Auburn's Carlton Davis goes high to make the play against LSU
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Defensive back Carlton Davis says his job is easier these days, now that his buddies in the defensive line are making life most uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks.
Auburn's defense has won accolades in the last month, like when it held run-conscious Arkansas to 25 yards rushing last weekend, though it figures to face a different challenge in pass-happy Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly in Saturday's 6:15 p.m. game in Oxford.
Davis said he likes the challenge. And he likes how Auburn's defensive line has upset quarterbacks during the Tigers' four-game winning streak.
"They take a lot of pressure off all of us," Davis said. "We're not covering for so long. By the time I get my eyes back, there's a play being made in the backfield. That takes a lot of pressure off of us as a defensive back corps, and we’re really loving it. We’re really proud of those guys and how they improved."
Auburn has made 46 tackles for a loss, including 18 sacks. Alas, there have been only four interceptions.
"It's kind of hard getting picks when the defensive line is just all over the quarterback," Davis said.
There are no hard feelings, though.
"I don't think we should be changing anything. If interceptions come our way we just have to make the most out of the opportunity and take them."
Davis leads Auburn with eight pass break ups. He could he could be busy again Saturday. Ole Miss leads the league in pass completions and completion percentage; and is a throw away from leading the league in TD passes and a half-yard away from leading the league in average passing yards per game.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talked of turning to Davis weeks ago.
"It's not too big for him to be put on the best wide receiver," Steele said. "He's done a good job in multiple games now on staying on top of the best guy, staying on top of the coverage and he has a knack for getting to the ball."
Certainly, the Tigers feel good after the defense helped in last Saturday's 56-3 win over Arkansas.
"We've been improving as a defense this whole year. Last week was another step in our journey," Davis said.
"But it's time to go back to work and meet some more goals this week."
Coach Gus Malzahn says he likes Davis' work.
"He has the ability to really lock down a guy," Malzahn said. "He was a freshman last year, really helped him, and you can tell he's a more confident guy this year. He's really been playing well."
Kelly leads the SEC in completions and passing yards per game, and Saturday's specific challenge for Auburn is standing tall against Ole Miss big receivers.
"It's definitely a different kind of challenge knowing they will take shots no matter how good the coverage is," Davis said. "I see it as an opportunity for me to make something out of it. It’s really a good thing for me if quarterbacks have a lot of confidence in their receivers. It just allows me to make plays."
Davis says he welcomes a chance to face one of the SEC's top quarterbacks.
"That's excitement," he said. "We've faced a lot of good quarterback and Chad Kelly is another one. High competition is always a good thing for me to think about going into the game and motivate me throughout the week."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine