Montravius Adams...the rare defensive "one that got away."
Coveted as a five-star recruit in the 2013 class and prized by Alabama head coach Nick Saban as a Glenn-Dorsey-ish throwback who can dominate and disrupt the line of scrimmage, many projected Adams as a lock for the Crimson Tide. However, he elected instead to join a stellar Auburn class in Coach Gus Malzahn's first year that included DE Carl Lawson, spurning the Tide, among other suitors such as Clemson and Notre Dame.
Now, as the Tigers prepare to put the orange juice in the corn flakes of the Alabama Crimson Tide's national championship hopes, it is not the offense, but rather Adams and his defensive cohorts, who will be called upon to keep the Tigers in contention.
Who is Montravius Adams? Alabama fans will find out Saturday evening...and they may not like him at all.
Who in the Heck is Montravius Adams?
Adams, a 6'4" 306 pound true sophomore out of Dooley High School in Vienna, GA, was the second-ranked high school recruit in the 2013 class, and the top rated defensive lineman, according to 24/7 Sports. Recruiters courted him because of his freakish combination of size and athleticism, and after a year of seasoning as a freshman in the trenches, Adams is beginning to see his enormous potential materialize. That development can't come fast enough for an Auburn defensive line that is missing a primary contributor in Carl Lawson (who was lost to injury earlier this season).
After recording 20 tackles in 2013 (including a sack of Washington State's Connor Halliday on his very first play from scrimmage), Auburn defensive coaches knew the potential was there for the freshman to become a starter and steady contributor to an Auburn defense that oftentimes falls into the shadow of its more electrifying offensive counterparts.
Thus far in 2014, Adams is having a banner year. After being named to several pre-season All-American and All-SEC teams, the hybrid defensive lineman has done nothing to dissuade those who would sing his praises as the next big Auburn defensive line draftee.
The sophomore has amassed 38 tackles on the season, with 23 of those being the solo variety. He has been a disruptive force in the backfields of opposing offenses, accounting for eight tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an amazing 17 quarterback hurries. Not to mention, Adams became the first Auburn defensive lineman since Nick Fairley to return both an interception and fumble in the same game, as he did so against Louisiana Tech in their game with Auburn earlier this year.
After a solid season in 2014 thus far, color veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson duly impressed.
"I know there were the flashy plays... but like that fumble he recovered, it was great pursuit to the ball. He was chasing a guy who already broke the line of scrimmage. He really did play well the other night and kind of brought his play up to his skill set."
Head coach Gus Malzahn agrees, not just regarding Adams' big play ability, but his raw combination of size and athletic prowess.
"Montravius is a young man that's unbelievably talented. He's a big, fast guy. He's got good football instincts and he's really improved. He's a force inside. He's tough, you got to double-team him, if you single block, he's got the ability to come off and make the play... He's very athletic, plays extremely hard and he's got a chance to be an impact player."
Though only in his second year, Adams is already catching the eyes of NFL scouts who are attracted not only to his physical measurables, but his technique, which has improved dramatically in just one year under Johnson and defensive line coach Rodney Garner. Another attractive quality possessed by the defensive lineman is his ability to play both inside and out as either a defensive tackle or end. Adams began his career as a tackle, as he has prototypical size for the position. But after injuries ravaged Auburn's defensive line depth, Adams was forced to play end at times to complement the strong play of senior tackle Gabe Wright.
A quick film study would reveal to the astute observer that Adams has strong fundamentals to go along with his natural born ability. He is an explosive pass rusher (as evidenced by his 17 quarterback hurries and 2.5 sacks) and excels at plugging the run (evidenced by his 8 tackles for loss). He maintains excellent pad level and leverages it into pure power, overwhelming single-team blockers consistently and drawing double-teams on nearly every down that he's on the field.
Adams is asked to play from a 3-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of a guard) most of the time, and due to his speed and fast-twitch ability, he is naturally adept in the role. Because of this, he has elevated himself as Auburn's most disruptive force along the defensive line that includes the aforementioned potential NFL Draft pick Wright.
For context, consider Adams a lineman very similar in size and style of play for former Bama great (and current Buffalo Bill) Marcel Dareus. While there are obvious differences in the games of the two men at the collegiate level (many of them derived from the different schemes used by Alabama and Auburn), his explosiveness, gargantuan size and ball-hawking killer instinct are reminiscent of Dareus.
What to expect from Montravius Adams against Alabama
Simply put, expect Adams to play well against his former suitor, as his strengths play well to Alabama's weaknesses up front. With the Crimson Tide's reshuffled offensive line after a rash of late season injuries, Adams has the power and explosiveness to take advantage of youth on the Bama line, both inside and out. If lined up at tackle, he will have the ability to "big-boy" smaller Bama center Ryan Kelly, though make no mistake, Kelly's technique will help him win his share of battles against the monstrous D lineman.
Bama will be forced to throw double-teams against Adams, as he is easily Auburn's most ferocious pass rusher. While Bama QB Blake Sims has performed admirably all season when pushed outside of a collapsing pocket, he has not been forced to evade a freak of nature like Adams on a routine basis.
When in the 3-technique alignment, Adams will be crashing the outside shoulder of Bama guards Arie Kouandjio and Leon Brown/ Alphonse Taylor. Both men have the size to do battle straight up with Adams, power on power, but where Adams will have the advantage is in his speed of attack and explosiveness. All three tackles struggle with footwork and quickness at times, and because of this, there will be a window for Adams to exploit. This will give him the ability to crush the pocket from the outside and force Sims inside, where the quarterback is less comfortable when flushed (Sims has been exemplary when improvising while rolling out of a collapsing pocket.)
Bama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will have no choice but to double-team Adams, as either Kelly or any of the myriad potential tackles available (depending on injury) will be asked to chip in on blocking the behemoth. Because of this, Adams' impact becomes greater than the impact he makes as a player: the attention he draws frees up players like Wright to face single-team blocks more successfully.
While Auburn's defense has been reeling in recent weeks, expect the unit to turn in their finest performance of the year versus the arch rival in Bryant Denny Stadium. While Adams can be a one-man-wrecking-crew at times, Bama has the size and technique up front to at least slow his attack and keep him in check. The key for the Tide O line will be containing Adams' impact, and keeping him contained more often than not.