AUBURN, Ala. — Hard as he tried, Carl Lawson wasn't able to get his left knee back to a level where doctors would clear him to play last season. So while Auburn's rising third-year sophomore sat out and rehabbed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, he had more time to observe his teammates.
One player who particularly impressed him was DaVonte Lambert, a junior college transfer. A defensive end like Lawson, Lambert had a solid first season on the Plains, tying for the team-high in sacks (3.5, same as linebacker Kris Frost) despite missing the final two games of the season after having knee surgery. In addition, Lambert recorded 24 tackles (12 solo, 12 assisted), seven tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
But it was Auburn's game against South Carolina when Lambert truly caught Lawson's attention. Lambert had success on an inside pass-rush move that Lawson hadn't mastered.
"It's just little things like when I try to do an inside move my freshman year or even in spring ball, I was stepping beneath myself," he said. "And (Lambert) kind of opened eyes for me."
And there was another technique Lambert used against Ole Miss that also earned Lawson's admiration.
"He just got to make sure to sell that step vertical and then it's easier to come back inside and do an inside rush," Lawson said.
Nearly back to peak health, Lawson can't wait to start putting those moves to use alongside Lambert next season.
"I was like, 'Wow, when I get back out there I've got to try that and it works," he said. "Stuff like that. Little football stuff I can pick up on now."