USU football • Athletic junior cuts down on penalties, improves tackling.
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Logan • Junior Nevin Lawson almost has become invisible despite being one of the most consistent Utah State defensive starters over the past two years.
The lack of a spotlight mostly is due to the emergence of Will Davis at cornerback and his personality on Twitter, which has spawned a big shadow.
Lawson is fine with that. He prefers to do his work in silence. In his and his coaches' eyes, he's still the tough cornerback who broke into the lineup as a freshman and has been there since.
"When I'm out there, I just want to make plays," Lawson said. "I want to do my job, no matter what it takes. That's my main goal on every snap."
Lawson has made his presence known loudly for two weeks.
Lawson came up with two sacks in a win over San Jose State by using his speed off the corner to make it into the backfield unimpeded. He played a major factor in slowing down New Mexico State's all-conference receiver Austin Franklin, much of it in man-to-man coverage, during Saturday's blowout victory over NMSU.
He's proved to be athletic and versatile. As an upperclassman, he's put to rest some of the struggles of his first two years. Lawson has been a magnet for pass interference penalties in the past, but he's much more mature and patient in pass coverage this season.
Lawson hasn't been the best tackler in the past, but his big hit on Franklin during the first half of Saturday's game told a different story.
"He's been good all over the field for us," Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. "He's a real leader in the defensive backfield, and he's valuable for us. He's been in the system for three years. He knows what we expect out of our defensive backs."
USU ranks 21st in total defense and seventh in scoring defense in the nation, a chief contributor to the Aggies' 6-2 record and bowl eligibility. Lawson and Davis serve as big keys in the success. The two often are placed on an island with no help behind them in coverage, while the safeties and linebackers drift toward the line of scrimmage, either in run support or in an all-out blitz.
This is the first season where the strategy has worked like Andersen's defense at the University of Utah, where he was a defensive coordinator. It's no surprise the improvement coincides with two cornerbacks who don't need much help in coverage.