Fresh off a 43-24 win over the Virginia Cavaliers in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the Auburn Tigers turn their attention to recruiting.
Auburn currently has a solid class of 16 commitments, eight of which are considered four-star players. And that's a fine class, but recruiting at this level doesn't give Auburn much of a shot of competing with the likes of Alabama and LSU. And Tiger fans are justifiably worried about the current class.
That anger only grew when T.J. Yeldon flipped to the Crimson Tide, marking the third such flip in the last two years.
There are certainly some stars in this class, however.
Auburn's top recruit is probably tight end Ricky Parks of Hogansville, Ga.'s Calloway High School. He's 6'4", 235 pounds and moves well for his size. Parks also had offers from pretty much all of the SEC and ACC. Parks is a candidate for early playing time.
Parks is joined by fellow Georgians JaQuay Williams, Joshua Hosley and Jonathan Joseph, all of which hold multiple SEC and ACC offers. As did defensive tackle Tyler Nero, running back Jovon Robinson and receiver Ricardo Louis.
How does Auburn get its class up to an elite level? By closing strong, of course.
The Tigers are still looking for help at receiver, and are in contention for JUCO wideout Corrdarelle Patterson and prep receiver Stefon Diggs. Both Diggs and Patterson are considered elite.
Auburn insiders (and only Auburn insiders) believe they have a strong chance at Eddie Goldman, the top defensive tackle in the country from Washington, DC. Most believe Goldman is down to Alabama and Florida State, with a slight lean to the Tide.
But Goldman is not the only defensive lineman still considering Auburn. The Tigers are strong contenders for Leonard Williams of Daytona Mainland and Channing Ward of Mississippi. There is a remote chance that the Tigers could land Jordan Jenkins of Georgia or Arik Armstead of California.
Back to the offensive side of the ball, where Auburn still had a strong need on the offensive line. JUCO offensive tackle Melenik Watson could likely start for the Tigers right away, and insiders believe Auburn could be the destination for him. Avery Young of Palm Beach Gardens is another strong option to land on the plains.
Auburn is also in pursuit of another linebacker and another defensive back, I believe.
Whether the Tigers can land those players is another story.
Despite being in the dead period, Auburn is still being negatively recruited regarding all the turmoil that currently surrounds the program. What turmoil?
- Offensive coordinator took a massive pay cut to leave for the head coaching job at Arkansas State.
- Defensive coordinator Ted Roof left Auburn for Central Florida.
- Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is thought to have turned down a massive raise to take the defensive coordinator job for the Tigers.
- Embarrassing efforts on the field: Auburn's four SEC losses (Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Georgia) came by an average of more than four touchdowns and a field goal. Those are AU's main recruiting rivals, and they can each point to their own obliteration of the Tigers.
In sum, Auburn has lost both coordinators to clearly inferior schools and lost a very public pursuit of its top replacement candidate, despite being rumored to have offered almost double his salary. Rivals with recent blowout wins over the Tigers aren't having a difficult time planting seeds of doubt in the minds of recruits considering Auburn.
And don't think for a minute that kids aren't being reminded that Chizik is 14-0 with Cam Newton and 16-10 without.
Getting those kids to Auburn won't be as easy as it sounds. Auburn needs to hire a defensive coordinator soon, as the dead period lifts on January 4th. That should give some life to Auburn's recruiting efforts.
Hiring an offensive coordinator is perhaps more important, because Chizik is a defensive guy by nature and he can tell potential recruits what defense Auburn will run regardless of the defensive coordinator. The same can't be said for the offense.
Auburn recruiting will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the next month. If the Tigers quickly make the right moves, they could end up with an excellent class. If not, dissension on the plains will only grow.
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