College Station, Tex.--Back in Auburn's lineup for the first time in seven weeks as the Tigers fell to Ole Miss last weekend, Carl Lawson made a big impact for Will Muschamp’s defense right away with his pressure off the edge and the energy he brings to the table.
Playing just over 50 snaps last week, Lawson is getting ready for another big challenge this weekend against a talented Texas A&M team. Muschamp said the Tigers will continue to lean on Lawson’s play and leadership to help the defense improve.
“He played more than we had anticipated," Muschamp said. "Of course, it’s hard to get out when you get in a competitive situation. He’s a competitive young man. He’s going to tell you he’s okay and he’s not sore when he is. Those are things as coaches we, I, should have managed better as far as not letting him play that many snaps. He certainly adds a lot to our team.”
Lawson’s play didn’t just impress Muschamp, but also Texas A&M’s head coach, Kevin Sumlin A player who did good things against the Aggies even as a true freshman in 2013, Lawson is someone Sumlin said the Aggies have to pay very close attention to come Saturday night because he changes what this Auburn defense looks like and is capable of doing.
"We've seen him before so we know what he's capable of,” Sumlin said. “He's an elite player in this league as a pass rusher and we need to account for him. He's a difference-maker for them as Myles Garrett is for us. To say that when you bring in an elite player, particularly a pass rusher of his caliber and inject him into the game, to say that that's the same defense, I think you're making a mistake. We've seen him before, we know what he's capable of and certainly last week he's back and he's a complement to them.”
Despite allowing 29.4 points and 446 yards of total offense per game this is an Auburn defense that has a much different look when Lawson is on the field, Sumlin said. He has seen those same things happen for his defense the last two seasons with Myles Garrett coming off the edge. Even though it doesn’t solve all of a defense’s problems, Sumlin said having a consistent threat coming off the edge of a defense it definitely makes an offense have to adjust.
“Whenever you have an elite pass rusher, first of all it changes on third down where you've got a guy, as they say around here, who can create his own shot, which means he can win most one-on-one matchups,” Sumlin said. “That changes the game with trying to have other people to help and can free up some other people. You've got to account for him in the run game. He's an elite player. What happens is he raises everybody else's level of play kind of like what happens with us with Myles and Daeshon Hall.
“We've got to do a good job in terms of matchups and being smart in what we do and try to stay out of third and longs and create some situations where they can't just tee off on us and maybe help a little bit on the edges with him," Sumlin added. "You have to account for a guy like that. Otherwise, he can disrupt the whole game.”
That kind of disruption is something Muschamp and the Tigers hope Lawson brings on Saturday against Kyler Murray and a talented Texas A&M offense. If Auburn isn’t able to get its second SEC win of the season it won’t be because of a lack of effort from No. 55 because Muschamp said that’s not an option with Lawson.
“He’s a guy that is worried about his team and his teammates,” Muschamp said. “He’s very unselfish. He always thinks about the team and what’s best for our football team. That’s the kind of young men you want on our team. That’s how you win and how you win big when you have very talented guys that put the team first. He certainly is a guy that does that.”