Sophomore Defensive Tackle Lawon Scott came out of spring training as a backup to fellow sophomore Ted Laurent.
When Laurent hurt his knee right before August camp, Lawon took over and started a couple of games before Ted got healthy.
The pecking order flipped back to Laurent for a few games, but then Lawon started winning the tug of war and has gotten the starting nod the last two games.
The difference for him, he says, has been hard work, pure and simple.
"The coaches asked me to push myself harder and that's what I did," Scott noted. "It's made a difference in my play. We have a lot of competition at DT with me and Ted and Jerrell (Powe) and Justin (Smith) and it's made all of us better.
"If you see one person make a play, you want to go make a play too. We push each other hard in practice because Coach (Tracy) Rocker bases how much you play on how you perform in practice. How you practice is how you play, but if you don't perform in practice with Coach Rocker, you don't get a chance to perform in the games."
The Rebels have become very good at stopping the run and Lawon is right in the middle of that evolution.
"Coach Rocker believes the front is the key to stopping the run and he challenges us every week to get it done. We have certain gaps we have to fit, but we also have to go make a play sometimes against the teams we face. Gap control is not enough - you have to go beyond that sometimes," he explained.
Lawon is proud of the play of the whole defensive line, starters and backups, but his road roommate, DE Kentrell Lockett, has really caught his eye lately.
"40 is athletic and has great technique. He uses both of those things to his advantage. Kentrell is also someone who has benefited from more and more game experience," Lawon said. "He's doing a great job. He's also been able to get a little bigger during the season."
Scott also says he's proud to be playing alongside senior Peria Jerry, who has become more and more dominant as the season has progressed.
"Peria pushes us. You can't be a slouch when you play next to him. He pushes us all to be better," Lawon noted. "He draws the double teams and gives us more room to operate and do our thing.
"It's easy to tell he's dominating games because they are either putting four hands on him or trying to run away from him. He's always on the minds of the offenses we face. They always look for him when they come to the line of scrimmage and point out where he is.
"He is so strong and athletic and quick. Ted is probably the strongest defensive lineman in the weight room, but Peria is the strongest on the field in games. He has brute strength and he applies it."
Part of the transformation, or steady improvement, of the DL has been because the players' respect of Rocker, who was an All-American at Auburn during his playing career, but there is more to it than that.
"We've gotten closer this season as a unit. We go out to eat and do more things together and it's made us tighter," Scott continued. "We also trust Coach Rocker because we know that he knows what it takes to get to the top and you listen to what he has to say more and try to do everything he tells you to do."
The Rebels defensive line has started a new ritual. Before the game, they talk about not being the weakest link in a chain they had made up. The strongest link each week gets to keep the chain for a week.
Jerry got the chain after Alabama and Arkansas, but Lockett got it after the Auburn game.
Now, Lawon wants it.
"We all want that chain. If I keep working hard, which I intend to do, my time will come," he stated.
Now that the Rebels are 5-4 overall with three games to play, the goals have intensified, according to Scott.
"We want to make sure we don't ease up. Some people outside the team aren't expecting us to beat LSU, but our goal is to go 8-4," he closed. "We aren't going to be happy with getting bowl eligible and that's it. We want to keep our streak going and the only way to do that is take care of business in two weeks with UL-Monroe."
How do they accomplish that? Lawon goes back to the original point - hard work.
Lawon Scott -
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