Auburn’s new coaching staff is still getting settled into its new surroundings, but it isn't wasting any time out on the recruiting trail. The search for athletes never slows down, and with this being the final few weeks before National Signing day, Gus Malzahn and co. are hoping to fill out the 2013 class in style.
Last weekend Auburn hosted eight official visitors, six of which are current Auburn commitments. Jason Smith, Jeremy Johnson, Cameron Toney, Earnest Robinson, Kamryn Melton and Brandon King were all on campus. The visits helped to firm up some commitments and gave the group a chance to bond with the new staff. The other two visitors were in-state linebacker Zach Cunningham, a high school teammate of Robinson, and cornerback Cameron Sutton from Jonesboro, Ga. Cunningham will be visiting Oregon this weekend, but the Tigers are in good shape. Sutton is currently committed to Tennessee, but the visit has given the Vols pledge something to think about.
This weekend several of those Tigers commits will be back in Auburn to help recruit the seven official visitors who will be on campus. Of the official visitors planning to make the trip to Auburn, five are currently committed to other schools.
• Five-star safety Tony Conner is currently uncommitted. The 6’1.5, 205-pound prospect out of Batesville, Miss., currently has Ole Miss at the top, but the addition of Melvin Smith to the coaching staff has his attention. Conner is close with Smith and has stated he would love to play for him. While Auburn may have some ground to make up, the presence of Smith gives the Tigers a shot. Conner visited Alabama last weekend and plans to have a decision before signing day.
• Four-star wide receiver Taj Williams is also currently undecided. He is a 6’3 170-pound Tallahassee, Fla., product. Louisville is thought to lead for Williams, but he has interest in the Tigers.
• Four-star linebacker James Hearns is Williams’ teammate at Lincoln High in Tallahassee. The 6’3 235-pound inside linebacker is currently committed to Florida and has been for a year. He is one of five highly-recruited linebacker commits the Gators have pledged for the 2013 class, three of which were early enrollees. He may just be making the trip with his teammate, or the numbers may be working in Auburn’s favor. You can be sure Ellis Johnson will point that out to him on his visit.
• Four-star running back Tarean Folston from Cocoa, Fla., is currently committed to Notre Dame. Folston is listed at 5’9 and 185 pounds and is the 10th-rated running back, according to the 247 Composite rankings. He committed to the Irish just a couple of weeks ago but is continuing to look around.
• Four-star wide receiver Tony Stevens from Evans High School in Orlando, Fla., is one of the many receivers currently committed to Texas A&M. Stevens announced his decision at the Army All-American game, but the glut of WR prospects in the A&M class may be giving him second thoughts. Auburn is looking for play-makers at the receiver, and the 6’3, 175-pound Stevens would fit that role.
• Three-star wide receiver Dominic Walker is Stevens’ teammate at Evans and is currently committed to Nebraska. He’s another tall prospect at 6’2 and 190 pounds. Could the two be looking for an opportunity to play together in college? Auburn might offer them that chance.
• Three-star safety Khari Harding out of Edmund, Okla., is currently committed to Arkansas, but he has been a top Tigers target since Malzahn took over a little over a month ago. Harding is listed at 6’1 and 205 pounds and could play strong safety or the “star” position in Johnson’s defense.
It appears that numbers could be playing to Auburn’s advantage for a couple of these prospects. Texas A&M has a large recruiting class already and it seems as though half of their commits are wide receiver prospects. This may be a reason why a few of those commits appear to be looking around as it gets closer to signing day. Stevens’ final three schools when he committed a couple of weeks ago were A&M, Florida State and Ohio State. His prior relationship with new wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig can only help Auburn’s chances.
Having a prior relationship with Craig also seems to be a bit of a theme with this weekend’s group of visitors. Five of the seven are from the state of Florida, and it looks as though Craig is the lead recruiter for all of them. We knew bringing No. 16 home would pay dividends on the recruiting trail, and if this list is any indication, he is out there working hard to bring top athletes to Auburn.
It may be difficult for Auburn to flip some of these recruits who are committed to other schools, given how late in the process it is. Harding may be the best shot, and if all goes well, he could change his commitment soon after the visit. However, this staff knows its way around a recruiting pitch, and it’s always been said that if you can get a recruit on campus, then you’ve got a shot. This is the first step.