Auburn, Ala.--The news Auburn football fans were hoping to hear this week came on Tuesday when Coach Gus Malzahn announced that his team’s top pass rusher, Carl Lawson, has been cleared to return to practice.
Sidelined since injuring his hip in the first half of the season opener vs. Louisville, the redshirt sophomore was the top performer for the defense in preseason after missing the entire 2014 season while recovering from knee surgery.
“Carl Lawson will practice for the first time today which should give our guys a lift,” Malzahn said. “We’ll see where he is at. I am not going to say right now that he is going to play this Saturday, but the fact that he is out there practicing I think will be good from a leadership standpoint if nothing else.”
Commenting on whether or not Lawson will be rusty or have an issue with a lack of fitness due to his layoff, Malzahn said, “He has been doing some things with the trainers and all that to try to get himself in shape and everything that goes with that, but there's nothing like getting out there and actually practicing. That is why I kind of said I am hesitant to say right now that he will play this Saturday. But it is a good note that he's on the practice field.”
Carl Lawson was in on four tackles with two behind the line of scrimmage and one quarterback sack in his only action this season vs. Louisville.
The Tigers took Lawson to Kentucky and Arkansas to serve as a game captain even though he was not cleared to play or in uniform.
“He is one of our leaders, not just one of our defensive leaders, but he is one of our team leaders,” Malzahn points out. “His teammates have a lot of respect for him, as well as coaches do. We took him on our last two road games because of that. It has definitely helped us.”
Senior cornerback Jonathan Jones and other defensive backs could use Lawson's pass rushing skills to make their assignments less challenging. “It’s good for us," Jones said. "We’re going to be excited. He’s going to bring some extra juice and intensity that he always brings. It’s going to be good to have a good player like him back out there.”
Asked if the redshirt sophomore is excited that Dr. James Andrews cleared him to play, Auburn’s head coach said, “Yeah, he definitely is. He's a competitor. It has been tough on him. He's went through a lot. You think back at last year having to sit out, that was tough on him. Then coming back and getting injured, he’s went through a lot, but he’s a kid of character and he’s a tough kid so he is excited to be back out there for his team.”