Before diving into this lengthy post I did want to take a second and say how excited I am to be joining this site’s great team. I was a longtime lurker before recently signing up and joining this awesome community. As one of those strange and bizarre fans that loves following the ups and downs of the recruiting world, my hope is I can keep readers on this site somewhat aware of the current happenings in the Auburn recruiting world. Like I have said in the past, I am no super secret insider or talent scout just a guy that likes reading and writing about this stuff. I do want to apologize ahead of time for my terrible grammar and tendency to write longish articles...
Last week I took a stab at some of Auburn's top offensive targets in 2018, today we look at the defensive board. I changed up the formatting some to hopefully make it a little more digestible and easier to read. Here’s who Auburn appears to be honing in on early in the 2018 class.
Since 2013, Auburn has signed eleven recruits listed as DTs. Only three have not come from either the state of Georgia or Junior College. Because of that our DT recruiting tends to rely heavily on the available crop of DTs in GA. Unfortunately for Auburn, there is only one (Robert Cooper) in the 2018 cycle that is rated a 4* or higher and he's already committed to Florida State. So where will the Tigers look instead? Well, there's always JUCO though it's a bit early to really know who the top targets there would be. But more than likely Rodney Garner will have to capitalize on a strong year in-state and a surprisingly strong crop of Tennessee DTs. However, landing a 4* or better instate DT has proved a challenge in the past as the only four recruits to have met that criteria since 2013 have all signed with Alabama. Auburn hopes to change that in the 2018 class.
The main instate battle will be over 4* Coynis Miller who is beginning a fast rise up the rankings. He plays a host of positions for his high school team including wildcat QB, TE, kick/punt coverage and both DT and DE. Miller is former teammates with 2017 AU signee Tadarrian Moultry so you have to think that helps Auburn some. Both Alabama and Auburn have made him a big time priority early. The other in-state 4* is Alfred Thomas who as of now doesn't have offers from either instate school which surprises me some. I love what I see on film with this kid as he plays OLB, DE, and DT for his team and fits that hybrid SDE/DT mold we seem to be recruiting more of these days. It will be interesting to see when/if those offers come from Auburn or Alabama. Rounding out the instate talent is 3* Timaje Porter out of Theodore. At 6'3" 320 lbs, he’s got that run stuffer size Garner likes to sign and is not easily moved off the line of scrimmage. He named AU his leader a month or so ago.
Before this cycle, the state of Tennessee had produced only one DT rated a 4* or higher since 2013. This year, though, the Volunteer state has two guys rated 4* or higher and both targets are high on Auburn's list. The most intriguing of the two, in my opinion, is 4* D'Andre Litaker. Litaker had a breakout sophomore campaign that put him on the radar nationally two seasons ago. Unfortunately, his junior year was marred by injury and tragedy. He tore his ACL 8 plays into last season and tragically lost his mother in a car crash a few months later so this is a kid I am really cheering for no matter where he lands. Based off his sophomore film though you see an explosive force up front that looks exactly like someone you want at the 3-tech and could develop into a nice interior pass rusher. It sounds like Auburn and Florida are the two main schools pushing for him right now but you have to expect the instate Vols will also become a factor. The other target is 4* Brant Lawless who despite being a bit undersized at 280 lbs lines up as a true nose guard in his high school's 3-4 defense. Lawless has a tremendous first step and reminds me some of Dontavius Russell coming out of high school.
A final name to keep in mind is Breiden Fehoko who is transferring from Texas Tech. He was the #50 player in the 2015 recruiting class signing with the Red Raiders out of high school. However, due to recent defensive coaching turnover, the big man decided to transfer away hoping to find somewhere that can better prepare him for the NFL. He has already lined up three official visits including one to Auburn on March 3rd. Basically, every SEC team seems involved as the opportunity to land a proven DT doesn’t come around often. He would have to sit out the 2017 season but would be eligible to play two more years starting in 2018. Something that could work in the Tigers favor is that Jarrett Stidham was at one point in time committed to Texas Tech at the same time as Fehoko. Stidham has already shown in just a few months on campus that he will recruit hard for Auburn so you have to think he will in the big man’s ear. The Fehoko recruitment will definitely be something interesting to track in the coming months.
Strongside Defensive End
Auburn is already off to a strong start at SDE (position currently manned by Marlon Davidson) in the 2018 cycle. 4* JUCO Daquan Newkirk was supposed to be a part of Auburn's mega DL class in 2016 but he didn't qualify so he enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last year where he redshirted to preserve an extra year of eligibility. Newkirk has been locked in with Auburn since his first commitment and is a guy I feel pretty good about keeping. He moves incredibly well for his size even being used as a RB his senior year. It will be interesting to see how he does in the very competitive Mississippi Junior College world. Newkirk could end up playing inside but I suspect he joins Auburn's rotation at the SDE spot behind Marlon Davidson when he enrolls at Auburn. Because he redshirted he will enter Auburn as a redshirt sophomore in 2018.
I imagine Auburn will want to sign at least one more SDE this cycle, especially since Newkirk is a JUCO player. The top two targets are most likely 4* Brenton Cox and 4* Stephon Wynn although Auburn has some catching up to do with both. Cox flew up 200 or so spots in 247’s most recent rankings bump and is a kid with tremendous upside. However, right now Cox appears to be a pretty heavy UGA lean but could he be the late Garner GA steal? We will see. As for Wynn, it will be a shock if he lands anywhere other than Clemson considering he is a Tiger legacy. Of the options on the table though he is my favorite SDE target and I would love for Auburn to somehow steal him away. Chances of that happening at this point seem very unlikely. A name to monitor though is NR Malik Langham out of Huntsville, AL. He only recently started playing football but has the size and athleticism college coaches drool over. Honestly, I like him just as much as Cox but it's believed the coaching staff wants to evaluate him further before extending an offer. Don't be shocked though if he lands in Auburn's 2018 class.
Despite having plenty of bodies at the Buck position, I expect Auburn to try and sign at least one guy to play this spot in the 2018 class. At the end of the day, you can never have too many pass rushers. The top two targets appear to be 4* Justin Mascoll and 4* Nik Bonitto. Mascoll was a 5* until last week when he fell pretty far in 247's rankings update. Still, he is a top 100 player and looks the part of an SEC player already. However, if given a choice I would probably take Bonitto over Mascoll. I love his film and to me he has the combination of size and speed we want in the Buck position. Mascoll in the early going appears to be an UGA/Clemson battle while Bonitto seems pretty wide open.
A guy I would have listed as Auburn's best chance a week ago is Mobile Christian's 3* Andres Fox. The 6'5" 230 lb rising senior has seen his recruitment blow up recently as Alabama, Georgia and LSU have all offered in the last week. Auburn once looked like the clear leader but considering Fox called getting an Alabama offer "a dream come true" I think chances of him being a Tiger have become very slim. I expect we see more targets emerge over the coming months.