Three years ago, Montravius Adams arrived on Auburn's campus as one of the most highly touted recruits in the country. The young defensive tackle had a strong debut, tallying two tackles and a sack in Auburn's 31-24 win over Washington State. In the 2015 opener against Louisville, Adams recorded 7 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble that Justin Garrett would return for a score.
Entering his senior season, Adams is faced with the tallest season-opening task of his career – anchoring Auburn's deep and talented defensive line against the No. 2 Clemson Tigers and Heisman frontrunner Deshaun Watson.
“I wouldn’t say it’s intimidating (to face Watson in the season opener)," Adams said. "We've all got one main goal, and that’s to win the game. We got here for a reason. We’re all going to go out there, we’re going to perform to the best of our abilities, we’re going to execute Coach Steele’s plan and we’re going to try to win the game.”
Watson, who led Clemson to a 14-1 season and a berth in the national championship game in 2015, is considered by many to be the best player in the country. The junior scored 47 touchdowns last season and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Adams, however, is not intimidated.
“We got a lot of different quarterbacks, but really, we've got, like, four Deshaun Watsons out there (on the scout team)," Adams said.
Auburn's defensive line is the deepest the Tigers have had in years, as 11 linemen are on the two-deep depth chart. Despite the talent and depth, however, many are still concerned that the defensive line will underperform in 2016 as it has in past seasons. Adams hopes the unit can prove its doubters wrong.
“We really want to live up to (the hype) a lot, just because we haven’t really had that good of a D-line like everybody wants and we haven’t been too good on third downs, so I would consider our pass rush hasn’t gotten off the field," Adams said. "Now with everybody saying we can do that, we just want to live up to the hype and go out and show everybody that we can.”
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The Tigers defensive front, which features other talented players such as starters Carl Lawson, Dontavius Russell and Marlon Davidson, will be tested against Clemson's powerful offense. Adams is confident that if Auburn can get to Watson, they can get to any quarterback they face.
“I would say (stopping Watson is crucial) simply because it’s the first game and from what we just came off last year, we’re trying to earn everybody’s respect back," Adams said. "Everybody knows Deshaun Watson is a Heisman candidate and he’s a great quarterback, but I believe if we can get to him then we can get to a lot of quarterbacks in the league.”
The Tiger vs. Tiger showdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of the most highly anticipated games of college football's opening weekend, and Auburn's strong defensive front lining up against the explosive Watson could be the key matchup that decides the outcome. Adams embraces the challenge.
“I would say (there’s extra motivation playing Watson) just because he’s supposed to be great and we’re supposed to be great, so it’s like a clash," he said. "But at the end of the day, it’s going to show on Saturday.”
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