AUBURN, Ala. — Carl Lawson doesn’t necessarily mind anyone drawing comparisons between he and Jadeveon Clowney.
After all, Clowney is set to become one of the top picks in May’s NFL draft. But he didn’t turn into that kind of prospect overnight. Ellis Johnson, who was South Carolina’s defensive coordinator at the time, witnessed the gains Clowney between his freshman and sophomore seasons firsthand.
Now in his second year at Auburn, Johnson thinks Lawson can do the same thing.
But Lawson wanted to set the record straight first; though he and Clowney play the same position, they’re not the same type of player.
“He’s pretty much more of a lengthier guy. I feel like from what I’ve seen on film, he doesn’t play as much into a scheme,” he said, “and that’s what (defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner tells us to do.”
Simply put, Lawson wants to remove any weaknesses from his game.
“I want to be able to drop, play the run, play the pass,” he said. “I just want to be able to amp up all my abilities.”
When prompted, he had no problem naming the areas he needs to shore up.
“Just my overall football awareness, addressing different schemes when I’m out there on the field, snap count, getting off the ball, hands, footwork,” Lawson said. “Every little aspect of my game, I need to improve.
That’s why this spring is so important to him.
“It’s a big spring for me because last year, I was a little bit disappointed with my performance,” he said. “I can’t wait to get better.”
He was no slouch last season, though. Appearing in all 14 games, he recorded 20 tackles (7.5 for loss), four sacks and forced two fumbles. For that, he captured the Tigers’ defensive “newcomer of the year” award at the team banquet in December.
And the man in charge of Auburn’s program doesn’t foresee any dropoff coming from Lawson this fall.
“We have high expectations for Carl, coming off the season he had,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “You can just tell he's a lot more confident out there and just trying to be a leader by example.”
In doing so, Lawson will try to fill the void created with the graduation of Dee Ford. Lawson’s sack total was second on the team last year, trailing Ford’s 10.5. With this in mind, there wouldn’t be any shortage of reminders of the things Ford accomplished.
Lawson will have to prepare for more; after spending last season as LaDarius Owens’ backup at right end, he has shifted over to left end — Ford’s old spot.
But the rising sophomore isn’t interested in hearing about any parallels between he and his predecessor.
“I just want to be able to make plays for my team, pass or run,” he said.
Being able to identify those things instantly only comes with experience.
Lawson believes he’ll reach that point soon enough.
“If you’re all over the place, you’re wasting energy and you’re putting your time and effort in the wrong direction,” he said. “Once I have a better understanding of what I’m doing, the game (will come) easier to me.”