One of these days we will learn to stop using the words "boring" and "Auburn football" in the same sentence. This was supposed to be a quiet National Signing Day that would result in Gus's first non top 10 class. Momentum was going the wrong way coming into today with 4* DE Ryan Johnson having recently committed to Stanford and all the "insiders" predicting 4* LB Tyler Taylor and 4* DE Markaviest Bryant to LSU. It looked like AU might offer 3* Tyrone Truesdell and then maybe find some other random recruit we had never heard of to add bodies and that be it.
The Tigers did in fact lose out on Tyler Taylor and offer 3* DT Tyrone Truesdell but they also shocked everyone by snagging Markaviest "Big Cat" Bryant and signing explosive 3* ATH JaTarvious Whitlow. Oh and then there was that 4* DE Jarez Parks drama where it looked like AU might have another big time DE fall in their lap. So much for boring.
Overall this is a very solid class that absolutely nails the big needs AU had. It's hard to complain too much about another top 10 class and one that sits 4th in the SEC despite the fact that AU has gone 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5 in their last 3 seasons. The staff added some very important impact players and kept the stable full with more talent to be developed. Let's take a position by position look at Auburn's 2017 signing class.
There is one major reason why this class is a huge success: Jarrett Stidham. AU's #1 need this cycle was landing someone at the QB spot who could step in day one and contribute. The Tigers landed the absolute best option available between grad transfers, JUCO and high school. I don't know if Stidham will live up to the hype but he is as proven a commodity as you are going to find on the recruiting trail. He gives AU at least 2 QBs who have proven they can play at this level.
Willis is no slouch either. Raw is a good term to describe him considering he has only played QB a year but man the upside is there. He has great quickness and a better arm than I expected when watching film. He was set to play DB at Virginia Tech before a late AU offer to play QB got him to flip. His timing was a bit rough decommitting during the first half of VT's bowl game making it appear he was bailing on them because of a poor half. They later rallied and won resulting in his Twitter feed getting blown up. The next day though it became clear what had happened when he committed to the Tigers. He and Stidham both enrolled early so Auburn will have all their QBs on campus for the spring. Whether they will all be healthy or not remains to be seen but the Tigers will have 6 guys vying for that 2017 starting job with them all present for spring practice. I am guessing that might be a story mentioned a few times over the offseason...
This past season showed AU needed more bodies at RB so they went out and signed 2 quality backs. I highly encourage you to check out Barrett's highlight film as I think he has a chance to be a big time player for AU in the future. He is former high school teammates with Nate Craig-Myers and now the two join forces again this time in orange and blue. There were some concerns we might lose Barrett late when Clemson and Tennessee were looking for RBs. He officially visited the Volunteers but nothing came of it and he never visited Clemson.
Alaric Williams was a do it all guy for Southside. He played LB, WR and of course RB. I could see him doing a variety of different things for Auburn on the offensive side of the ball but he will probably mainly be a RB. Like Barrett, his style blends well with what we like to do. Nebraska pushed hard for him over the season but the Tigers held them off. There are still come grade concerns but the fact we let him sign shows we think he will get the work done. One thing this staff has excelled at is getting signed talent to campus.
Oh the TE position. Auburn has been a bit cursed at this spot but I think that is going to change in 2017. Chip Lindsey likes to operate out of 11 personnel and asks his TE to be a lot of things. He will split him out wide, line him up in the backfield and of course put him where you usually see TEs. AU had exactly 1 tight end on the roster last season who caught a grand total of 2 passes. This year they will have 3 and I think those reception numbers will change especially with Salvatore Cannella. Cannella was a guy AU got on late in December before the JUCO signing day. He was long considered a Maryland lean but Auburn and Texas both got late visits. He bought what the Tigers were selling and signed with AU. If there's any player that should be excited about Chip Lindsey being hired it's Cannella. His skillset is perfect for what Lindsey wants out of the TE spot.
John Samuel Shenker was once an Auburn baseball commit. He decided he would rather play football and now ends up an Auburn football signee. Shenker was Lindsey's first scholarship offer and a guy he prioritized quickly. I am sure some of that is due to Lindsey's previous relationship with Rush Propst, the head coach at Colquitt County, but Shenker is a solid prospect. He has drawn some Phillip Lutzenkirchen comparisons but I think he has some work to do to reach that level but he has a similarish skillset in that he is a solid route runner with great, as Gus would say, ball skills. I don't expect to see a ton of Shenker next season but he is a kid that could grow into a solid player for AU down the road.
After last year's monster class, Kodi Burn's first WR class might not have the same pop. But it's hard to blame top WR talent from passing on AU. We have not had a consistent passing game the past 2 seasons and if we do start developing one there is a ton of young talent already on campus. However, despite all that Auburn brought in two guys that I think have tremendous upside. The best way I think to describe this offensive class is with one word: explosive.
Iggy has speed to burn and is a guy that looks perfect to help Eli Stove out in that speed sweep role. He was used in a variety of ways in high school and gives Lindsey another toy to play with next season. He looked like he would be playing for the Fighting Irish next season until AU offered mid year. After that he was an AU lock and committed not too long after. He's a guy that I think will help stretch the field vertically and might have a shot at being the fastest wideout on the team in 2017. Unfortunately we will never get to hear Verne Lundquist butcher his name...
Anyone that follows high school football in the state of Alabama closely has probably heard of JaTarvious Whitlow. He was an explosive athlete for LaFayette last season throwing for 2,292 yards while rushing for 2,147 more. That's right he threw for over 2,000 yards AND ran for over 2,000. His highlight film is one of the most entertaining tapes you will see. So why was he poised to commit to Tulane and held so few D1 offers? Simple answer: grades. The Auburn staff was blown away by him last summer but were concerned about his academics. The staff kept tabs on him over the fall and there were rumors that he might end up a top safety target. That ended up not happening and in early January, Whitlow said he hadn't heard from Auburn in sometime. But as NSD approached and Chip Lindsey jumped on board the Tigers decided they wanted to add a 2nd WR and couldn't help but go after Whitlow. You have to think with how this staff handles academics that they must now think he can get it done and if he does this could end up a big coup for the staff as Whitlow is a TD waiting to happen.
If the Jarrett Stidham reason wasn't good enough for you to be excited about this class I present exhibit B: this OL class. Herb Hand is considered one of the best OL coaches and recruiters in the country. Last year he helped AU snag 4* OT Prince Sammons away from Michigan State late in the cycle. This year he kept 5* Calvin Ashley on board, beat out Alabama for 4* Austin Troxell and wrapped up 4* NIck Brahms all before August. Not too shabby.
One of the crown jewels of this class is Calvin Ashley. In something of a reverse for Auburn, their highest rated recruited has been their longest committed one. He was also the first to send in his letter of intent this morning. Ashley committed to Auburn back in 2015 after Big Cat Weekend shocking many who thought Florida State would be the team to beat. Since then there were numerous rumors and smoke that he might flip with it reaching it's peak in December when Maryland insiders all but guaranteed it. It didn't happen, instead Ashley signs with the Tigers and will have a legitimate shot at seeing the field early. Malzahn compared him to Greg Robinson and I think that's fair. He is a very big dude but extremely athletic and a monster in the run game. His footwork in pass pro needs some polish but in Auburn's offense he could find a place. Don't be surprised if by end of 2017 season Ashley is starting somewhere on the line.
One of the prized instate talents this season was Austin Troxell. A 2nd ACL tear took away another season otherwise he probably would have been rated higher. For the 3rd straight year the Tigers have landed a talented kid from Madison Academy (Kerryon Johnson in 2015, Malik Miller in 2016) and Troxell looks like a great RT to pair with Ashley at LT down the road. Health is a bit of a concern along with the level of competition but what is not a concern is attitude. Troxell finishes every play and doesn't consider his work done until he has planted a defender on his back. You can't teach that attitude.
The final piece to this stellar OL class is Nick Brahms. It started to appear likely we would land him at The Opening when it was discovered his sister and Hand's daughter would be rooming together at Auburn. Might call that a bit of smoke. Brahms lost his senior season before it even started with a broken leg in August. He's rehabbed since then and supposedly should be able to practice some in the spring. He's a guy that could play center or guard for Auburn depending on need. I really like his upside and would not be shocked if in 2-3 years all 3 of these guys are starting somewhere on Auburn's offensive line.
Yesterday Auburn had exactly 1 DL commit and it appeared at best they might get 2. Instead the Tigers signed a solid three man class that includes one of the best pass rushers in this cycle. Why do we continue to doubt Rodney Garner?
Markaviest "Big Cat" Bryant is a huge pull for this Tiger staff late. Pass rush is a huge question for 2017 with Carl Lawson off to the NFL and Bryant could be a huge answer to it. I still think he has a lot to work on including getting stronger and holding up to physical run games, but there is no denying that he has some of the best closing speed in this class. He will be at the Buck spot this fall and could end up being a dynamic 3rd and long option for the Tigers.
Jackson was a Christmas present for the Auburn Tigers in December and is a guy I REALLY like. At 6'5" 280 it's hard not to drool over the potential. The main issue with Jackson right now is he basically plays standing up. That's not an unusual problem for high school DTs to have it just really stands out when you are 6'5". He could end up being a SDE or a DT in our scheme but I suspect he ends up on the interior. He could probably get to 300 lbs and still keep his quickness. Keep an eye on him over the next few seasons as he might have the highest ceiling of this DL class.
If there is a guy I am cheering the hardest for to succeed it's Tyrone Truesdell. He's a guy that has been on AU's radar this whole cycle but was always viewed as a backup plan. That seemed to be the case for other programs as well including Florida but he never complained or pouted about it. When Auburn asked him to officially visit the last weekend he did and it apparently went great. But he wouldn't have a spot unless we missed on Ryan Johnson and he seemed ok with it. Well we missed and he got that green light and signed with AU today. Truesdell is a monster at 335 and screams nose tackle. I think he is a few years away from making an impact but could grow into that 3rd and short/goaline nose tackle player that Devaroe Lawrence was in 2016.
This was a big year instate at the LB spot. Five of the top 16 players instate according to 247 were LBs and AU struck big in that department, none bigger than Tadarrian Moultry. Rankings vary wildly on him with 247 having him the #18 player in the country and a 5* while ESPN has him comically as the 292nd best player this cycle. Rivals considers him a top 100 player while Scout has him just outside the top 100. He is 100% one of the top 50 players in the country in my mind. He is a freak athlete who could play ILB, OLB or Buck for the Tigers. He is a pass rushing threat and a tackle machine. Moultry had one of the most dominant senior seasons in the class and is a guy that could step in day one to help Auburn next year. With Bryant signed, Auburn doesn't have to move him to the Buck now if they don't want to. He could still end up there but the truth of the matter is he looks like a fit anywhere at linebacker for our team so I suspect wherever we need the most help is where he will land next season.
The other big instate pull was KJ Britt. If you like thumpers at LB, Britt is your guy. At one point in time he was planning to commit to UGA but after a car accident that injured both him and his brother, he was moved by how our staff responded. After that he took some visits and fell in love with AU choosing the Tigers over the Dawgs. He participated in bowl practice and will be on campus for the spring so don't be shocked if he finds his way into the rotation. From all accounts he has impressed everyone with his ability and work ethic.
Chandler Wooten is the final player in this LB class and a guy that isn't getting a ton of pub but has tremendous upside. He could end up at the Buck spot or he could play the OLB role Darrell Williams currently occupies. He racked up a ton of tackles in 2016 and earned player of the year honors in his region. He too will be an early enrollee and someone to keep an eye on this spring. AU beat out Tennessee for the young man's commitment and he has been one of Auburn's most active recruiters.
Auburn's cornerback class is an interesting one. Malcolm Askew was McAdory's QB last season so he spent most of his time on offense. He has some DB experience but it's hard to tell from film exactly how well he translates to DB. Auburn recruited him for a specific purpose and that is the nickel spot. The staff thinks he has the strength to help out in the run game but also the quickness to cover slot guys. He participated in bowl practice and will be on campus in the spring so I suspect he pushes for playing time at the nickel. Askew actually grew up an Alabama fan but didn't get much love from them and so spurned his childhood love to don the orange and blue.
Leonard is one of the lowest rated guys in the class but I actually really, really like him. Something rare for Auburn CB commits is that he actually played CB in high school. To me he looks like a guy that could play next season. Not sure his ceiling is super high but he's a kid that could occupy that field corner spot with a lot of success. Wesley McGriff honed in on him over the summer and finally got him to flip from UNC just before leaving for Ole Miss. Leonard was one of the first DB commits though to make it clear he would be sticking with Auburn despite the coaching change. I think he gives Auburn immediate cornerback help in 2017.
Recruiting is not the most loyal of games. Teams and players are constantly switching things up and leaving each other in awkward situations. Carlito Gonzalez is one of those rare individuals who commits to a school and not a coach. While committed to Auburn he has been recruited by 3 different secondary coaches and 2 different DCs. There were moments he wavered but ended up committed through it all. When you turn on the tape you see a very physical safety who already looks like he has the body of an SEC player. I know fans tend to think all their 3*s are underrated but I am of the opinion that no one in this class has been as unjustly rated as Gonzalez. This kid can ball.
Do you like aggression in your secondary? Well then I have your man. Jordyn Peters blew away our staff over the summer with his athleticism, putting up ridiculous numbers in the camp drills. That performance earned him an offer and he eventually committed. Peters could end up at CB or S depending on the need but man I love how angry this kid plays. I don't know if he's ready to play now but you can't coach his attitude. With his frame, athleticism and on field attitude it's hard not to imagine him finding success at some point in his Auburn career.
Who wants to watch some kicking and long snapping highlights? Anyone? Auburn reloaded their special teams this cycle signing, according to Kohls Kicking, the #1 K and the #2 LS in the country. Not bad. Anders Carlson will have quite the legacy to live up to but some think he's a better kicker now than Daniel was as a freshman. His kicking stats don't look as good because in his high school league a missed kick puts the ball on the 25 yard line. So his coach would basically ask him to kick it from 60 yards or closer. That resulted in plenty of 50+ attempts which skew his stats some. Still this is a very talented kicker and should hopefully continue Auburn's streak of outstanding kickers.
This class isn't perfect and a few guys like Ryan Johnson and Devon Hunter are going to be frustrating to watch play elsewhere knowing how close they were to being Auburn Tigers but it's hard to be too upset. The Tigers made a major splash again on NSD while holding onto all their commits. Auburn had to land a day 1 ready QB, OL help, a pass rusher and some RB depth and they absolutely met all those needs. Throw in an outstanding LB class and some guys with great upside and it's a class to be happy with. Now it's time for Gus to start winning more than 8 games with these top 10 classes and hopefully provide some real stability to this Auburn program moving forward.