As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.
“Davidson is really how you draw up a strongside end. Someone who can set the edge, play the run, and be very effective as a pass rusher. Anticipation off the ball can be a little better, but he plays fast, and he really knows how to close on the quarterback. Really flashes violent hands and when he stays low, he is tough to handle. Very good frame and has good reaction quickness. Needs to add moves off the ball and not be, just power.” - 247 Sports
During the summer of 2015, Auburn was having a slow recruiting cycle. The Tigers were going into Labor Day with the 9th overall class in the SEC, a huge disappointment after the solid run the program was having on the field. Just a day before the season opener against Louisville, though, Auburn would land a border-line 5* defensive end out of Montgomery by the name of Marlon Davidson. Davidson, brother to former Auburn tackle Ken Carter, was being courted by everyone, but Auburn, Georgia, and Alabama were all equally the favorites until his commitment. It certainly didn’t hurt that Carter was already on staff with the Tigers in the player development group. Davidson became a trend setter for one of the best (or at least highest rated) defensive line classes in Auburn history, which included Derrick Brown, Davidson, Nick Coe, Antwuan Jackson, Paul James III (JUCO), Daquan Newkirk, and Tashawn Manning.
Marlon Davidson made his presence known from day one at Auburn, earning the starting job for the season opener against 2015 national runner up and preseason #2 Clemson. Him winning the job came as a bit of a shock to most Auburn fans, as everyone thought Byron Cowart was going to be a shoo-in for the job in his sophomore season. When the young end started the 2016 opener, he became the first freshman defensive lineman to to start a season opener in 30 years for Auburn.
Despite an up and down 2016 for the team as a whole, the defense showed a marked improvement under new DC Kevin Steele, and Davidson’s play was a big part of that. He started all 13 games at defensive end, tallying 38 tackles, 6 TFL, and 2.5 sacks, all good numbers when you consider he was mainly used to set the edge so that Carl Lawson could cause chaos from the Buck. Davidson also displayed an interesting skill-set which would resurface during the 2018 season - his ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. Davidson got his paws on the ball four different times in 2016, good for 5th on the team (behind four defensive backs). Only one other lineman had two, and that was senior Montravius Adams. Davidson earned SEC All-Freshman honors for the season.
As a sophomore in 2017, Davidson played a similar role to the year prior. Jeff Holland was a breakout pass rusher from the Buck, actually outperforming Carl Lawson’s 2016 numbers, so Davidson’s job on the other end was to clean up whatever Holland started. He posted similar overall numbers (43 tackles/6 TFL/3 sacks), but his play grew more consistent in his second season with Coach Garner. His biggest play of the year came against Clemson, when in the 3rd quarter with the offense scuffling, he forced a fumble around midfield which gave Auburn a great chance at tying the game. They ended up, well... not tying the game. But don’t blame Marlon!
I can’t get a clear gif out of that for some reason. Just don’t watch anything else in that video, okay?
Last season, #3 was a part of one of the better defensive lines in the country, along with Derrick Brown, Dontavius Russell, Nick Coe, and several quality backups. Davidson, a model of consistency, put up similar numbers to his first two seasons with 46 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks. While the rising senior will be the first to tell you he was disappointed with his sack numbers, Davidson was in the back field all season causing problems for offenses. A quick look at his film shows he was a half second from a least doubling, maybe tripling those sack numbers, something he has been vocal about all offseason.
“I got to finish on the quarterback this year,” he told the Montgomery Advertiser. “I mean, I got there. I took all my work last year to get there. I got there, but now I got to finish. I can’t miss them when they’re in my arms.”
Remember how I mentioned Davidson’s knack for knocking down passes as a freshman? Maybe his biggest impact on the 2018 season was with said skill. He knocked three more passes down at the line, and more impressively, blocked a field goal in three straight games against Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Ole Miss.
Davidson could have left after for the NFL after the disappointment that was 2018. In fact, most people thought he would, as he was projected as a mid round pick. But he, along with roommate Derrick Brown and several other key Auburn players, decided to return for their senior seasons. With their return, the defensive line at Auburn is being discussed as the top in the country. There’s no doubt that he, Brown, and Coe are all future NFL’ers, and despite losing Russell, there is loads of talent to help fill that void. The biggest weakness last season was the pass rush. If Davidson can close on the quarterback a step quicker this season like he thinks he can, this unit will carry the team to a possible SEC Championship run, and he’ll put himself into contention for a late first round pick. I’d sure like to see that.