Auburn is trending upwards at the halfway point of the 2016 season.
A dominating road win going into the bye week over Mississippi State left the Tigers feeling good about their chances in the second half.
Auburn’s MVPs at the midway point have played a big part in that turnaround and will need to be just as impactful over the next six weeks for the team to stay relevant in the SEC West.
Offensive MVP of the half-year: Kerryon Johnson/Kamryn Pettway
It wasn’t the combo of running backs anyone expected would be leading Auburn in rushing at the end of last season, but there’s no question they have been two of the best in the SEC at the halfway mark of the 2016 season.
Johnson is sixth in the conference with 538 rushing yards and third with 692 all-purpose yards. Pettway is seventh in the league in rushing with 505 yards and he’s basically only played four games.
Pro Football Focus, an advanced metrics website, has graded Johnson as the top running back in the conference through week five. The site has him forcing a SEC-best 25 missed tackles as well.
There’s no denying Sean White’s impressive three-game stretch, but Auburn’s backfield gets the edge with the better overall body of work.
Apologies to: Sean White; Daniel Carlson
Defensive MVP of the half-year: Montravius Adams
Montravius Adams always had the potential to be a great player.
This year he is one.
Adams is at the center of Auburn’s defensive improvement thanks to his improved productivity and consistency. The senior has 17 tackles, 10 solo, with 2.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries.
“Everybody sees the fumble recovery, everybody sees the score, everybody sees the quarterback pressure, they see the tackles for losses, but the thing that sticks out to me is he's commanding double teams inside,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “They have to double him, and that's huge, because when you've got guys they have to double, it makes run fits a whole lot easier.”
Apologies to: Carl Lawson; Carlton Davis
Offensive freshman of the half-year: Kyle Davis
Freshman Kyle Davis is the kind of big-play threat Auburn’s offense was missing last season.
Davis, who is averaging 23.6 yards per catch, is second on the team with 212 yards and at least one catch in each of Auburn’s six games.
The last Auburn player to finish the season averaging more than 20 yards per reception was Sammie Coates in 2014.
“Maybe every down of the offense there’s still some things to be learned, but when a big catch needs to be made he usually comes through for us and the moment isn’t too big for him,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said of Davis.
Defensive freshman of the half-year: Marlon Davidson
It’s hard for Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to even view Davidson as a freshman anymore based on the defensive end’s first six games.
“It's like he's been around here for three years,” Steele said.
Davidson is tied for second on the team with 2.5 sacks. He stripped Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in the backfield last week to help Auburn jump all over the Bulldogs in the first half of a 38-14 win.
While the 6-foot-3, 273-pounder is showing a knack for getting to the quarterback, Davidson is also proving to be a capable run defender on the edge and his athleticism allows him to get sideline to sideline defending the pass.
Apologies to: Javaris Davis
Play of the half-year: Kyle Davis’ one-handed grab
Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis has proven to be as sure-handed as anyone on the team’s roster through the first six games of his career.
The freshman’s “circus catch” — a one-handed grab against Arkansas St. — was the flashiest example of his skill set. He made the 42-yard grab with a pair of defenders blanketing him in coverage.
“That whole moment fits Kyle,” Auburn wide receiver Tony Stevens said.
Apologies to: Montravius Adams’ fumble return for a TD; Kerryon Johnson’s 47-yard touchdown against Arkansas St.; Daniel Carlson’s fake field goal