Seven months after landing the best defensive end in the recruiting class of 2015 (Byron Cowart), Auburn repeated the feat with the top end in the class of ’16. Marlon Davidson announced his verbal commitment to the Tigers at a ceremony at his high school Friday.
Auburn had long been considered the favorite to land Davidson, who transferred back to Greenville (Ala.) High this year following the death of his mother after spending his junior season at G.W. Carver (Ala.) High. Davidson’s brother, Kenneth Carter, played for the Tigers between 2010 and ’13 and was hired to a support staff position under coach Gus Malzahn in March. Davidson also took several visits to Auburn.
Still, a number of programs continued to pursue Davidson throughout the summer, and the five-star prospect released a list of seven earlier this week: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Michigan. In the end, Davidson went with the program most observers expected he would choose. He plans to join Auburn in January as an early enrollee, which would allow him to partake in spring practice.
At 6’3”, 280 pounds, Davidson projects as a strong-side defensive end in college. He’s renowned for his ability to both play against the run and rush the passer. “Davidson is extremely athletic for a big man and has great balance and an array of moves,” Rivals.com director of recruiting Mike Farrell wrote in January. “He works off contact as well as anyone and is extremely powerful and hard to move.”
As a junior in 2014, Davidson recorded 69 tackles, including 16 for loss, and seven sacks.
Davidson, ranked No. 8 in the Rivals250, is the highest regarded player in the class of 2016 to pledge to the Tigers. (Their next-highest-ranked commit is wide receiver Elijah Stove, No. 52 overall in the class). Auburn previously secured commitments from two other defensive linemen, but neither of them—three-star prospect Daquan Newkirk and two-star Tashawn Manning—project to have as big an impact early in their college careers as Davidson.
The Tigers could lose redshirt sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson and junior tackle Montravius Adams to the NFL after this season. Davidson would have the opportunity to compete for playing time at end right away, and he and Cowart could eventually form one of the most imposing defensive line tandems in the SEC.
Davidson’s decision is another big recruiting victory on the defensive side of the ball for a program that, under Malzahn, has been defined by its offensive prowess. New coordinator Will Muschamp has consistently coaxed strong play out of his defenses. With pieces like Cowart and Davidson at his disposal, expect that to continue during his stint at Auburn.
The Tigers also remain in the mix for the top uncommitted prospect in the class of 2016, defensive tackle Rashan Gary.