The only criticism being lobbed in Carl Lawson’s direction is from the sophomore defensive lineman himself.
In his post-game press conference Saturday, Lawson apologized for what he deemed a poor performance in Auburn’s 27-19 loss to Ole Miss.
After coming back from a torn ACL, a hip injury forced him to miss six weeks of this season. Saturday’s game against the Rebels was the second time in two years he suited up for the Tigers.
Lawson was highly critical of the performance from his stamina to technique, but his coaches and teammates made it clear during the week that no one in Auburn’s locker room shares those views.
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“He’s a guy that is worried about his team and his teammates,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “He’s very unselfish. He always thinks about the team and what’s best for our football team. That’s the kind of young men you want on our team. That’s how you win and how you win big when you have very talented guys that put the team first. He certainly is a guy that does that.”
Muschamp went into the game with modest expectations for how many snaps Lawson would play considering the 6-foot-2, 257-pounder only had a handful of practices under his belt.
He received medical clearance to return to practice from Dr. James Andrews -- who Muschamp referred to as the “best orthopedic in the world -- less than a week before Auburn played Ole Miss.
“He played more than we had anticipated, of course it’s hard to get out when you get in a competitive situation,” Muschamp said. “He’s a competitive young man. He’s going to tell you he’s okay and he’s not sore when he is. Those are things as coaches we, I should have managed better as far as not letting him play that many snaps. He certainly adds a lot to our team.”
Lawson only had one tackle, but hit the quarterback three times, and pressured quarterback Chad Kelly effectively throughout the game. Muschamp had planned for Lawson to play 30-35 snaps, and he ended up playing almost double that.
Muschamp called it a “great effort,” and just his presence elevates the way the defense plays.
“He's a guy who rallies the troops,” Muschamp said. “He gets them going. He knows when it's right. He puts peer pressure on his teammates to do it the right way. All the things you want in a leader and a good player, he's got them.”
The impact Lawson has isn’t just on the defensive side of the ball either. Lining up to block the elite pass rusher is something that left tackle Shon Coleman missed last year.
Coleman praised the way Lawson is playing in his return, and is eager to keep working against his now healthy teammate.
“Carl he’s a guy that makes the whole o-line better, just him being out there in practice,” Coleman said. “He’s one of the best players in the country.”