AUBURN, Ala. — One of the best physical specimens on Auburn's roster — possibly No. 1 in that department — has yet to see the field. Well, that's if you believe what defensive line coach Rodney Garner has to say about Devaroe Lawrence.
"Devaroe is going to help us this fall," Garner said. "Devaroe has a tremendous skill set. His thing is being able to mentally push himself when he hits that wall. That’s his biggest hurdle. When you just talk about pure talent, why don’t you ask the team? I’ll bet you 94 is going to be No. 1 or No. 2."
Lawrence appeared in four games last season, making one tackle, which was credited for a loss. But the Tigers are expecting much more from him in 2015. When the Tigers wrapped up spring practice in April, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp pointed to the South Carolina native as a lineman he could count on this fall.
"I think Devaroe has a very good skill set. He's got to learn to continue to build his endurance up, to finish plays and finish practice and finish series," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. "But from a skills set standpoint, I've been very pleased. ... (He) will be battling to start for us next year."
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Fellow defensive lineman Montravius Adams echoed that sentiment. But like Garner, Adams also said it would come down to whether Lawrence can forge on when times get tough.
"That’s my boy. I think he can really help this team," Adams said. "He’s got all the talent in the world. (But) he’s got to keep pushing through it like everybody else."
Garner could hardly contain his excitement when discussing Lawrence's potential — heck, he put the word "very" in front of "talented" four times. He then used one of his former players from Georgia for comparison: Geno Atkins. A fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 NFL draft, Atkins has been a steal, making the Pro Bowl three times (2011-12 and 2014) and being named a first-team all-pro in 2012.
"He is a big, strong, quick twitch, powerful man," Garner said. "And he's made some baby steps and he can help this football team."
The only thing that Garner talks about as much as Lawrence's gifts is his lack of success handling hardship. It has frustrated the veteran coach to end. Lawrence will show flashes of dominance. At the first sign of adversity, Lawrence wilts.
Garner will leave no stone unturned in his quest to harness Lawrence's stunning breathtaking ability.
"We've got to keep bringing him along him in whatever way (we can) — seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist, whatever we've got to do," Garner said. "From a skill standpoint, we've got to get it out of him, because he's a very skilled big man."