Veteran defensive line coach Rodney Garner doesn’t offer praise lightly.
The longtime Auburn assistant known for his fiery demeanor on the field assesses players as he sees them.
When Garner talks about freshman defensive lineman Marlon Davidson’s maturity and gifted natural talents, the compliments are warranted.
The criticism is too.
Garner chuckled Monday morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium as he started to animatedly describe Davidson’s prideful personality taking a couple hits since joining Auburn at mid-year.
The most recent incident happened during fall camp Saturday when Garner pitted his linemen against each other in one-on-one contact drills. Davidson confidently lined up opposite sophomore Byron Cowart, a player known to fairly reserved on the football field.
“Byron kicked his butt, I mean man-handled him,” Garner said emphasizing each word. “The kids were going crazy.”
For a freshman repping with the first team defense it was an important reminder he still has a long way to go.
“I think it was a wake up call,” Garner said.
Garner gave Davidson a bigger dose of humility when the defensive lineman received an offseason speeding ticket in Greenville.
“He says he wasn’t going very fast, but the state trooper clocked him at like super speed,” Garner said.
The freshman had to give up the keys to his car when he tried to downplay the violation to his coach.
“He’s like, you really are going to take my keys?” Garner said. “Yeah, I really am going to take your keys. I really am. For a week, he’s coming every day coach Garner can I have my keys back. I told Kenny (Carter) you need to go talk Marlon and let him know every day he asks me about the keys it makes me madder and madder and madder and he won’t ever get them back. You need to tell to get the hint. I think he got the hint and in about three weeks I gave them back when he learned the lesson.”
Garner cautions against unrealistic hype for Davidson while acknowledging the he has a legitimate shot at landing a key spot in Auburn’s rotation up front. There will probably be more bumps along the way, but Garner is encouraged with how Davidson has handled himself so far.
“They are good kids, but the same time they are still kids,” Garner said. “They have those silly moments, they have those lackadaisical moments when you have to shock them back to reality especially Marlon. You always have to stay on him about being humble. He has that characteristic where he’ll get here (raises hand).”