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We are pleased to be joined today by Dusty Miller and Jared Robertson of SB Nation's new Auburn site, College and Magnolia. Dusty and Jared dish on Auburn's recruiting efforts over the last season and the remaining needs moving forward.
What misses in the 2012 class must now be addressed in the class of 2013? Who are the top prospects Auburn is pursuing to meet this need?
Technically, Auburn filled its biggest needs if you strictly look at the numbers. Auburn needed offensive linemen, and by George, they got offensive linemen! Some of the biggest misses on signing day last year were from players who would have had a shot at making an immediate impact at a few positions where the Tigers are still looking for playmakers to step up. This post recapped some of the hits and misses of the 2012 class. There were some painful misses because of how close the Tigers were to landing a handful of prospects.
Looking back now, Cordarrelle Patterson jumps out immediately. In case no one has noticed, Auburn's offense has struggled early on this season. Aside from Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn has not been able to establish another consistent receiving threat. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler needs a playmaker to step up opposite of Blake. We have all seen the instant impact Patterson has had at Tennessee coming out of JuCo. That kind of weapon would have been a welcome addition for the Tigers. Using the same argument another big miss turned out to be a guy that Auburn actually signed, JaQuay Williams. It's a little different when talking about a player coming out of high school, but JaQuay could have filled a similar role. Hopefully, he will be able to get his grades in order and re-sign with the Tigers in January. As far as who the Tigers are pursuing to fill the need in this class, Earnest Robinson is a start. He's a bigger body receiver who knows how to go get the ball. With excellent body control and good hands, he could be a potential instant impact player. He showed out at camps this past summer, elevating his stock.
Auburn is pursuing a number of other top wide receiver prospects on a national level. It will be interesting to see who the coaches are able to get on campus for a visit this fall. Laquon Treadwell and Isaiah Jones are a couple of names to watch. Treadwell seems to be currently leaning toward Michigan, but he has said he wants to visit Auburn. If this coaching staff can get him to campus for a visit, anything is possible. Jones showed heavy interest in Auburn prior to committing to Florida State and the coaches have continued to recruit him.
Speaking of Florida State, they pulled a pair of signing day decisions that stung just a bit. Cornerback Ronald Darby was one, but the other really hurt. Eddie Goldman was one of the best in the 2012 class and I would be lying if his decision to choose FSU didn't upset me. What is it that sets the SEC apart from other conferences? Defensive tackles. Big, nasty, mean, and extremely athletic defensive tackles. Depth-wise, Auburn is okay along the defensive line, but in the SEC you can never have too many beasts in the middle. Goldman would have been a great compliment to Jeff Whitaker, Angelo Blackson and company.
Auburn is young along the interior line, so it wasn't a priority, and isn't necessarily one this year either. However, if you want to win in this league, you do so with your line play. That's why Auburn has gone out this year and gotten commitments from some high profile defensive linemen. Carl Lawson headlines an impressive group that includes Dee Liner (Has there ever been a better name for a defensive lineman? I can't think of one.) and Tashawn Bower. Defensive line coach Mike Pelton is also heavily recruiting Montravious Adams. If Pelton is able to reel him in, that would give the Tigers one of the top defensive line classes in the nation.
One miss has left Auburn thin at a position. Again, it was a position they managed to sign in 2012. Auburn has just three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: a junior with a bum wing, a sophomore starter, and a true freshman. That was supposed to be two true freshmen, but Zeke Pike turned out to be a bit a headcase. Sure, there were some signs of that when he got into a Twitter war with Alabama fans shortly after committing to Auburn. Some fans saw that as fun and endearing. Turns out Zeke couldn't do what was asked of him, and he was sent home during the summer.
That means quarterback was going to be a priority for the 2013 class. To fill that need, the Tigers have gone out and gotten commitments from two in-state, four-star quarterbacks in Jeremy Johnson and Jason Smith. Johnson is more of a pro-style pocket passer who has dominated 7-on-7 tournaments the past two years and fits what Coach Loeffler wants. Smith will get a shot at quarterback, and is certainly talented enough to stick, but he's a very talented athlete that many people think could end up at another position.
Another miss that left an urgent need was at running back. There was something that just didn't seem right with T.J. Yeldon from the get go, as hard as I tried to ignore it. There's no denying that he's a talented back and would have been a big boost to the recruiting class. Nevertheless, even with the miss on Yeldon we had Jovon Robinson and that made it alright. At least until that fell apart a couple of days into fall practice. Auburn has a commitment from Jordan Wilkins, a big back that this offense needs, and is very much in the mix to add another top back in Derrick Green or Greg Bryant Jr.
What positions were not a need with the 2012 class due to returning players, but will now be a need in 2013 due to graduation/attrition? Who are the top prospects the Tigers are pursuing to meet this need?
As I mentioned earlier, running back is a position of need. Onterio McCalebb will be gone after this season and that will leave Auburn with four scholarship running backs (after recently moving Robenson Therezie over from DB). Auburn is hoping that Jovon Robinson will be able to rejoin the team once the mess in Memphis gets cleared up, but there may be slim chance of that happening without him going to prep or JuCo first. Coach Loeffler wants to run a power running game. You can't do that without solid depth at the running back position. Tre Mason and Mike Blakely should complement each other nicely. They aren't bruisers, though. Auburn would like to sign a couple of bigger backs in this class to fill that need. Jordan Wilkins fills that role, and Derrick Green would fit in nicely.
Even though Auburn signed a couple of linebackers in the 2012 class, and have a couple of redshirt freshmen at the position, that is definitely a position of need. Whether you look at it from a numbers standpoint or just a pure talent standpoint, the Tigers have to get better at the position. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder wants bigger linebackers without sacrificing speed. They have done an outstanding job filling that need in this class. With four commitments, all that is left is to hang onto them. Reuben Foster headlines a stellar group that includes Trey Johnson, Cameron Toney, and Jarrad Davis. Foster, one of the top overall players in the nation, will fill an immediate need in the middle of the defense. Trey Johnson is a tackling machine, and Toney and Davis are very solid linebackers that fit what BVG wants to do on defense.
Obviously, the quarterback position is a position of need after the departure of Pike and especially when you consider the questions surrounding the health of Clint Moseley's shoulder. Jeremy Johnson is a player I've watched since he was a sophomore tearing up the competition at the Hoover National Select 7-on-7 tourney. He is still a bit raw, maybe not as refined as some high school signal callers, but he has unbelievable tools that I'm sure Loeffler can't wait to fine tune.
Which commitments in the 2013 class have been the most important for Auburn?
This has to be Reuben Foster, without a doubt. Having a top-five prospect committed so early in the process helps the coaches immensely. Talent follows talent, and Foster has plenty of it. The fact that he is in Auburn's backyard and can be present for any and all visits made by other top prospects makes it even better. He has a personality that others are drawn to, and his presence will help Auburn land/keep a couple guys they wouldn't have if Foster wasn't committed. He has been recruiting other prospects -- especially Adams and Trey Matthews -- and has not wavered in his commitment to Auburn even with the slow start. The tattoo on his forearm might make things a bit awkward if he weren't so committed. Even more important than his help in recruiting, Reuben is the highest ranked, and most field-ready, linebacker to commit to Auburn in my memory. He could make an impact on the middle of the defense from the day he sets foot on campus. The play of Auburn's linebackers has left a little to be desired since the days of Karlos Dansby, Dontarrious Thomas and Travis Williams. Foster has all the tools to change that.
Another is Carl Lawson, for all the reasons mentioned for Foster, sans tattoo. He is one of the highest-rated recruits Auburn has landed in years, maybe ever, and he plays on the defensive side of the ball. He will be part of the revitalization of Auburn's defense. With three juniors at the defensive end position, one of which has the potential to leave early for the NFL in Corey Lemonier, it was important to for the coaches to take advantage of a deep talent pool at the position in this recruiting class. I've heard many analysts mention that "...if Lawson was an inch or two taller..." (meaning 6'4" instead of 6'2"), then he'd probably be the No. 1 overall recruit. Seems a bit trivial to me, but maybe I'm biased.
Jeremy Johnson is also, in my mind, a very important piece to this class. He has been a favorite of mine for a couple of years, and I'm thrilled to have him on board. I believe in Kiehl Frazier, and think he will eventually be a very good quarterback for Auburn. However, with his early struggles, the health concerns with Moseley, and what that leaves the team with as far as overall depth, Johnson was a must for this recruiting class.
Which commitments to other schools have been the most damaging? Will Auburn be able to flip the recruits committed to the other school, and if not, who will Auburn pursue to fill the need?
This class has come together pretty well. Honestly, I'm not sure there is a damaging commit to a rival school at this point. There are a few committed elsewhere that I'd like to see sign with Auburn come February, but I'm not sure any of them are damaging to this class the way a late flip has been in recent years. If you look back to last year's offensive line signees, they are heavy on tackle prospects, so you'd like to see Auburn sign a top interior lineman this year. It's not a huge need, but it would be nice. Khaliel Rodgers would have been a nice addition to this class. The teammate of Auburn commit Jahmere Irvin-Sills committed to USC after coming very close to committing to Auburn. He may still visit Auburn this fall, and that visit, if it happens, could go a long way towards the possibility of flipping him from the Trojans. The Tigers have a few back up plans, but it remains to be seen how hard they will pursue them. Numbers in this class are tight right now, and the coaches may elect to fill the spot elsewhere.
Georgia safety commit Trey Matthews is another that Auburn has a chance to flip. He has been friends with Reuben Foster for years and they have said they would play together in college. Foster is constantly in his ear about the Tigers. Matthews visited Auburn twice this summer, including a trip for which he brought his entire family with him. Auburn would like to add another safety to this class, and there is a chance it could be Matthews. There are a couple of other options Auburn is keeping an eye on for safety, but Matthews is easily their top priority for the position.
How many recruits do you expect school to take in the 2013 class? If possible, can you provide a position breakdown?
We recently put together this post breaking down Auburn's minimum needs based on the current roster. Auburn has a small senior class, so without attrition space is going to be limited. As it stands right now, I expect Auburn to sign 22 or 23 in this class. If there is further attrition, that number could go up and you may see the Tigers sign a full class. Right now, Auburn has 17 commitments, meaning there are five, maybe six spots left to fill. The current breakdown is below.
QB - 2
RB - 1
WR - 1
TE - 1
OL - 0
DE - 2
DT - 1
LB - 4
DB - 3
K/P - 2
Assuming there are five or six spots left to fill, I think Auburn will look to add one more running back, one or two more wide receivers, a defensive lineman, a defensive back and an offensive lineman. That gets us to 22 total.
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