Over the last few days, we've examined and graded the offense and defense on their performances, so far. Now let's talk about some MVPs and surprises.
Rhett Lashlee. Oh, you thought I was only talking about players? I could have said Sean White, either of the running backs or a bunch of others. However, I think Lashlee is the right call, here.
Where would we be if Gus hadn't turned over the play calling to his offensive coordinator? Lashlee has taken Auburn's tendencies and used those against other teams in ways Malzahn used to be known for. He's put life into an offense that struggled against Texas A&M and looked downright lost against Clemson.
Without Lashlee taking over and mixing things up while finding the best play calls to fit his quarterback, are we talking about a 4-2 team and thinking we could have a legitimate shot at most - if not all - of the rest of our games? Probably not.
Carl and Monty. I have to go Co-MVPs, here. They've been masterful together and both have been disruptive at the exact times we needed them to be. The LSU game was a great example of that. Lawson had two sacks - one at a very key moment on the final drive by LSU. Adams' destruction of the LSU center and stop of Fournette for a big loss early in the game set the tone for how physical Auburn was going to be, there.
Hopefully, the MSU game was just a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season. If they can punish other SEC quarterbacks and offensive lines like that, then Auburn really does have a chance to win every game for the rest of the year.
Daniel Carlson and the punt coverage team. Carlson is obvious. He's absolute money on field goals, extra points, and kickoffs. He can even score touchdowns, too!
What's not talked about as much is how well the punt coverage team - and Kevin Phillips as the punter - have done. Auburn has not allowed a positive punt return yet, this season. That's special and deserves recognition for how it helps set the defense up for success.
Tony Stevens has been the surprise, to me. After three years of hardly seeing the field, having issues with drops, and just generally not living up to what we expected he could be when he signed, he's become Auburn's biggest receiver. I suspected a senior wide receiver would step up, but I didn't expect it to be Stevens.
He's caught 89% of the catchable balls thrown his direction. He has a few touchdowns. He's not quite on pace to be Auburn's first 1,000-yard receiver in I don't know how long, but he's not far off that pace, either.
With his size and speed, he was always a threat to be a big weapon. Now, he is.
Deshaun Davis. Barely mentioned since his signing, he's become one of the Tigers' primary linebackers in a very young but very talented unit. I was looking for Tre and Darrell Williams to step up along with graduate transfer T.J. Neal, but I had almost forgotten about Deshaun Davis.
He got a lot of praise back in the spring and during fall camp, so it really shouldn't have been much of a surprise. When his name was mentioned ahead of others before the season started, we should have expected something. Sometimes, a younger and almost forgotten player gets mentioned in that situation because they're trying to light a fire under the veterans.
Sometimes, though, it's because that young player is a star in the making. This is that case.
Tyler Stovall for stepping up to the Mississippi State defensive lineman who hit Carlson last weekend. I just wanted to bring that up. Otherwise, there really haven't been any surprises on this team.