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.--Perhaps no player on the Auburn roster has more potential for improvement heading into the 2016 football season than defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence. A powerful player who has gained 20 pounds since last season while continuing to improve his craft, Lawrence finished his junior year with his best performance and is hoping to carry that momentum over into his final season on the Plains.
Making 42 tackles with one and a half sacks and four and a half tackles for losses a season ago, Lawrence had just two solo tackles against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl, but was in the other backfield for much of the game causing a disruption. That’s something he will be called on to do more of this season with Auburn’s defensive line expected to be a team strength.
A player who is still really raw in terms of his football skills, Lawrence is a player who Coach Rodney Garner says can be “a disruptive force when he’s focused”. If that focus shows up this season it’s huge news for the Tigers.
Devaroe Lawrence is shown in action in Auburn's bowl victory vs. Memphis.
Best Case Scenario: If Lawrence can consistently bring the effort he has shown at times in the last two years he has a chance to be a player NFL teams pay close attention to this season. With a skill set that Garner has compared to Geno Atkins, Lawrence’s power and speed make him an ideal interior pass rusher that has the ability to collapse the pocket from the middle.
Worst Case Scenario: Lawrence doesn’t have a huge amount of football under his belt and that has been tough for him to overcome his first two seasons at Auburn. Learning to play at the level required to excel in the SEC has been something Garner has pushed Lawrence to sustain, but so far that hasn’t been the case. If he doesn’t break through this season it puts even more pressure on Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and the rest of the defensive tackles.
Career Comparison: It took Pat Sims three years at Auburn before he came into his own, but as a redshirt junior he had four and a half sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for a loss for the Tigers. That carried over to the NFL where he’s had a solid career. Physical and explosive, when Sims gained the experience necessary his game went to another level. That is the potential for Lawrence as well.
Quote: “I have high expectations for him in this defense and the team,” Montravius Adams said. “I just think if he keeps working like he’s doing now then he’s going to be a great player.”