Note - Auburn started preparing for the Birmingham Bowl this week, but with the regular season in the books it’s not too early to take a position-by-position look at how the Tigers performed in 2015 and what the future holds.
Grading Out: Auburn’s defensive line wasn’t the same without Carl Lawson.
The hip injury he suffered in the first half against Louisville was a major setback for the group and one that impacted the whole defense.
Lawson worked his way back into shape when he returned to the lineup against Ole Miss, but the sophomore didn’t need to be at 100 percent to show how valuable he was to a team that went 11 quarters without a sack while he was out of the lineup.
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With or without Lawson, former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp struggled to find the right combination up front. The most effective group included converted linebacker Cassanova McKinzy on one end with Lawson on the other.
Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and Devaroe Lawrence showed flashes, but weren’t consistent playmakers.
Curtain Call: Graduation isn’t going to deplete Auburn’s defensive line.
DaVonte Lambert is the only player in the rotation at the position who is a senior. Lambert finished the season with 24 tackles and one sack. The junior college transfer bounced back from a torn ACL in his junior season to contribute in his final year of eligibility.
Stockwatch: The Class of 2015’s top defensive line recruit Bryon Cowart didn’t provide an immediate spark for Auburn playing around 20 snaps a game. He finished the season without a sack or tackle for a loss.
Cowart’s disappointing numbers weren’t a concern for former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. The new South Carolina coach said he was “very pleased” with how Cowart practiced and played as the season went on.
“He is playing defensive line in the Southeastern Conference at a high level and will continue to improve and continue to get better just like every other freshman I've ever coached that played as a freshman in the Southeastern Conference,” Muschamp said. “There's been a bunch and he certainly is going to be a guy who is going to play at a high level.”
Fellow highly rated prospect Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. redshirted this season.
Class of 2016 Commits: Paul James III (Copiah-Lincoln Community College); Marlon Davidson (Greenville); Antwuan Jackson (Cedar Grove); Nick Coe (Asheboro); David Marshall (Upson-Lee); Tashawn Manning (Wekiva)
Outlook: Auburn could be locked and loaded up front if Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams return for their senior seasons.
Both players possess the talent to play professionally, but have holes in their resumes. Lawson would be a no-brainer first-round pick if injuries hadn’t kept him off the field for a year and a half.
Lawson and Adams could anchor the line next season while Auburn looks to develop a large group of underclassman.