As far as annual events go, national signing day is a close second to the Iron Bowl for many Auburn fans. Never mind that roughly half of the players signed this Wednesday will not complete four years at their chosen program.
A quick check of Sunday's Super Bowl rosters shows only one former five-star high school recruit, Pittsburgh linebacker Lamar Woodley. Neither starting quarterback was on any big time program's radar following high school. It's safe to say that recruiting is far from scientific.
Yet for many fans, signing day is the ultimate progress report. And for good reason: Those who remain serve as the backbone of the program for the next four-to-five years. Or they can be like the shooting stars that are here today and gone tomorrow (see Cam Newton and Nick Fairley).
While ranking recruiting classes is akin to picking the best tasting beer (can you really?), we all know the immediate impact a great class can have on a program. For Auburn fans, the thought of a second consecutive top five recruiting class brings the same euphoria of coming from 24 points down in Tuscaloosa.
So where do the Tigers stand heading toward Wednesday morning? It depends on who you ask (see beer analogy). Currently Scout Inc has Auburn ranked third nationally. Rivals has Auburn at number six. And ESPN has the Tigers standing in the eighth position.
What does it all mean? I suppose it's safe to say that Auburn has met its needs. Unlike the NFL, there's no Wonderlick Test to give prep players. There's nothing to measure walking around sense and there's no way to know whether living away from mama will have an effect on performance. In the end, more important than stars will be the ability of Auburn's coaches to mold these kids into men.
Assuming the Tigers hang on to their current commitments, here are some names to watch on Wednesday:
Antonio Richardson - a consensus 4-star offensive tackle, he's the top player in the state of Tennessee. He visited Auburn this weekend and puts them among his favorites. In the end, Auburn coaches will have to beat back Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and Miami. He's scheduled a press conference for early Wednesday morning.
Gabe Wright - a regular visitor to the Plains over the past year, the four-star defensive tackle is at the top of assistant coach Tracy Rocker's wish list. The 6-3, 275 lbs Columbus, Georgia native has put Auburn at the top of his list for more than a year. He says a decision between Auburn and Tennessee will come Tuesday with the announcement scheduled for Wednesday.
Cyrus Kouandjio - Considered the nation's top offensive tackle, Auburn has its work cut out for them in trying to lure Kouandjio to campus. His older brother, Arie, plays up the road at Alabama. On the bright side, he chose Auburn for his final weekend visit. Speaking to Rivals.com, Kouandjio downplayed his brother's role in the process. "That doesn't mean anything to me," said Kouandjio.
Jermaine Whitehead - Although committed to Miss State, Whitehead still took his final recruiting visit at Auburn this weekend. The six-foot, 183 lb. four-star defensive back seems to be having second thoughts about the Bulldogs. While he insists State is still in the running, it's believed that Auburn and Ole Miss both have legitimate shots at his services.
Marcus Roberson - Considered somewhat of a long shot, things look better for Auburn after the four-star cornerback from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, decommitted from Texas Tech. The 6-1 175 lb Roberson is an interesting case. A week ago, he was thought to be solid for the Red Raiders.
His uncle, former Auburn player Otis Mounds, was recently named Tech's secondary coach. Until that happened, Roberson was considered a heavy lean toward Auburn. How this affects Auburn is anyone's guess at this point. He'll choose between Auburn, Florida, USC, Miami and perhaps even Texas Tech.
Erique Florence - The 6-2, 183 lbs. four-star safety from Valley has given few hints during the recruiting process. He visited Auburn back in December and cancelled a weekend trip to Tuscaloosa to attend Auburn's National Championship Celebration. That perhaps says it all. Auburn is considered the front runner heading toward signing day.