UPDATE: This article was originally published back on December 18th. All of these players are on board and in school. With signing day here, I updated the date/time so that it goes into today's National Signing Day story stream, and I'm including the tweets from the official account as they come out. ! I also unlocked the comments for a further 30 days, but the best place to talk NSD 2016 is our CROOT MAP.
Auburn still has one more game to play this season, but fans are already into recruiting season after the JUCO signing period began and high school early entrees began sending in their Financial Aid Agreements. It's important to note that this is not a binding document. Recruits can sign FAAs with however many schools they wish. This allows schools to have unlimited contact with them and frees coaches up to talk about them in the media. There's no risk to the school unless they talk about the recruit and he then changes his mind.
Let's take a quick look at the 9 players that arrived on campus in January and go through spring practice (and one special note for a player you may have forgotten but who will count towards the 2016 class).
If there's one thing Auburn needs more than any other on offense right now, it's wide receivers. Word is that composite 4* WR Kyle Davis* will sign his Financial Aid Agreement for Auburn, today. Davis hasn't confirmed this, but it's something Rivals is saying.
The FAA may not bind Davis to Auburn, but it should go a long way to assuage fears of fans that he won't stick with his commitment. From what I understand, Georgia fans weren't too kind to him on Twitter after his announcement, either, which further pushed him away from the Dawgs (remember folks, what you say matters, so just DON'T TWEET AT RECRUITS).
*When he committed, he was a clear composite 5* and the #1 WR. For some reason, Rivals dropped his rankings a ton. He's still the #1 WR to 247Sports, though, and #4 in the composite.
Miller was rated the nation's #1 fullback at one point, but now shows up as the 14th ranked running back. That's the position Auburn wants him to play. He's a big back at 5'11, 229 lbs, so hopefully he can bear the repeated carries a feature back will be given. I've seen claims he was better on his 2014 high school team than his other RB teammate, Kerryon Johnson.
Having the two of them on the Plains will be a big addition for Auburn. It may free up some of the other backs to take on the Speed Back roll. His size makes him perfect for those short yardage gains, too.
I've already written about Rice this week, but I do want to add a little more. We know he's a more tradition tight-end, which is something Auburn lacked this year. However, I want to discuss another very important roll for him.
There have been times over the last few years where Auburn has put a sixth offensive lineman in the game for Wildcat or other "heavy" packages. In 2013 it was Shon Coleman. Braden Smith played the roll in 2014. This year it was Robert Leff. Next year? Rice can fill that roll. He's 6'5, 250 lbs. He's more than large enough to handle that package, and he will also provide a receiving threat out of it, as well, if they so choose.
Rice's versatility in Gus Malzahn's offense cannot be understated. He could be the weapon that really makes Gus' offense thrive.
John Franklin III
This one you can take to the bank is coming to Auburn, as he's a JUCO who has signed his NLI. Now the question is what will he play for Auburn?
The popular answer is that he will be the QB. I'm not so sure. Chadd Scott of GridironNow.com seems to believe Franklin is the make-or-break recruit for Gus Malzahn. Again, I don't think that's the case. Franklin is going to have to battle Sean White for the job, and I don't think White is going to back down. Auburn wants to run the football, but the Tigers also have to be able to throw it, too. We'll see what he can do when he gets here. I want to trust Gus that if Franklin wins the job, then it's because he is dynamic enough to do everything.
We don't know the status of Carl Lawson, yet, so it's tough to judge what the level of need will be for James just yet. If Lawson leaves, then James is critical for Auburn. If Lawson stays, then James is just really danged important.
Auburn needs more threats to rush to passer. As the #1 JUCO defensive end, James should be able to step in and provide that immediately. Hopefully he'll be an excellent bookend to Lawson or Cowart (or even Davidson). Help is on the way. James may be the more immediate impact player, though, and for that he is a very key addition to Auburn's 2016 recruiting class.
Speaking of Davidson from the last paragraph, his sticking with Auburn may be the biggest win for the Tigers in the month of December. He's a fantastic defensive end, and it will mark the second year in a row that the Tigers sign the #1 defensive end in the nation according to at least one recruiting service.
This year's defensive line class is unbelievably strong. The past two years have been very good to Auburn on the defensive line. Jared wrote a wrap-up of this year's recruiting efforts, yesterday. The game is won in the trenches, and Auburn has to be able to stuff the run and rush the passer. The last two classes have definitely been addressing that need.
Jackson announced his decision yesterday, and Auburn fans rejoiced. With Montravius Adams possibly heading to the NFL, Auburn needs quality depth in the middle. Dontavius Russell had a good year, Maurice Swain was serviceable, and Davaroe Lawrence was coming on strong by season's end, but two of those three will be gone after next season.
Jackson will be able to step in and compete for playing time right off the bat. He could also redshirt. I'm not sure what the plans will be for him, and it will likely depend on whether Adams goes pro and the performance of Swain and Lawrence. Long term, though, Jackson's importance to the Tigers' 2016 class cannot be understated.
The Phenix City native visited Mississippi State after Will Muschamp and T-Rob left, but ultimately decided to stick with Auburn. He's a composite 4* defensive back who projects at a number of positions in college. He'll likely end up at Nickel, though, I believe.
Auburn needs DBs. Every good one we get is a victory. I particularly like ones like Broussard who are 6 feet tall or taller.
The defense needs help everywhere, but with three senior linebackers leaving, the linebacker slot is one of the bigger ones. Tre Threat will be on campus in the spring to help out. Here's our original article on his commitment.
Threat is a composite 3* who had offers from a number of SEC school, including Alabama and Ole Miss. The Spanish Fort linebacker had a pretty good season with his high school, leading them all the way to the state championship. He will be playing in the Under Armour All-America Game.
I didn't count Dean as one of the 10, because he's already been on campus since the fall. Keith Niebuhr notes (in a pay-walled article) that Dean, a transfer from Ohio State, will be counted towards the 2016 class. Keith notes that Auburn can only take a maximum of 25 players in this cycle, which means with Dean already on board, the number is down to 24. Auburn has 18 commitments, so six more can be added.
Dean is a 6'2, 205 lbs defensive back. If you've forgotten about his long trail to the Plains, you can read about it here. From what I've read, Dean has looked excellent in practice (of course, so has everyone else), and can be expected to make a big contribution to the Tigers' defensive backfield.