Bud Elliott, SB Nation's recruiting guru, was kind enough to sit down with us, virtually of course, and have a little fireside chat about Auburn football recruiting. We covered topics ranging from the national perception of Auburn to expectations for the 2013 signing class.
After a couple of years of neglect under former coach Tommy Tuberville, Auburn has recruited pretty well the past few years under coach Gene Chizik. What is the national perception of Auburn's staff, particularly when it comes to recruiting?
Indeed they have. Auburn secured a consensus top-13 class in 2012, and currently hold a consensus top-10 class.
I think Auburn is seen as a great destination. Its staff has evolved recently, but in previous years, I think they were a little heavy on the recruiters (as opposed to the guys who are X&O studs but who cannot recruit as well). That's normal. Most staffs lean one way or another. The important thing is balance, and not being too far on either end of the spectrum. Auburn has stud recruiters with Trooper, Pelton and Grimes, etc., but is also has respected coordinators as well. And that's not to say that the Van Gorder and Loeffler cannot recruit, but rather that the ace recruiters can point to the on-field success had by those two at previous stops. Kids weren't exactly lining up to play for Ted Roof.
Auburn sells the idea of family and closeness perhaps more (and better) than any school. It's a small town, and for many kids who come from rough neighborhoods (and their mothers), the peaceful, quiet setting of Auburn offers a great escape from the crime they grew up with. Of course, this image must be carefully maintained in light of some recent events that can be easily spun against the Tigers by rival recruiters.
Auburn's coaching staff has had to deal with its share of alleged scandals and negative recruiting in recent years. What unique challenges does this staff have to overcome in order to be successful on the recruiting trail?
More than anything, Auburn just needs a year without controversy. From winning a national title with a player many believe was bought, to the armed robbery, to the shooting, to this new transcript issue, etc., Auburn could really benefit if the next five months until National Signing Day are low key.
There is one question on every Auburn fan's mind right now: Will the slow start to the season negatively affect Auburn's recruiting efforts? Or have the coaches built strong enough relationships, especially with the current commits, to weather the storm and hold onto what looks to be a possible top 10 class?
And amidst all discussed above, Auburn has already dropped two games and hosts LSU this weekend. The Tigers really cannot afford to miss a bowl game because part of the negative recruiting being levied against them is that Auburn was a team (2010 with Cam Newton) and not a program.
To go from a MNC to the Chick-Fil-A bowl to nor making a bowl is not a recipe for a top-10 class.
Plus, if Auburn doesn't turn its season around, the calls for Chizik to be fired and articles speculating about such are only going to intensify. Kids watch TV and will see the term "hot seat" thrown around with Chizik's name attached.
The slow start won't hurt Auburn if the Tigers can turn it around, because then Auburn can sell it as a situation in which the players took a while to adjust to the new system. And it's really difficult to project which players would stick and which would bolt, if things don't turn around.
Another difficulty for Auburn is the geographic problems created by the 2012 college football season. Within a 400-mile radius are the No. 1, 2, 4 and 5 ranked teams in the country! That creates a situation in which four of Auburn's recruiting rivals can compare and contrast their 2012 and recent success to that of Auburn. The Tigers's situation really isn't bad, they're just in the very difficult position of being surrounded by programs experiencing significantly more success this year and the last.
Basically, it's an uphill battle.
Looking back to Auburn's 2012 recruiting class who, in your mind, was the biggest steal?
I'll give you two. On offense, I really like Ricardo Louis. He has a lot of natural ability, and when he learns to play the position, he should be very good. Defensively, I thought Jonathan Jones was underrated and a good take by the staff. Looking at some of his other offers, the Carrolton (Ga.) product had offers from schools that really know defensive backs, like Mississippi State, Wake Forest and Texas Tech (with Tubbs).
Looking ahead, who do you feel is the most underrated commit thus far in the 2013 class?
Arshad Jackson. Definitely. His athleticism alone paired with that frame (6'6, 240) at the tight end position should merit four-star status. Also, while he's not underrated as a four-star, linebacker Trey Johnson is a good player and should be contribute early and on special teams.
Auburn is in the mix for a number of top recruits. Who do you see the Tigers landing, and who will they miss on?
Running back is an obvious need, and Auburn is in the hunt for a pair of power backs in Virginia's Derrick Green and Florida's Greg Bryant. I think Auburn has an excellent shot to land one of the pair.
The other huge fish is Montravius Adams, the top defensive tackle in the country out of Dooly Co. (Ga.). Auburn is very much in play for his signature, and he may actually visit Auburn Saturday, which is a change from his expected visit to Florida State.*
*Note: Adams confirmed that he would be visiting Florida State this weekend.
When all is said and done, how good will this Auburn's class be?
That's really difficult to say. I think it can be as good as Auburn's season allows. You don't see a ton of top recruits adding Auburn to their list of schools at this point, but a few wins could change that as the Tigers get back on track. But I know you want a prediction. If Auburn makes and wins its bowl game (seven wins, roughly), I think it can haul in a top-10 class.
Thanks to Bud for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Be sure to follow him at @SBNRecruiting for great recruiting coverage. If you'd like to read more of our exchange, and see our responses to his questions, you can find those posted tomorrow over at the SB Nation college football hub.