*Recruiting embeds via 247Sports.com. Articles come from AuburnUndercover and SBNation Recruiting.
Recruiting never really ends. The 2015 cycle ended on February 4th, but it's not like 2016 started on the 5th. Auburn already had commitments for the 2016 class before 2015 signed. Offers were already out for 2017. It's a game that really knows no seasons (other than the dead periods).
We haven't been doing much coverage of recruiting since Signing Day 2015, so let's get you caught up on what's been going on.
Auburn's class is currently ranked 20th in the nation. It is down six spots from the last time 247Sports updated their team rankings. Don't let that discourage you at all, though. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: "There are still ten months to go in this cycle." You're going to need to remind yourself of just how long there is to go before next signing day anytime you start thinking too hard about recruiting.
The jewel of the class so far is Nate Craig-Myers. He's a 5* wide receiver and a special talent. He committed very early in the process for 2016, and has indicated that he's still looking around. Holding on to him for the next 10 months is going to be hard, but I believe Gus and Company can do it. Just how much Auburn passes in 2015 could go a long way towards keeping him in the fold. Florida State is coming after him hard with 5* QB commit Malik Henry. For what it's worth, this was a NCM tweet from just the other night:
Auburn's only other composite 4* is Stephen Davis, Jr. If you've somehow missed it, yes, that is the son of former Auburn running back Stephen Davis. It's hard to believe he has a son already at the college level. He's not a running back like his father, though. Davis, Jr. projects more as a Safety.
Don't let that lack of stars discourage you, though. DT Quinnen Williams has been turning heads and picking up offers. Auburn got in on the ground floor with him, and Bama is reportedly coming on strong for him and DE David Marshall. Moreover, Auburn is in it with a number of big names around the country. It's just the nature of the beast that those tend to wait until much later to commit. So, Auburn's class will likely resemble last year: gaining a number of big names in the final weeks and days of the cycle.
Then there's Landon Rice. The 3* TE from Calhoun, GA is someone the Tigers desperately want to hang on to. Rice is being recruited hard by a number of SEC Schools. Auburn only has one scholarship TE at the moment, and that number will increase to a whopping TWO when Jalen Harris arrives. Rice is a great TE prospect, and while he doesn't have the star power of other commits, don't underestimate just how important he is to the 2016 recruiting class.
As you can imagine, Auburn has quite a few offers out there. I count 39 at the skill positions alone. If you want the full list, you can check it out at 247Sports.com.
Gus Malzahn likes to take at least one elite QB in every cycle. He's taken Jeremy Johnson, Sean White, and Tyler Queen (with Jason Smith), so far. So who are the Tigers pursuing for the 2016 class? Strong money right now is pushing for Columbus, Ga QB Jawon Pass and recent Tennessee de-commit Austin Kendall from Waxhaw, N.C. I would say that's who Auburn is pursuing most. I have no clue who they'll get.
For running back, Auburn is going hard after Elijah Holyfield of Woodward Academy in Atlanta. Yes, that's the son of Evander. If there's one advantage Auburn has, here, it's that the Holyfields are already well aware of what Auburn is like. Evander, Jr. was a walk-on at Auburn during the Tuberville era. Now Elijah is a stud running back with offers from the biggest names in football. SB Nation spoke with Holyfield about his recruitment last weekend at the Nike Opening Regional in Atlanta.
There's also Malik Miller of Madison Academy, former teammate of Auburn 2015 signee Kerryon Johnson. With his size (5'11, 229), Miller could project as an H-back just as Kamryn Pettway has. That could put Auburn in good shape to land both. And, as an aside, what happened 17-18 years ago to make the name Malik so popular? I've seen a number of big football and basketball recruits with that name.
Those aren't the only names on the Tigers' board. There are 10 offers out according to 247Sports' offer sheet for Auburn.
Wide Receiver / Tight-end
Right now, Auburn already has Nate Craig-Myers and Landon Rice. You can bet the Tigers will be targeting a lot more, though. They'll need at least one elite receiver to replace Duke Williams, but Auburn will also be losing Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, and others. Keep an eye on Josh Imatorbhebhe of Suwanee, GA. If he signs with the Tigers, I'm going to need to come up with a better way to refer to him than typing his last name.
At tight-end, the Tigers are just hanging on. It would not shock me to see Auburn pick up at least one more tight-end to replenish the ranks.
I wish I had more information on who the top targets are, but I really haven't been paying that close attention to the 2016 recruiting cycle, yet. We'll be trying to push up more updates as camps and visits occur.
Expect a lot of offensive lineman in this class. A lot. The Tigers need to replace depth on the line. Injuries can happen at any time. Just look at the 2014 offensive line. So, expect at least 5-6, maybe 6-7 offensive linemen to be a part of the 2016 class. BUUUUUUD Elliot spoke with 4* OT Scott Lashley of West Point, MS about his recruiting at The Opening Atlanta.
Two names I've seen mentioned repeatedly are E.J. Price of Lawrenceville, GA and Brodarious Hamm of Griffin, GA (Spalding High). If Auburn could snag Hamm, that would be two kids out of Spalding County in two cycles (Jordan Colbert being the other, though he went to Griffin High), whereas I don't remember Auburn EVER getting someone from Spalding County in my lifetime, before.
247Sports lists 19 offers for the offensive line out, so far. You can bet there will be more.
Between WDE, SDE, and DT, 247Sports lists 24 offers on the defensive line. That includes some pretty big names. Auburn is hoping that having Will Muschamp for a full recruiting cycle - and for a much improved defense - to lead to a number of big names signing with the Tigers.
Marlon Davidson from Carver High in Montgomery is one big name on that list at defensive end. He's a big time prospect whom SB Nation spoke with at The Opening Atlanta. He doesn't name any favorites, yet. However, he has a brother you may have heard of: former Auburn defensive tackle and new Auburn staff member Kenneth Carter. You have to figure that plays in big for the Tigers.
Composite 5* Defensive Tackle Julian Rochester from Powder Springs, Ga is another name to watch. His recruitment will be a battle to the end. He's listed the Tigers as #1, but he spoke with Bud Elliot about UGA pulling even with the Tigers during The Opening Atlanta.
Auburn is high on the list for a number of good linebackers in the 2016 cycle. SB Nation spoke with two of them at The Opening Atlanta. Composite 5* Lyndell Wilson from Carver High (Montgomery) says he doesn't plan on leaving the state of Alabama, and told SB Nation that he thinks the Tigers have the best defensive staff in the nation. That should make Tiger fans feel good.
Composite 5* Ben Davis of Gordo, AL is an Alabama legacy, the son of Wayne Davis. Pulling him away from the Tide will be hard, but he's looking around outside the state of Alabama, as well. He told SB Nation he's been hearing equally from both in-state powers.
Composite 4* Stephen Davis, Jr is already on board and likely as a Safety.
If there's one name to put on commitment watch for the Tigers, right now, I'd say it's CB John Broussard of Phenix City, AL. He has unofficially visited the Tigers multiple times in the past two weeks. He's said a lot of things to show he's high on the Tigers, including telling AuburnUndercover that he's hoping teammate (and FSU commit) Jamal Couch gets an Auburn offer and that "I'm trying to get him to come with me." Broussard has said he'll commit on May 7th, but he's pushed the date back, before.
Auburn is in the mix for a number of people that are tops in the country. Most of them, however, are all in the Southeast. Malzahn & Company have focused heavily on the folks close to home in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The majority of Auburn's 2015 class came from those states.
It's fun to see Auburn spoken of so highly by the best in the nation. Of course, there's also the uncertainty, nervousness, and heartache that goes with it. I mentioned it before, but the recruiting of many of these players - especially those who are tops at their position - will go down to the wire. Many will announce their decision on signing day.
So, don't stress too much when you hear about visits, decommitments, wavering players, players losing interest, Auburn going after those with fewer stars, etc. Quinnen Williams was an unheralded, non-rated DT when he announced his commitment to the Tigers. Now he's wanted by many of the big dogs. Landon Rice is a 3* who is in the same boat. Auburn's coaches are going after talent. Yes, those 5*s are much more a sure thing than taking a flyer on a lower-rated guy, but you still have to trust that the coaches know who they want, who they're likely to get, and what they think will work best.
Take a deep breath. Relax. There's a long way to go. A lot of these kids will wait to see how the 2015 football season looks before making their decisions, anyway. We're still just over five months away from that beginning. Ten months from the end of the next recruiting cycle. Embrace the madness.