College football recruiting roundup: Auburn to high gear, Pac-12 landscape changed

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn steals the weekend show, but USC's hire of Steve Sarkisian away from Washington affects recruiting for a huge portion of the country. Elsewhere, expect big recruiting headlines later this week.

Is there a hotter team on the recruiting trail than Auburn? The Tigers currently have 18 commitments, including eight of the four and five-star variety. That ratio could soon get even better.

Coaches always tell recruits what they plan to do in the future. But for Auburn, its coaching staff doesn't have to tell recruits what will happen. Auburn's recruits just saw the Tigers topple the defending champion, in Auburn, in front of an insane atmosphere.

Look at Dontavius Russel, a four-star defensive tackle who decommitted from Georgia Sunday.

Auburn is also after Travis Rudolph, a four-star receiver from Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman High School. Rudolph is also considering Florida State, Alabama and potentially Florida, depending on the OC hire made by the Gators.

And Rashaan Evans, the four-star linebacker from Auburn (Ala.) High School, is all but sealed and delivered to the Tigers after previously considering several other SEC schools.

The win was also huge for the coming years, with recruits who may not have previously given Auburn much consideration over Alabama, due to the Tide's recent dominance.

Open season

December 1 marked the opening of the contact period, in which coaches can make in-home visits, plenty of phone calls and other contact with top recruits. Already, top coaches are hitting the road for what will be an intense and wild final stretch of the recruiting season.

And some coaching staffs are taking advantage of the season, tweeting out their intentions. Here is Boston College.

Coaching changes

I'll have more on this later Tuesday, but I've long said that all recruiting West of the Rockies is basically in a holding pattern until USC makes its coaching hire.

And now the Trojans have selected Steve Sarkisian, head coach of Washington and former USC offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll, as the head man. Sarkisian has accomplished very little at Washington, but has improved the recruiting quite a bit. It will be interesting to see if he can take USC back to the top of the Pac-12. UCLA has to be pretty happy with the hire, however, because it means USC did not land a superstar coach.

But Sarkisian and his staff can really recruit, and are well-known to top talent in California. USC is going to get players. And winning at USC does not require great coaching if great talent is acquired.

And speaking of Washington, who will take the Huskies' job? And just how good is the Washington gig?

I don't know if I agree with that, but it's certainly a better job than when Sarkisian took over a few years ago.

Elsewhere, it is yet to be determined if Texas will make a move with Mack Brown and which offensive coordinator Florida will hire after firing Brent Pease. Both of those situations could have a major impact on recruiting at some of the best schools in the country.

Also important is the recent coaching changes that did not take place. Most notably, Texas A&M gave a massive extension to Kevin Sumlin, and Baylor locked up Art Briles. The coaching situation in the state of Texas seems very, very sure for the next half-decade, at least, as Kliff Kingsbury and Gary Patterson are both entrenched at Texas Tech and TCU, respectively.

The early advantage

We'll soon see which recruits are talking the talk about enrolling early and which are walking the walk. Enrolling early is a big advantage, because it allows recruits to get in the strength program and understand the system a semester earlier. This is particularly important for junior college players, who typically have only two years of eligibility.

Big hits

A few teams added major prospects last week.

Despite the loss, Alabama scored a big win Monday over LSU on the recruiting trail in picking up Laurence "Hootie" Jones, a 5-star safety from North Louisiana. That makes three excellent players from the area committed to the Tide in the class of 2014.

Nebraska is absolutely desperate for help on the defensive line, and it got it in Terrell Clinkscales, a 6'4, 315-pound JUCO defensive tackle Sunday. Clinkscales is a four-star with multiple top offers.

Wisconsin added four-star receiver Dareian Watkins, of Galion (Ohio), who should add explosiveness to the Badgers' offense, and should play early. Watkins is a former Northwestern commitment.

On deck

There could soon be some big names to drop.

First up should be Josh Malone, of Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp. On Wednesday, I expect the four-star receiver to select Tennessee over Clemson, Georgia and Florida State. Sources tell me distance will play a factor in his recruitment, and early playing time for the Volunteers could be too much to pass up. Malone is an early-enrollee.

David Sharpe, of Jacksonville (Fla.) Providence School, plans to decide Thursday. I expect the five-star offensive tackle to select Florida over Tennessee. Sharpe also wants to play basketball in college, and all schools on his list have indicated that will be possible. Whether an offensive tackle who needs to keep his weight above 300 pounds for football will actually be able to play both is another story entirely. But Sharpe is a great athlete for his size, and has limitless potential.

Along with Malone, I expect Tennessee to pick up four-star defensive tackle Charles Mosley, of Brighton (Tenn.) over Alabama. Mosley is a massive prospect in the middle, and I think with Alabama landing Josh Frazier at the same position last week, Mosley to Tennessee was sealed. If Tennessee lands Mosley and Malone, it could have a class of 34 commitments, including 17 rated four or five-stars. That would be a tremendous haul in Butch Jones' first full season.

Florida commit Dalvin Cook, the five-star running back from Miami (Fla.) Central did not make his official visit to Gainesville Saturday, and sources tell me that Florida State remains confident it can flip him when he makes his decision on December 14. However, Florida sources were confident Monday evening as well. A committed prospect making a decision? Welcome to recruiting. Also, Cook is taking an official visit to Miami this weekend, which could further complicate matters.

Raekwon McMillan, the five-star linebacker of Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County, is set to decide on December 16. Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are the three presumed favorites. He did visit Auburn for the Iron Bowl, but I think that effort from the Tigers came too late in the process. I think McMillan will be a Buckeye.

Another star linebacker deciding on December 16 is Clifton Garrett, of Plainfield (Ill.). I would be very surprised if he chose anyone other than LSU, and the Tigers have been way out in front for quite a while. Garrett could play early for LSU because he has college-ready size.

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