When Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL on May 1, the hope was that he would return anytime during the 2014 campaign. With rehab reportedly going extremely well, though, the new goal is being pushed up.
"It's been a remarkable rehab and recovery," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said on SiriusXM's College Sports Today last week, via AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "He's way ahead of schedule, but I would say half a season would be optimistic."
That's extremely optimistic. The halfway point of the season is Oct. 11 against Mississippi State or Oct. 25 against South Carolina, which would mark a recovery time of less than six months.
Still, Lawson is a physical specimen, and head coach Gus Malzahn has been equally encouraged.
"Carl Lawson's coming on strong," he said Monday, via Erickson. "Obviously, you know, he's very motivated and all that, working very hard."
If the recovery is indeed moving at such a fast pace, that would be huge for the Tigers. Lawson is a fantastic talent who recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss as a freshman and was expected to take a big leap following the departure of Dee Ford.
ESPN's Travis Haney and Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo praised the Georgia native:
Losing Carl Lawson for an extended period is infinitely more important for Auburn in big pic than Nick Marshall's minor pot matter.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) July 14, 2014
I just want to watch Carl Lawson play football— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) July 14, 2014
With Gabe Wright, Montravius Adams, Cassanova McKinzy and others, the Tigers have players who can help generate a pass rush in the meantime.
But getting Lawson back by October or November would provide Malzahn and Co. with a massive late-season boost.