Over the next two weeks, we'll be unveiling the 10 best players on every SEC roster this spring
Our lists are sure to change as junior college and freshmen signees arrive on campus, but this is our best assessment for the moment.
Next up in the series is Auburn:
1. DE Carl Lawson: When healthy, Lawson is one of the more dominant pass-rushers in all of college football. The problem has been health. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL and half of 2015 with a hip injury. The redshirt junior has been healthy this spring, though, and he looked dominant in his first ever A-day game with four tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Now a veteran, he’s also become one of the leaders on Auburn’s defense.
2. RB Jovon Robinson: You saw flashes last season. He rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown against Texas A&M. He had 126 yards and a touchdown in the bowl game. Now, with Peyton Barber leaving early for the NFL, Robinson looks primed to become a workhorse in Auburn’s backfield this season. He certainly looked the part in the spring game, rushing for 83 yards on 10 carries. If he does get the bulk of the carries, he could be one of the SEC’s top backs.
3. CB Carlton Davis: Looking for the next star cornerback in the SEC? Look no further. Davis was thrust into a starting role last season as a true freshman, and he responded with 56 tackles, eight passes broken up and three interceptions. Though he didn’t get to play in the spring game after injuring his finger in practice, the coaches believe Davis will be even better as a sophomore. He’s quickly becoming a true lockdown cornerback for the Auburn defense.
4. DT Montravius Adams: Ever since he was a freshman at Auburn, Adams has always shown glimpses of his talent. He even flirted with leaving early for the NFL this offseason. But he’s been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, and so he opted to come back -- a decision that should benefit both him and Auburn. Now a senior, Adams looks more motivated. There has been a sense of urgency this spring, which is a dangerous thing for opposing offenses.
5. OT Austin Golson: Typically, teams want their best offensive lineman at left tackle where they can protect the blindside of the quarterback. So it was no surprise to see Golson -- the team’s starting center in 2015 -- move there this spring. The former Ole Miss transfer, who played right tackle as a freshman with the Rebels, has been competing with Darius James for the starting job. Though after the spring game, it looks as if Golson has the upper hand.
6. RB Kerryon Johnson: Unless something happens to Robinson, it’s unlikely that Johnson will be the feature back for Auburn. But similar to last season, the coaches have to find ways to get him the ball. He’s simply too talented. As a true freshman, he lined up in the backfield, in the slot and even as the Wildcat quarterback at times. Though he missed the entire spring with a shoulder injury, expect the coaches to get creative with him when he returns.
7. LB Tre' Williams: Having only made two starts in his Auburn career, Williams might be the least experienced player on this list. However, with all three starting linebackers from last season graduating, he’s the most experienced player at the position. It’s his turn now. And he’s embraced his new role, quickly becoming one of the leaders on defense this spring. In Saturday’s spring game, he led all players with six tackles and had one tackle for loss.
8. OG Alex Kozan: Both Kozan and fellow guard Braden Smith could have made this list. The two anchor the interior of the line. Kozan, though, has an extra year of experience, and he made a number of key blocks Saturday, including the one that sprung Chandler Cox free for his 71-yard run. And people forget that before missing the entire 2014 season because of injury, he was named to the All-SEC freshman team in 2013.
9. K Daniel Carlson: A kicker on this list? When you have a guy that can consistently drill field goals from 50 yards or longer, he belongs on here. Carlson proved that again Saturday, going 5-for-5 with kicks from 25, 25, 33, 52 and 55 in the A-day game. Last season, the Lou Groza Award finalist led the SEC in both field goals made (23) and field goal percentage (85.2 percent). On kicks of 50 yards or longer, he was 4 of 5.
10. S Johnathan Ford: As a tackler, with the exception of last season's LSU game, Ford has been one of Auburn’s best the past couple seasons. He led the team in tackles in both 2014 (93) and 2015 (118), and he could easily do it again in 2016. The only knock has been his play against the pass, but the coaches have moved him around this spring, experimenting with him at the Star position. In the spring game, Ford had three tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.