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On The Trail: Where Auburn Stands in Recruiting Heading Into the Season

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Coming off a very successful 2013 campaign, and primed for another big season, how does Auburn stand on the recruiting trail?

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Gene Chizik and his staff recruited some of the best classes in Auburn history. No class was ever out of the top 10 with two (three by some recruiting services), landing in the top 5 nationally. Unfortunately for Auburn, that didn't lead to long term success, or did it? All those blue chip athletes Coach Chizik brought in but couldn't develop were the backbone of an SEC Championship team last season. The Chizik years brought Auburn a National Title bookended with two Chick-fi-La bowl wins then an awful fourth season that saw Auburn go 3-9 and winless in the conference. Enter Gus Malzahn. Gus Malzahn has never been a man of many words, to be honest, he's not a great interview. He keeps everything close to the belt and never gets too excited or too down when talking to the media, but part of me says that he was licking his chops when he stepped on campus and saw the abundance of talent he had to work with. Of course, Malzahn never led us to believe that Auburn was going to do special things in 2013, but part of him had to know it was possible. He took the practically the same team that went 3-9 and took them within 13 seconds of a National Title. You're probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with Auburn recruiting? It has everything to do with Auburn and recruiting.

Auburn is not Vanderbilt (sorry, 'Dores). Auburn alone can sell itself to recruits. It's a top 20 all time program that plays in the premier conference in college football with a great fanbase, premier facilities and has put players in the NFL year after year. Auburn coming off a National Title game run with a preseason top 5 ranking and a sexy offense is like Auburn recruiting on steroids. Sure, Chizik and Co. won a title in 2010 but everyone kind of had that feeling that it possibly could have been a one year wonder and Auburn wasn't going to be in the running in '11. Even with that, Auburn still hauled a top ten class in one of the more misleading, embarrassing 8-5 seasons I've ever seen. The writing was on the wall, maybe recruits were too blind to see, maybe Trooper Taylor is a recruiting wizard (because he is), maybe BARN WAS CHEATIN' (of course), but even with all that, Vandy (sorry again, 'Dores), doesn't pull that talent. Auburn does. Auburn sells itself.

Back to Auburn recruiting on steroids (BUT STEROIDS IS CHEATIN' PAWL). Auburn recruiting in 2014 is the best shape Auburn has been in recruiting this early in the process for as long I can remember. Gus Malzahn and his staff jumped at the opportunity to sell recruits on a program that was lightyears ahead of where it was supposed to be in the Spring of 2014 and recruits listened. Recruits like winning. They like when programs put multiple players in the NFL. They like big stadiums and huge fan bases. They love sexy offenses. Even defensive players love a sexy offense. Auburn's offense is to recruits like Kate Upton is to the average guy. It's cover model sexy. Auburn's defensive scheme isn't exactly ho-hum either. Recruits like different. They get tired of playing the same damn 4-3 or 3-4 they've always played. Of course, Auburn lost a 5 star to Alabama for the exact opposite reason, but I don't think that goes for all recruits. You couple all that with the 2013 season, a season that has seen two plays get more air time than any two plays in recent memory, an SEC Championship and a national game appearance and having arguably a better team in 2014 and you get Auburn recruiting at a very high level.

Some of you are reading this and thinking "Who in the hell let Tammy from the Finebaum show write a recruiting article?". Yes, I'm a little bias towards Auburn. but Alabama has been recruiting on steroids since 2008 (and probably giving some to their players too, AMIRITE?). When you win at a top program, and have continued success, that's what happens. You just pick the players you want. Auburn isn't to the Alabama level yet, let's be honest, but another big run and they will be.

So where does all that leave Auburn in recruiting right now? With the best class I've ever seen Auburn have at this point in the recruiting process. Auburn went on a crazy run in the early spring that carried through early summer and although the 2015 commitments slowed down a bit, Auburn has locked up two top 2016 commitments including the #1 player in the country for the '16 class, Nate Craig. (per Rivals.com). Auburn has 18 players committed for '15 class and look to finish in the 24-27 mark.

Outside of defensive line, where Auburn only has one commitment, they have filled needs well and with top quality players. Auburn is probably done at quarterback and runningback. Tyler Queen has been on board at QB since last summer and Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson are big time players at halfback. Auburn could look to add another player at wideout but feel pretty good about the two players they have committed; Jason Smith and D'Anfernee McGriff. Smith could get a shot at QB but is likely to end up wideout. Auburn has one fullback and one tight end committed. Chandler Cox is the second best fullback in the 24/7 composite and Jalen Harris at TE is a bit raw but has all the tools to be big time player for Auburn. Auburn is looking to take probably 6 players across the offensive line and already have four committed. Tyler Carr is a 4-star tackle, but could play inside as well. Marquel Harrell is a 3-star offensive guard with tons of potential. Kaleb Kim, a 4-star offensive guard, is a very smart player who we could see ending up playing center when all is said and done. Bailey Sharp is a 3-star tackle who Auburn really likes. Auburn added transfer Austin Golson and will look to add one more player at the position, and there's no bigger target on Auburn's board than Martez Ivey.

On the defensive side of the ball, Auburn is looking very good, and picked up a 4-star defensive line recruit Jauntavius Johnson just yesterday. Auburn is looking take four defensive lineman so they still have a ton of work to do to finish the way they want too. Auburn's top targets on the defensive line are all big fish in 5-star tackles Daron Payne and Trent Thompson along with 4-star defensive end D'Andre Walker. I think Auburn pulls at least one of these two and adds 1 or 2 solid players along the line. At corner, JUCO player Tony Bridges will bring immediate help to the secondary next year and could be a starter when the 2015 opener rolls around. Chris Westry is a player that camped at Auburn and the coaches fell in love with him and he landed an offer shortly after camp and committed right away. Auburn coaches can't quit raving about Westry and although he is only listed a 3 star recruit the staff sees him as much more talented than his ranking. At linebacker, Auburn has two big time in state players already committed in Richard McBryde and Darrell Williams but are looking to add one more player at the position. Jeffrey Holland has been Auburn's top target at 'backer for some time and they are currently in his top 3. At the Safety/Star position, Auburn has 3 players committed could possibly take one more at the position but recently picked up Georgia transfer Tray Matthews so it's not a necessity. Montavious Atkinson and Elijah Sullivan are listed as linebackers but will likely end up at the star position while Jordan Colbert is more in the line of true safety.

All-in-all, this Auburn class is already a top tier class with the potential to get much, much better. For the first time in a long time, Auburn is ahead of the game and did it very quickly after being behind the 8-ball when the spring started. If Auburn can land some of the big fish left on it's board and fill in with quality players, this has a chance to be Auburn's best class ever especially when you look at needs and how they were filled with quality players. As always. things can change drastically between now and signing day but with the momentum Auburn already has on the recruiting trail with a likely big season coming up with plenty of exposure, Auburn should be just fine.