Auburn's Top 25 players of the decade
It’s been a wild decade on The Plains.
We saw the Kick-6, the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, Cam Newton and there have been plenty of other wild moments. The reason those moments happened was because of the players who put the program in that position.
Now as I always say with this all-decade stuff, a 1-year guy like Cam Newton (he only played in 2010) isn’t going to get punished because he played less than Jarrett Stidham. Performances that go above and beyond the standard are recognized as such. And sometimes being responsible for a monumental moment is worthy of being part of this list.
So, let’s count down Auburn’s top 25 players of the decade:
25. Kamryn Pettway, RB
There were a whole bunch of dominant running backs for Auburn in the 2010s, and Pettway was one of them. The bulldozing 2016 first-team All-SEC back racked up 1,224 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns as a 1-2 punch with Kerryon Johnson.
24. Lee Ziemba, OL
A key blocker for that dominant 2010 rushing attack, Ziemba helped clear running lanes for Cam Newton and Michael Dyer. He was named the SEC’s top blocker for his lone season in the 2010s.
23. Sammie Coates, WR
You’re going to notice a theme here. There are a whole bunch of players from that talented 2013 team on this list. Coates finished his career ranked in Auburn’s top 10 in receiving thanks to a 2013 season that saw him haul in 42 catches for 902 yards and 7 touchdowns.
22. Jeff Holland, LB
“Sensei Mud” was a force in 2017. His first and only year as a starter saw him rack up 12 tackles for loss and 9 sacks en route to All-America honors.
21. Michael Dyer, RB
It’s worth remembering that we’re strictly talking about on-field performance here, where Dyer thrived before transferring to Louisville. Dyer was the Offensive MVP of the national championship game, and he had consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons in Gus Malzahn’s offense.
20. Cameron Artis-Payne, RB
Artis-Payne got the chance to shine following the departure of Tre Mason, and promptly took off. After being a key contributor on the 2013 runner-up squad, he led the SEC in rushing en route to first-team All-SEC honors.
19. Daniel Carlson, K
You could certainly make a case that Carlson deserved to be higher on this list for being named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year twice. He ended his career as the SEC’s all-time leading scorer, as well as the SEC record-holder with 92 field goals and 198 consecutive made PATs, and Carlson was second in FBS history in career field goal percentage of kicks of 50 yards (13-for-21).
18. Dontavious Russell, DL
Russell was one of several Auburn defensive linemen who used up all of their eligibility listed here, and thrived by doing so. A disruptive force in the middle of the Tigers’ defensive line, Russell finished his career with 153 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.
17. Montravius Adams, DL
Adams was one of a bunch of incredibly talent Auburn defensive linemen throughout the 2010s. As a senior, Adams took off on Kevin Steele’s defensive line. The first-team All-SEC selection finished his career with 151 total tackles, 21 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks while also forcing 3 fumbles and intercepting 2 passes.
16. Carlton Davis, CB
Davis was a prolific shutdown cornerback who earned first-team All-SEC honors for a junior season in which he defended 12 passes, forced and recovered a fumble and had an interception. Davis’ 3 interceptions as a true freshman in 2015 were an SEC record at the time.
15. Chris Davis, CB/KR
Davis is responsible for the single greatest play in Auburn history with the Kick 6, but he also was an All-American return specialist and a second-team All-SEC cornerback. He’s an Auburn legend, despite the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have the accolades of some of the others on this list.
14. Deshaun Davis, LB
A tackling machine, Davis racked up a ridiculous 266 stops and 29 tackles for loss in his 4-year career. Only 2 Auburn players had more tackles than the first-team All-SEC selection since 2000.
13. Jarrett Stidham, QB
Yes, he regressed in 2018, but he was still a second-team All-SEC quarterback who beat Georgia AND Alabama en route to an SEC West title in 2017. He ranks in the top 6 in Auburn history in both career passing yards and career passing touchdowns.
12. Greg Robinson, OL
Auburn’s 2013 running game took off thanks in large part to Robinson, who earned first-team All-SEC honors before going No. 2 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
11. Carl Lawson, DL
His injury-plagued career was capped off by a memorable 2016 season in which he was a first-team All-American with 12.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. When healthy, few Auburn players got to ball-carriers like Lawson.
10. Dee Ford, DL
One of the heroes of that 2013 team, Ford developed a ton under Gene Chizik before he was fired. The first-team All-SEC selection had 27.5 tackles for loss (14.5 as a senior) in a career that really didn’t take off until his fourth year on The Plains.
9. Nick Marshall, QB
The quarterback of a team who went to a national championship is going to get the benefit of the doubt. The fact that he averaged 3,187 scrimmage yards and 28.5 touchdowns in his 2 seasons as a starter certainly didn’t hurt. He was responsible for some of the biggest moments in the history of the program, most notably the Prayer at Jordan-Hare.
8. Marlon Davidson, DL
As a senior, the first-team All-SEC selection had 48 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Davidson finished his career with 174 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. Davidson was Auburn’s first freshman starter on the defensive line in 31 years. He finished as a fan favorite who SEC offensive coordinators are probably glad to see finally move on.
7. Braden Smith, OL
Gus Malzahn’s offense was successful during the middle of the decade thanks in large part to a guy like Smith. A 3-year All-SEC honoree, Smith helped pave the way for Kerryon Johnson’s breakout season, and he kept Jarrett Stidham protected in his productive 2017 campaign, as well. A guy who starts 41 consecutive games doesn’t do so by accident.
6. Reese Dismukes, OL
It’s so incredibly difficult to be a 4-year starter in the SEC, much less as a lineman. Dismukes wasn’t just a starter. He was dominant. The consensus All-American won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center. He was an integral part of the 2013 national runner-up team, and he earned first-team All-SEC honors his final 2 years. Dismukes probably was responsible for at least a couple of these running backs making this list.
5. Kerryon Johnson, RB
Again, running back was a dominant position at Auburn in the 2010s. Few schools cranked them out like the Tigers did. Johnson was nearly the best of the bunch. The 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the year was an absolute force in the latter half of that season, including the performance he gave in a wins over Georgia and Alabama to clinch the SEC East. He ranks fourth in school history in rushing touchdowns, and he’s sixth in single-season rushing (1,391 yards).
4. Tre Mason, RB
I think people forget how good Mason was. Part of that was because Auburn just cranked out 1,000-yard backs under Gus Malzahn. And Mason was sort of overshadowed in history by the Kick 6 and the Prayer at Jordan-Hare. But the Tigers were only in that position because he was the backbone of the offense. The guy was just south of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in that magical 2013 season, which marked the second time in as many years that he hit the 1,000-yard mark. At the time, the 1,816 rushing yards were the third-most in SEC history. Mason finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
3. Nick Fairley, DL
Fairley and Derrick Brown were close, but I gave the nod to Brown because he was a 4-year guy and Fairley only had 1 season in the 2010s. But boy, was it good. The best defensive player on that national championship team, Fairley dominated Oregon in the title game. That was a fitting way for the SEC Defensive Player of the Year to close a 2010 season that saw him rack up 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. He’s one of the best defensive linemen of the 21st century.
2. Derrick Brown, DT
Brown would be considered a 1-man wrecking crew, but that would be taking away from his pal, Davidson. As a senior, Brown was Auburn’s first unanimous All-American since 1990. That’s right. Not even Cam Newton was in that club. Brown closed his prolific career with 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and most importantly, 38 (!) quarterback pressures. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year was the best playmaker on one of the best defenses in school history.
1. Cam Newton, QB
I mean, is there any question? And don’t give me this garbage about it only being 1 season. Newton’s 1 season left a mark on college football that 99.9999% of college football players didn’t leave in 4 seasons (unofficial stat). The 1-year wonder accomplished the ultimate hat trick — SEC Champion, Heisman Trophy, undefeated national champ. And that was for a team that as Gene Chizik likes to remind people, only had Newton, Fairley and 7th-round draft pick Zach Clayton in terms of 2011 NFL prospects.
Cam is the 2010s G.O.A.T., and there’s really not much debate about it.