January 4, 2014

Rapid ascent

AUBURN | Rodney Garner, the Tigers' demanding and vocal czar of the defensive line, isn't a big fan of freshmen.

He has a certain way he likes things done and first-year players rarely understand that process. And even if they learn quickly, their bodies generally aren't ready for Southeastern Conference challenges. That first season is a time for development, for soul-searching, for adaptation.

Yet Garner found himself in an unusual position three months ago. His three freshman linemen (Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams) were making plays in practice. They were adhering to the rules, pushing some blockers around and generally making a good impression.

So he played them. All of them. A lot.

"They really impressed me with how quickly they were able to make a contribution -- and I don't say that very often," Garner said Saturday morning. "I don't think we'd be where we are today if it weren't for the contributions those guys made. They've made a difference."

They had to create their own opportunities.

Adams, who plays inside, was given his first real opportunity in the season-opening game against Washington State. The freshman from Vienna, Ga., was a surprise part of the Tigers' rotation at defensive tackle and finished with a pair of tackles including his first sack against the Cougars.

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