Editor's Note: These lists feature our thoughts on the most important players for Auburn heading into the 2016 football season. We are counting down 16 key Tigers for the offense and 16 more for the defense as Coach Gus Malzahn's team prepares to face Clemson in the season opener.
Auburn, Ala.--With plenty of veteran leadership on the defensive line, the expectations for true freshman Marlon Davidson when he signed with the Auburn Tigers were for him to be a player who could hopefully provide depth in the 2016 season.
Following an impressive winter conditioning session and a strong spring practice performance, Davidson is now the favorite to be the starter at defensive end opposite Carl Lawson as he prepares for his freshman season on the Plains.
The fact that he impressed his new position coach, Rodney Garner, with his play on the field and his maturity off the field wasn’t a surprise considering his background, but for Davidson to be in line for a starting job as a true freshman is definitely unexpected. With guys like Byron Cowart and junior college transfer Paul James working at the same position, Davidson’s consistency and work ethic have him ready to be in the spotlight when Auburn opens the season against Clemson on Sept. 3.
Marlon Davidson played in the Under Armour All-American game prior to reporting to Auburn in January.
While there’s definitely going to be a playing rotation at every position along the defensive line with the way Garner likes to keep his guys fresh, Davidson’s combination of size (6-3, 273) and quickness off the ball should make him a good fit on the strong side for the Tigers.
Best Case Scenario: Davidson has the talent to come in and immediately be a disruptive force on Auburn’s defensive line. With players like Lawson, Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell, Devaroe Lawrence and others for opponents to be concerned with, the former Under Armour All-American should have plenty of one-on-one opportunities to make plays for the Tigers.
Worst Case Scenario: A big question for the 2016 season is lack of college experience for Davidson. Playing 5A football in Alabama at Greenville High School and starting in the SEC a year later is a huge jump, for even the most prepared of players. With an early schedule of Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M and LSU, lack of success wouldn’t be unexpected, but may prove tough to handle for a player used to dominating the competition.
Career Comparison: When Spencer Johnson arrived at Auburn he was a big linebacker prospect the Tigers signed out of Southern Choctaw High, but his physicality and ability to use his hands had him on the defensive line competing right away as a freshman. Eventually ending up at tackle and playing nine seasons in the NFL after being signed as an undrafted free agent, Johnson was able to play effectively as an undersized at tackle because of his physical nature. That stuck with him throughout his career and is something Davidson has shown in his little time on the Plains.
Quote: “Consistency in a young guy is really hard to find and that's what he's been able to do,” junior defensive end Carl Lawson said. “He's been able to be consistent and every day come out here and try to get better. He takes coaching. When it gets hard a lot of young guys that don't take it very well. He's been prepped for it.”