By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Dontavius Russell was asked if teammate Carl Lawson is a bad man.
"What do you mean, bad man?"
You know, bad as in good, a fierce defender, disrupter of offenses, likes to sack quarterbacks, team leader. You know, an Auburn defensive end with the reputation of being one of the best around.
In that case, Russell said, "I guess he's a bad man. He's real talented. He's a real talented player."
Lawson doesn't have the stats two games in the season, but all concerned said he's playing well heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Texas A&M in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Russell, Lawson and a wave of their teammates are part of a deep defensive line that isn't afraid to substitute to stay fresh.
Playing another wave of defensive linemen could be a plus trying to slow the Aggies and quarterback Trevor Knight.
"It helps us a lot because we're able to be fresh by the end of the game," Russell said. "You're not as winded or as gassed, and when people can come in who can play as well as the players who started the game off, that's always beneficial."
The rotation showed up last Saturday. Arkansas State had 65 snaps, but no Auburn starting defensive lineman played more than 45 plays. Lawson was in on 35 snaps. Russell played 25.
Auburn's defensive backs lead in tackles. But the linebackers have won accolades and the defensive linemen as well. Lawson's numbers, for example, are modest.
"His numbers will come," said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. "He's been very productive and he's done his job."
"Stats," Russell said, "don't tell how you're playing. Some people can just look at stats and tell how you're playing. But sometimes, they don't run to your side. And if they don't run to your side, you’re not going to make a tackle. Sometimes my gap isn’t occupied, or sometimes my gap, they don’t come through it.
"I don't look at what stats I have or how many tackles I have or anything like that. If you run to my side a lot, I feel like I'd have a lot of tackles.
"Plus, we do have a lot more depth, so we're not playing as much as we would in the past years."
Two freshmen have joined the defensive line ranks of the experienced Lawson and senior tackle Montravius Adams. Marlon Davidson started on opening night, and Derrick Brown has contributed as well.
"Of course I'm impressed," Russell said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine