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Auburn DB Carlton Davis locks down spot as one of SEC’s best young defenders

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) scrambles and slides before being tackled by Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis (18) during the first half of the Birmingham Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. (Butch Dill | AP Photo)
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) scrambles and slides before being tackled by Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis (18) during the first half of the Birmingham Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. (Butch Dill | AP Photo)

Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis is cutting into the room opposing offenses have to work.

Davis capped his freshman year with a performance worthy of Birmingham Bowl MVP honors.

He had a career-high 11 tackles (six solo) and half a sack to help keep Memphis out of the end zone in a 31-10 win.

Davis was quick to credit the team’s reorganized defensive coaching staff for the group’s success against Memphis.

 “We knew Paxton Lynch was a very dynamic quarterback,” Davis said. “All week in practice coach preached to not let him beat us by himself. I think we did a great job executing the game plan.”

Memphis coach Darrell Dickey pointed to Auburn’s coverage in the secondary as a key difference in the game.

“The lined up in cover two and played really tight,” Dickey said. One of the keys to the game was both teams threw what we call the perimeter screen game and when they threw it they were able to get four, five or eight yards off of it. They even had a touchdown on that play.”

The SEC All-Freshman honoree’s didn’t even get credit in the box score for his biggest play.

Davis broke up a would-be touchdown intended for Mose Frazier on the Memphis’ opening possession of the second half. The defensive back swatted the ball into the arms of teammate Tray Matthews for an interception.

Matthews joked about owing Davis dinner for initiating the turnover — “going to have to take him out in my town” — but wasn’t kidding when he praised the cornerback’s development this season.

“That’s my little brother right there,” Matthews said. “I tell him keep grinding and stay humble, keep playing your game and no one can take that away.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn also spent time during his postgame press conference discussing Davis’ impact on the team’s improving defense.

“He has really started to establish himself as one of the lockdown corners in this league,” Malzahn said. “He started as a freshman and really is a tough kid and a great competitor. His future is really bright.”

A humble Davis reflected on his success seated two seats down from Malzahn at the same press conference.

“It has been a growing year,” Davis said. “My coaches just preached to me to get better and practice every day. I tired to improve one thing in practice every day. That’s why I got the results I did. I am real happy with my season. I felt that I could have made a few more plays, but that comes with being a freshman and learning the game.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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