Javaris Davis isn’t the only player on the Auburn University football team still wearing braces. He’s pretty sure there are a few other guys in the locker room stuck in the throes of orthodontia the same way he is.
But it’s a youthful look for a guy poised to step into such a crucial role on the Tigers defense.
With Jamel Dean out indefinitely due to a knee injury, Davis is the heir apparent to start opposite Carlton Davis at cornerback.
“I’m finally getting an opportunity,” said Javaris Davis, who redshirted last season. “So I have to just take advantage of my opportunity and just do what he coaches ask and try to do my job.”
It’s a quick thrust into the spotlight for Davis, whose first appearance on the field for Auburn could be a start against national runner-up Clemson and Heisman hopeful quarterback Deshaun Watson under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 3.
But he’s more than talented enough to succeed in that role.Davis was a Class 6A all-state corner in his senior season at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and he came to Auburn as a four-star recruit, a top 50 prospect in Florida and a top 10 cornerback in the South, according to Scout.
He also has NFL pedigree — he is cousins with Colts cornerback Vontae Davis and Redskins tight end Vernon Davis — and plenty of speed to burn: He was a state runner-up in the 100-meter dash and 4x100 relay in high school, and he said his last 40-yard dash was timed at 4.18 seconds.
“He can really run. He's super fast. Probably our fastest,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He was extremely talented, even last year when we redshirted him.”
The redshirt year might have been the best thing for him. Davis said the year on the sideline allowed him to mature and get bigger — he’s added nearly 10 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame since arriving on the Plains — and watching recruiting classmates Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson get so much playing time at his position was a “humbling experience.”
“That helped me tremendously because they’re my two main cats,” Javaris Davis said of Carlton Davis and Dinson. “I’m around them a lot. I talk to them after every game and they were telling me just to stay focused and keep working. Eventually I knew I was going to be out there so I just had to get ready.”
So far this fall, it appears that he is.
“It's always good to go against him because he's a competitive guy. He's always around the ball,” senior wide receiver Marcus Davis said. “He nags you a lot. He can run. He can give you a little extra at the line because he knows he can run with you.”
That speed, Javaris Davis said, is his biggest strength. But he still believes he has plenty to work on before the season gets underway, namely his eye control and his discipline in coverage.
He’ll have to do it quickly, too: With Carlton Davis grading out as the top freshman corner in the nation after a three-interception season according to Pro Football Focus, Javaris Davis expects plenty of teams will go after him on the other side of the field.
But he’ll be ready, braces or not.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove this year,” Davis said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”