions about what we're doing within our scheme and system.”
With Lawson having the ability to also play the buck position in Muschamp’s defense it means some different looks up front for the Tigers as they get into the scheme later in the spring and next fall. One of the problems with that, however, is a lack of depth up front with Davonte Lambert out after having knee surgery at the end of last season.
Wanting to get players cross-trained at different positions on the defense has always been a priority for Muschamp and with depth issues that becomes even more important. They have already given one redshirt freshman a look both at tackle and end, something Muschamp said will continue after the spring.
“Andrew Williams has worked both at end and inside, and he will continue to do so,” Muschamp said. “Elijah (Daniel) has worked strictly at end. He’s been slowed a little bit by a hamstring. It’s nothing serious, he has practiced. He’s a guy that has some flexibility. DaVonte Lambert obviously is out this spring with an ACL, but he will work inside and out. I think when you get into nickel situations, which in our league you’re into a lot now, you’ve got to be able to match up with some of the guards in our league that aren’t as good as the tackles.
“When you’re able to match up a battle athlete inside and create some one-on-ones it’s harder to chip inside. It’s harder to chip a three-technique as opposed to chipping a guy on the edges. It’s much more difficult protection-wise to get that done. When you’re able to structure and attack a protection a certain way with a better athlete inside we’ll certainly try to take advantage of it.”
The wildcard of the defensive line for 2015 isn’t even on campus yet for the Tigers, signee Byron Cowart. One of the top defensive end prospect in the country, Cowart has all the tools to play early when he arrives on the Plains. Muschamp said he’ll have every opportunity to do just that, but it won’t be given to him.
“Byron's a good football player and if he continues to work the way he needs to work I certainly think he can help,” Muschamp noted. “As to how much that will be up to him because we're going to play the best guys. If he's the best at his position, and this is true for all of them, if they're the best at their position they'll start. And if they're good enough, they will contribute, but that's up to them. We don't make any decisions before fall camp thinking a guy is going to play x-amount of snaps in a game or start game eight or whatever. Those decisions are made in camp.”