Following the most forgettable season in the 21st Century, many Auburn fans feared that the recruiting success to which we had become accustomed would fall to the wayside. I mean, without the bagma... err Trooper Taylor around, why would top talent give a little old cow college in west Georgia (where is Auburn, again?) a second look?
Fans and analysts alike had concerns about the ability of Gus Malzahn to recruit with the same ability as he directs his offense. The first step in proving those doubters wrong was hiring a star-studded staff known for not only their coaching ability, but also their prowess on the recruiting trail. Not long after the staff was in place, it hit the trail in true Malzahn fashion. Recruiting took on a hurry-up-no-huddle approach. Coaches hit the trail hard and fast, and those efforts have already produced results with commitments from six junior college players who could provide immediate help at key positions and four more high school players, flipping three of those from BCS schools. That brings the total number of commitments for the 2013 class to 19. With three already enrolled and some attrition, it is believed that Auburn could sign as many as 27 in this class. Consulting our trusty abacus, that means the Tigers have eight spots left to fill with less than a week until National Signing Day.
Enter the rebirth of Big Cat Weekend. This weekend, Auburn will be hosting enough talent on campus to field a team that could be competitive on its own. Using the 247Composite rankings, the Tigers will host three five-stars, two four-stars, and three high three-star prospects on official visits, plus, there will also be a number of current commitments on campus for unofficial visits. Their roles will be to help recruit and to bond with future teammates.
There are currently eight official visitors expected to be on campus this weekend:
- Reuben Foster -- ILB - five-star and No. 7 overall player in the 247Composite rankings. Foster is no stranger to Auburn fans. The Auburn High star had been committed to Auburn prior to the coaching change, but with his closest relationships no longer associated with the program, he took a step back to explore his options. In recent weeks, he has built a solid relationship with Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. They are selling him on being the face of the revamped defense. With his mother and daughter close by, and the possibility of immediate playing time Auburn has a lot to offer. Will this weekend be enough to seal the deal and get Reuben back on board with the Tigers? He plans to make a decision on Monday and Auburn should be in good shape to add Foster to the class.
- Montravius Adams -- DT - five-star and No. 10 overall player in the 247Composite rankings. Adams is a game-changer and a potential instant-impact guy in the front seven. He has plenty of options and has Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Auburn as finalists. He has not visited Auburn in a while and this will be an important visit for him and his mother, who plans to accompany him on the trip. It will be interesting to see what his decision comes down to. Will he choose to play in a 3-4 base, or does he feel more comfortable in a four-man front? While the pull of playing in the SEC is strong, can it overcome his relationship with Brent Venables at Clemson? Defensive line coach Rodney Garner has done a very good job with Adams, and now it comes down to selling his mother on Auburn. He plans a signing day decision.
- Carl Lawson -- WDE - five-star and No. 21 overall player in the 247Composite rankings. Lawson has remained committed to Auburn throughout the coaching transition despite the intense pursuit from several rivals. Tennessee, Clemson and recently Georgia Tech have given Lawson a lot to consider. Tech entered the game late with the hire of former Auburn DL coach Mike Pelton. He took an impromptu mid-week visit to check out the Yellow Jackets, however, it may have been a courtesy visit for Pelton and Lawson Sr. (a GT alum). Tennessee and Clemson pose the biggest threat, but Auburn hopes to solidify his commitment with the visit this weekend. Garner has worked hard to build a relationship with the Lawsons in recent weeks, and Auburn hopes that this weekend will remind Carl why he fell in love with Auburn in the first place. He plans to make a final decision on Monday.
- Elijah Daniel -- SDE - four-star and No. 51 overall player in the 247Composite rankings. Daniel is a current Ole Miss commit, and his interest in Auburn is somewhat unknown. Garner has a longstanding relationship with Daniel's family and is certainly one reason he is taking the trip from Indiana this weekend. With Ole Miss likely adding Robert Nkemdiche and possibly flipping Mississippi State commit Chris Jones, Daniel could be looking around. It will be interesting to see his reaction after the visit, and he could be a signing day surprise for the Tigers.
- Toby Johnson -- DT - four-star and No. 9 overall player in the 247Composite JuCo rankings. Auburn has already added three of his Hutchinson CC teammates, and that will be a selling point for the Tigers. Once again, Garner's influence is all over this one. Johnson is strongly considering Georgia and Auburn. He is another player that could have an immediate impact on the defensive front as the Tigers look to make significant upgrades to a unit that vastly under-performed last season. Johnson has said he plans to make one more visit next weekend and plans to have a decision a week after signing day.
- DeVondre Seymour -- OT - three-star from North Gwinnett HS has seen his stock rise of late and has several SEC options. He is the son of UGA alum and former All-Pro Richard Seymour, who has a prior relationship with Garner. Auburn is still deciding whether to take another offensive lineman in this class. If the Tigers do, Seymour could be an option.
- Ro'Derrick Hoskins -- OLB - three-star teammate of Tiger commits Tony Stevens and Dominic Walker from Evans High in Orlando. Dameyune Craig has made a big splash recruiting in Florida since making the move to Auburn, and that has no doubt had an influence on getting Hoskins to visit. Having two high school teammates committed doesn't hurt, either. This will be another interesting prospect to watch.
- Chequan Burkett -- S - three-star teammate of current Auburn commit Jeremy Johnson from Carver in Montgomery. Burkett is a hard hitting safety prospect that Auburn likes. The biggest question is whether the Tigers will have room to take another safety in this class.
There could be other official visitors that we don't know about yet. There have been rumors that former Mississippi State commit Deon Mix could visit. Again, the Tigers may not elect to take another O-lineman in this class. Following the massive haul of linemen in the 2012 class, it's not a great necessity this year.
There will be a number of unofficial visitors on campus this weekend, as well. Tiger commits Jeremy Johnson, Cameron Toney and others will be there to bond with future teammates and help recruit. Tashawn Bower will be taking the trip down from New Jersey. While he has remained committed, his pledge has been shaky, and the Tigers will look to solidify that this weekend.
As the 2013 recruiting cycle winds down, there may be no other team in college football with the chance to move as far up the rankings in the final week than Auburn. Malzahn and crew have worked hard to prove the doubters wrong and bring in the talent to get the program back on track quickly. Few programs have a final weekend that could have as much of an impact on their signing class as what Auburn faces over the next few days. Hopefully, there will be good news to report coming from this weekend.