Tag Archives: Carl Lawson

Auburn beat writer Q&A: The view from the Plains

Gus Malzahn

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn calls out to his team in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. LSU won 35-21. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A year ago, Auburn beat writers were preparing themselves for a possible coaching search as the Tigers limped to a winless SEC season.

Today Auburn is one of the most impressive stories in college football and coach Gus Malzahn is a possible coach of the year candidate.

The Vols (4-5, 1-4 SEC) play No. 7 Auburn (8-1, 4-1) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, noon).

We asked Auburn beat writer Joel Erickson a few questions about the Tigers. You can follow Joel on Twitter and read his coverage here.

1. How surprising is Auburn’s 8-1 record and why do you think Gus Malzahn has been able to have so much success in Year 1?

Pretty surprising, particularly after the way the Tigers finished in their final three SEC games of 2012. In those games, against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, Auburn allowed touchdowns on 16 of 18 first-half possessions, and a closer look at some of the stats reveals just how different it’s been. For example, Auburn is averaging more than double its rushing output from last season, the Tigers’ quarterbacks are currently 65 spots higher in pass efficiency, the defense is allowing 8.2 points per game less than the 2012 version and the ability to close in the fourth quarter has absolutely flip-flopped. For what it’s worth, most people expected Auburn to take some small steps before taking the big ones.

Malzahn started things off by hiring an experienced, well-regarded staff with a lot of SEC experience, and the impact of the 2013 signing class has been impressive. Quarterback Nick Marshall has been the breakout player so far, but the Tigers also signed a lot of players — running back Cameron Artis-Payne, wide receiver Marcus Davis, defensive linemen Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams, among others — who have played key rotational roles and come up big in key moments. Malzahn has also taken a relatively hard line on discipline, a problem for the previous team, and the staff has done a good job of identifying playmakers who were either pushed to the backburner by the previous staff (hybrid Robenson Therezie) or hadn’t made much of an impact yet (wide receiver Sammie Coates, left guard Alex Kozan, linebacker Kris Frost).

2. Auburn only threw like two passes last week. What’s with that?

In a couple of SEC games, Auburn has focused on its running game as a way to get the defense rest after the opposing team churns out yardage and keeps that unit on the field. Arkansas ran 46 plays in the first half compared to just 22 for Auburn, and the time of possession was wildly in the Razorbacks’ favor. With that in mind, Auburn tried to stick to the ground to even that out a little bit — although the Tigers scored too quickly to flip the time discrepancy — and then used the running game in the second half to salt it away. What’s been interesting this season is that Auburn has regularly been able to run the ball against stacked eight and nine-man fronts, and when the Tigers have been able to do that, Malzahn has been perfectly comfortable sticking to the ground game.

3. What is Auburn’s biggest weakness and how successful have opponents been in exploiting it?

Auburn has had some trouble against offenses that run a power rushing attack, for two reasons. One, the Tigers have had trouble with missed assignments, poor angles and missed gaps in the running game, and two, because those kinds of offenses can keep Auburn’s offense off the field. LSU, obviously, had plenty of success in a first quarter that proved to be the difference in the game, Mississippi State took a 20-17 lead into the final two minutes and Arkansas could have made things interesting if the Razorbacks hadn’t missed on two red-zone opportunities in the first half. Passing offenses have picked up yards against Auburn, but the Tigers tend to string out those types of opponents and force mistakes.

4. Is Auburn’s success sustainable? In other words, could you see Auburn returning to where it was before the disaster in 2012 — consistently competing at the top of the SEC West?

I think it is. Malzahn’s obviously got a proven offensive track record, and in Ellis Johnson, he’s found a defensive leader who isn’t likely to leave any time soon. Beyond that, Malzahn brought in some heavy recruiting muscle in assistants Dameyune Craig, Rodney Garner and Tim Horton, and the coaching staff has already shown a good eye for the kind of talent that will fit well in the scheme.

5. What’s your prediction for the game and why?

I picked Auburn over Tennessee 31-17, mainly because the Volunteers, although great at home, seem to be a bad matchup for what the Tigers do best. Auburn is the SEC’s best rushing offense, and Tennessee has struggled against those kinds of teams. In addition, Auburn has a penchant for magnifying the mistakes of quarterbacks, and Joshua Dobbs is still making only his second start.

Signing Day 2013: With 3 known visitors in town and Chongo Kondolo off board, how will Tennessee close?

chongo-kondolo-247.JPGKNOXVILLE, Tennessee Tennessee had planned to bring up to seven players for official visits this weekend.

Instead, it should be a relatively quiet weekend (unless there are secret visitors that have eluded the outstanding Internet sleuths) in Knoxville. Defensive linemen E.J. Levenberry and Malik Brown and receiver Tyler Boyd are expected to be here, along with some juniors the Vols are targeting in 2014.

This will probably be my last update until next week, and then I’ll make some final predictions. I think that aside from Vonn Bell and Carl Lawson, we should have a much better idea of what Tennessee’s final class will look like — unless, of course, there are some fall-back options or secret recruits that are added at the last moment.


(Photo of Chongo Kondolo above courtesy KNS partner 247Sports)

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Signing Day 2013: After MarQuez North commitment, Tennessee still has 10 spots in class (updated projections)

vonn-bell-247.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — National Signing Day is still five days away, but after receiver MarQuez North committed to Tennessee Wednesday night, UT fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

The worst-case scenario — striking out on every major target — is off the table.

The best-case scenario — landing North, Vonn Bell AND Carl Lawson — is still a possibility.

And now Butch Jones and his staff have some recruiting momentum as they put the finishing touches on their first class at Tennessee.

(Photo of Vonn Bell above courtesy KNS partner 247 Sports)

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Signing Day 2013: Updated odds for all of Tennessee’s targets

jaylen-miller-247.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We made some minor changes to the list, tweaking a few percentages slightly. I also added four-star WR Shelton Richardson, a West Virginia commitment who I had forgotten to include on the first installment.

The Chongo Kondolo situation remains unclear. JC Shurburtt tweeted Monday that the juco offensive lineman had committed to the Vols, but apparently no one has been able to reach him to confirm that. Because of that, I don’t believe he has been added to the commitment list on either 247 or Rivals.

Defensive end Joe Sanders will soon be off the commitment list, as he is likely bound for juco or prep school. So, if Kondolo is actually in the fold, Tennessee has 17 commitments (including five early enrollees).


(Photo above is of Jaylen Miller, courtesy KNS partner 247)

The assumption had long been that Tennessee coaches would take the maximum they could sign (which is 27, including two counted back to 2012). That seems virtually impossible to happen now. Even if there are many fallback options waiting in the wings — and there may be — it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Vols could get to 27. But we shall see. There’s still a week until National Signing Day.

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Signing Day 2013: Where does Tennessee stand on its remaining targets?

butch-jones-stadium-ut.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It’s risky to speak in absolutes when it comes to football recruiting, but the last few days before National Signing Day may go a long way in defining Tennessee‘s 2013 class — whether it’s seen as a success, a failure or somewhere in between.

It’s no stretch to say that the fate of the class hangs on three prospects — defensive end Carl Lawson, defensive back Vonn Bell and receiver MarQuez North. Getting just one player would be huge. Nabbing all three would represent a home run finish. Going 0-for-3 would make it tough to spin this class as anything other than a huge disappointment.

Think that’s hyperbole? None of the rest of Tennessee’s targets have the same star power and, even if they did, the Vols aren’t leading for most of them.

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Everything you need to know about Tennessee’s busy recruiting weekend

carl-lawson-247sports.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — New Tennessee coach Butch Jones hosted about a dozen players in Knoxville this weekend, but fans also had to monitor important visits from key targets who were taking trips elsewhere.

No public commitments emerged from the weekend, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of news to catch up on.

Let’s run down what happened in the second-to-last weekend before National Signing Day on Feb. 6.

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