Auburn came into Signing Day with most of its top targets committed and ready to sign, and most had signed before 10 a.m. local time. Auburn had a successful day except for one elephant in the room (no pun intended -- OK maybe a little). So with that said, lets break down the Tigers' Class of 2014 and get the bad out of the way first.
Biggest NSD Miss: LB Rashaan Evans
Evans, to the surprise of many, chose Alabama over Auburn on ESPNU this morning. Auburn coaches and most recruiting experts had the Tigers in the lead for Evans all the way up until he picked the Crimson Tide. As we stated in our predictions post, Evans seemed to be more comfortable playing the outside linebacker "jack" position in Alabama's 3-4 defense, and that is ultimately what led to his decision to pick 'Bama. That doesn't lessen the sting that most Auburn fans, and undoubtedly the coaches, are feeling right now. Auburn really needed Evans after losing top recruit Reuben Foster out of Auburn High School last year. The thought of De'Shaun Davis and Tre' Williams being teamed with Evans in the middle of the defense had fans dreaming of the Auburn linebacker corps of old. He, quite frankly, was a recruit Auburn couldn't really afford to lose, especially to Alabama. The sun will come up tomorrow, and Auburn will still have a talented class to add to a talented team in 2014. But, Evans would have been the cherry on top.
Biggest NSD Get: OG Braden Smith
We here at College and Magnolia predicted Smith to TCU, but we are perfectly fine with his decision to play his college ball on the Plains. Auburn did a fantastic job, mainly in the last two months, making up ground in recruiting Smith. It looked to be TCU and Texas A&M battle for most of his recruitment, but the Tigers were able to come in late and get him on campus, which was instrumental in landing his signature. Smith stands at 6'6, 290 pounds, and he repped 515 three times on the bench press, which is really impressive for anyone, much less an 18-year-old kid. Smith adds quality depth to an already deep offensive line. Playing time may be hard to come by for him next year because of so much returning experience. Smith could play tackle or guard and should see significant playing time in 2015, more than likely competing for a starting role.
Most talented player: WR D'haquille Williams
Three different players in this class could have taken this honor, but Williams is more college ready than the two top high school kids in the class, Tre' Williams and Roc Thomas. Williams is a 6'3, 210-pound receiver with great leaping ability and ball skills. He high points the ball at all times, keeping it away from shorter and less athletic defensive backs. He's a solid route runner and uses his big frame to get off press coverage at the line. An absolute terror in the red zone, defenses will be playing with fire letting him play one-on-one inside the 20. With Williams flanking out wide opposite of returning speedster Sammie Coates, Auburn will have one the best receiving duos in the conference. Nick Marshall showed what he can do when he gets in a rhythm and should be even better in 2014. Willliams gives him an NFL-type talent to target.
Biggest Sleeper: ATH Myron Burton
Burton is just the 76th-ranked athlete in the 247 composite, but he passes the eye test and then some. Standing at 6'2.5, 203 pounds, he's a good looking athlete with room to add a bit of size if need be. Auburn sees him at wide receiver, and he reminds a lot of Emory Blake. He''s not going to wow you with his speed, but he has good hands and just looks smooth on the football field. He may need a bit of fine tuning at wide receiver, but could see the field early and often for Auburn in 2014 adding to an already deep receiving corps.
Auburn filled most of its needs in the 2014 class. The only positions not filled that Gus Malzahn and Co. wanted were star and offensive tackle. Jordan Sims out of Homewood would have likely committed to Auburn, and attempted to at one time, but Auburn turned down his commitment. Auburn and Sims never really got involved again, and that was that. Auburn was content on not signing an offensive tackle, which is evidenced by their lack of interest in recontacting Sims. As for star, Auburn had one target and one target only, and that was Evans. The Tigers felt really good about their chances to land him all the way up until the last moment, when he committed to Alabama. With Robenson Therezie only a junior and Justin Garrett a sophomore, Auburn should be set at star for a couple more years, but Evans would have been huge.
Where Auburn needed the most help was linebacker and secondary. Outside of Evans, Auburn did a fantastic job filling needs at linebacker and in the secondary at both corner and safety. Davis is an extremely underrated prospect and should be solid at the "will" linebacker position. Tre' Williams is a stud at middle linebacker and will compete for playing time right away when he reports to fall camp. Where Auburn recruited best was in the defensive backfield. Flipping Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts from Alabama filled a serious need for the Tigers, and adding Nick Ruffin along with Derrick Moncrief and Markell Boston give them some much needed talent and size. All five guys stand a legit 6' or taller, which is something Auburn has lacked for some time. Bessent and Ruffin look to play corner on the Plains. Roberts, Moncrief and Boston all should slide in at safety. Roberts, however could play either corner or safety, which gives the Tigers some flexibility in what they can do with him. Moncrief, a junior out of JUCO, should compete at safety right away. Don't be surprised if he is the starter opposite Jermaine Whitehead or Josh Holsey next season, as either could slide back down to corner with no problem.
All in all, Auburn finished with a really good class. It probably would have been considered great had Auburn landed Evans, but lets take nothing away from the kids who are in this class. This is consensus top-10 group that essentially filled all needs with talented players. This is only Malzahn and his staff's first full year to recruit, and coming off a disastrous 2012, they really built on the success of this season and even had a lot of top targets committed before the SEC Championship run. Auburn should be able to build off this class going forward, and the future is bright on the Plains.