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#Trending: Top performers from Auburn’s 19-13 loss to Clemson

Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis leaps to get his hands on a pass thrown by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis leaps to get his hands on a pass thrown by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s defense is done being a punching bag.

After an offseason of telling anyone who would listen the group could be something special, the players proved it Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Clemson.

“We’re a defense that is going to be reckoned with for the year,” Auburn defensive back Josh Holsey said. “We’re trying to be the top defense in the country and I feel like if we keep working and keep doing what we can do, we can be the top defense in the country.”

Holsey was one of Auburn’s impact players in the 19-13 loss, but he wasn’t the only one. What other players are trending in the right direction after week one? We take a look.

#HOLSEY

The senior was one of the few members in the secondary who had success defending Mike Williams in one-on-one situations breaking up a pair of passes intended for the receiver in the end zone.

Holsey also grabbed Auburn’s first interception of the season — second of his career — midway through the third quarter.

The veteran might get overlooked when talking about key players on the defense, but the speedy defensive back is an important piece in Auburn’s secondary considering his lengthy resume of 20 career starts and athletic ability.

With Auburn’s depth in the secondary taking a hit thanks to Jamel Dean’s injury and Stephen Robert’s suspension, Holsey is primed to take advantage of the extra playing time having fully recovered from a second torn ACL last fall.

#DESHAUN

What a game for Deshaun Davis in his first career start. ESPN play-by-play voice Brent Musburger labeled the linebacker a “thumper” thanks to some impressive early hits.

“Number 57 is a man at the linebacker spot,” Musburger added.

The sophomore matched his aggressive style by showing he’s capable of dropping back in coverage, blitzing the quarterback and stopping the run.

Davis paired with Tre’ Williams and Darrell Williams for much of the game finishing with five tackles, a pass breakup and two quarterback hits in the loss. His five tackles Saturday matched his career total coming into the game.

The only time Davis whiffed in the loss was trying to tackle Deshaun Watson on Clemson’s final drive of the game. The quarterback flashed his quick feet to get past Auburn’s defender down the sidelines.

#JAVARIS

Coach Gus Malzahn was asked about the redshirt freshman’s performance during Auburn’s post-game press conference Saturday night.

The question had to do with Clemson picking on the defensive back when he was in coverage on the outside, but in rewatching the broadcast that really wasn’t the case.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson had his most success throwing to Williams — six of his nine catches — when Carlton Davis was in coverage.

The one clear-cut mistake Javaris Davis made Saturday night was a blatant pass interference penalty late in the second quarter where he basically just grabbed a fist full of jersey.

The good news for Auburn is that Javaris Davis is more than capable of holding down the starting spot until Dean can get healthy.

Honorable mentions

#Marlon — The true freshman brought a lot of energy to the field and was flying around to the ball as Auburn coaches like to say for much of the first half. Davidson was only credited with one tackle, but he made his impact felt by being disruptive up front.

#Hastings — The speedy little receiver out of Pulaski Academy was one of the surprises on Auburn’s depth chart last week. The one-time backup kicker worked to land a primary reserve role on the offense and found himself running routes Saturday night under the lights. Hastings showed he’s talented enough to produce in the slot with three catches for 29 yardds.

“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” Hastings said of his ascent up the depth chart.

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