Dec. 13, 2013
Carl Lawson has four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss (Todd Van Emst photo).
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Carl Lawson could have gone almost anywhere to play college football. Coaches from across the country streamed into Alpharetta, Ga., to check out the dominating defensive end with a unique combination of strength and athleticism.
A year earlier, as a senior at Valor Christian High School in Castle Rock, Colo.,, offensive lineman Alex Kozan struggled with his decision. Would he go to Iowa, his early favorite? Or maybe stay in state and go to Colorado? Or move far away?
Lawson decided early in the process that he would play for Auburn. He wavered when Gene Chizik was fired as head coach and replaced by Gus Malzahn. But that didn’t last long, and he signed last February.
Signing day came and went in 2012, and Kozan still had not made a decision. In the end, he chose Auburn.
As the Tigers prepare to play Florida State on Jan. 6 in the BCS National Championship Game, Lawson and Kozan can say they made good choices. Both were named Friday as members of The Sporting News freshman All-America team.
For Lawson, there was some irony. After breaking through early in the season, he finished with four sacks, 7.5 tackles for losses and seven quarterback hurries. He made one of the bigger plays of the season when he stopped Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon cold on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter of Auburn’s 34-28 victory. But he was not included on the freshman All-Southeastern Conference team.
“I thought Auburn was just a great place, close to home,” Lawson said. “It’s proved me right ever since I came here. It’s just a great place. It helps you grow physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Kozan, who was chosen on the freshman All-SEC team, sat out a redshirt season in 2012, made a big move early in preseason camp this season and won the starting job at left guard. He started 13 games on the nation’s most prolific running team. He went through a coaching change he didn’t expect, but he says he has no regrets. He says it took dedication and hard work to succeed.
“Obviously, every lineman needs to get stronger coming out of high school,” Kozan said. “I did pretty much double days throughout the spring and the summer just trying to get stronger. My roommate, Jordan Diamond, and I did that. We worked out together a lot.
“I just really tried to focus on technique and really picking up the schemes and concepts. I tried to have no mental mistakes. Know your play every single play and execute it.”
Earlier Friday, running back Tre Mason and cornerback Chris Davis were named to The Sporting News All-America team.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: