Offseason spotlight: Auburn

Auburn is losing a key component of its defensive line in Dee Ford, but that doesn't mean the Tigers lack talent up front defensively.

Spotlight: Defensive end Carl Lawson, 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, rising sophomore

2013 summary: Lawson played in all 14 games as a freshman and had 7.5 tackles for loss, including four sacks, which was second on Auburn's team. He also forced two fumbles and earned Freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News.

The skinny: It took Lawson a while to learn the ropes in Auburn's defense. Once he did, he really took off after that first month of the season. He didn't arrive on campus until the summer, so this will be his first spring practice under veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson. Physically, Lawson is a beast and has everything you're looking for in a defensive end in this league. The next step is becoming more in tune with what offenses are trying to do against him, which will make this spring and offseason so valuable. With Ford leaving early for the NFL draft, Lawson is the obvious candidate to become that explosive finisher off the edge for the Tigers. He's not just a pass-rusher, either, as evidenced by his fourth-down stop of T.J. Yeldon in the fourth quarter of the Alabama game last season. The Tigers really like their young talent on the defensive line. End Elijah Daniel and tackle Montravius Adams also are budding stars. But with a big offseason, Lawson has a chance to go from one of the most promising freshmen in the league to one of the most dynamic defenders in the league. The Tigers are banking on that happening.

Past spotlights: