AUBURN, Ala. — From the time Montravius Adams reported for Auburn's fall camp in 2013, Rodney Garner hasn't changed his tune. The defensive line coach compliments Adams' talent whenever he can. But that comes with an equal dose of constructive criticism.
You could say Garner has been consistent in pointing out Adams' inconsistency.
"I think he's made progress this spring. I think he still has a long ways to go just from a consistency (standpoint) and learning that, hey, 'I've got to be bring my A-game to practice every day,'" Garner said. "The thing for Montravius that I think has been really good is Dontavius (Russell). I mean, it has been really good for Montravius, because Dontavius works hard every day. He brings it every day. He tries to do exactly what you say every day."
Russell being constantly motivated wouldn't be enough, though. It's the fact that like Adams, he has certain gifts that can't be taught. Combine those factors together and you've got Adams' attention.
"It was good to bring someone in, and I think even in Montravius' mind, he has to sit there and say, 'This guy is really good.' ... Montravius wants to be 'the guy.' But right now, Dontavius is 'the guy,'" Garner said. "So he's like, 'Whoa.' Even though Montravius has gotten better, he's sitting there and seeing, 'If I had been working like Dontavius when I first got here, man, it would be different.'"
Not that Adams has been a no-show the past two seasons. The risings junior's career numbers are quite respectable: 26 games played (including 10 starts), 63 tackles (9.5 for loss), four sacks and the obligatory mention of his memorable 36-yard interception return against Louisiana Tech last season, which saw him come up just short of the end zone before he was brought down.
The problem is, you don't expect "solid" numbers from a five-star signee; you expect "spectacular." While not questioning Adams' ability, Garner believes the hysteria surrounding recruiting is partly to blame.
"The thing with Montravius is that he's a product of all these recruiting services: they build these kids up," Garner said. "He's from a (Class) 1A school, Dooly County. Down there he could thump the offensive lineman he's lined up on and knock him 10 yards out of the way — he never had to do anything. He never had to rely on fundamentals."
It's a far cry from what he faces now.
"This is the SEC. He's practicing against the best every single day," Garner said. "Do you think Braden Smith cares that Montravius was a five-star? Braden Smith was a five-star, too. So it doesn't matter. It's just getting him to understand that, 'Hey, you're going to be bigger, stronger, faster than most of the guys. Yes, you are a very, very, very, very talented guy. But you have to use your fundamentals.'"
As much as the Tigers expect from Adams in terms of on-field production, they are asking every bit as much from him in the defensive line's meeting room. With five seniors graduating at the end of last season, Adams is one of the few upperclassmen remaining, and by far the most experienced.
It's a responsibility Garner said the Georgia native can't shy away from.
"I think Montravius, he's making steps forward. I really believe that he's starting to turn the corner. ... (But) Montravius is having to understand that this is his third year," the coach said. "He has to embrace that leadership role."