It wasn't the greatest week for Auburn recruiting. Two of Auburn’s top targets announced their intentions to play somewhere not Auburn this past week. Neither commitment was that big of a surprise, though. First, there was 4* LB Quay Walker committing to Alabama. Walker had not been shy about the fact the Tide were his leader and when he left Big Cat Weekend early to attend a camp in Tuscaloosa, it seemed the writing was on the wall. As for the second commitment, I will have to admit it was a pretty big bummer to me. I have been hyping 3* RB Master Teague for a while now and was really hoping the Tigers would secure his commitment. However, after landing an Ohio State offer he decided to commit just two days later. It was rumored that Ohio State was always his dream offer and if he ever landed it then a commitment would not be too far behind.
So with those two targets off the board, what does Auburn do at those spots? Let's take a look.
To be honest, I still feel really good about this spot despite Walker's commitment to Bama. The Tigers have quite the list of targets but the big one is 4* Richard Jibunor. Jibunor is a fascinating prospect that I have written about before. He grew up in Nigeria before emigrating to the United State for high school. In fact, he grew up in the same village as Prince Tega Wanogho and the two are very close. Jibunor is still learning the game of football but it's become clear that this dude is an elite athlete. So far during camp season he has played every defensive position but defensive tackle. He won the DL MVP at The Opening Regional in Atlanta and then this past weekend won the LB MVP at the Rivals 5* Star Challenge. He's gone from an unrated athlete to a composite 4* with the chance of rising even higher before it's all said and done. While there's no doubt that Walker is probably a better overall football player than Jibunor right now, I don't think it's crazy to say that Jibunor has a much higher ceiling than Walker. That's not a shot at Quay Walker, who I think is going to have a great career at Alabama, it's a recognition of how good I think Jibunor could be. The Tigers are the current favorites to land the Nigerian native though Alabama, Tennessee and Florida are all still in the mix. The real threat though could be Georgia if they decide to get involved. However, Jibunor camped there last week and did not get an offer which has people thinking the Dawgs will pass.
After that, there's a mixture of players to consider. 3* Andres Fox and 4* Caleb Tannor are both guys that could play the Buck spot but would also play the other end position. Fox took a three day visit to Auburn this week. LSU is a very real threat but a lot of positive signs are pointing Auburn's way in that recruitment. 3* Azeez Ojulari is a pure pass rushing DE/OLB type of player who the Tigers are also courting. At this time though, I believe Auburn feels really good about landing Jibunor and Fox. If they do that then they will be just fine when it comes to pass rushers in the 2018 class.
Losing out on Teague stinks and honestly I am not quite sure how the RB spot will shake out. If it was a 1A/1B type of situation for Master Teague and 4* Asa Martin then expect Auburn to put on the full court press for Martin. My personal opinion is Martin is Chip Lindsey's favorite RB in this class. Martin landed an offer not long after Lindsey arrived at Auburn and since then has become a top priority. The problem for Auburn is the usual one, Alabama wants him too. There was hope in the AU camp that the Tide might recruit him more as an "athlete" and look to switch him to defense. If that were the case, I think Auburn could more easily win this battle. But after impressing Bama coaches at a camp last week, he's become a top RB target for the Tide who plan on taking only one back this class. Though it should be noted they would absolutely take 2 if they could get Zamir White but that seems like a long shot. I have waffled a bunch on where I think Martin ultimately lands. I want to believe that system fit and earlier playing opportunity will help Auburn win out but it's just darn hard to beat Bama for kids they really want.
After Martin things get pretty open. There's former Tide commit 4* Dameon Pierce who visited this past week. I like Pierce. He's not a flashy back whose gonna put up jaw dropping highlights and I don't see him being rated higher than where he is right now but I do think he would be a good fit for Auburn's system. He gets north and south quickly and has a sick stiff arm. However, his recruitment is basically starting over now that he's decommitted and the Florida Gators are a team making him a priority as well. There's also the curious case of 3* Tae Provens. Auburn is the only team in his top 5 recruiting him as an "athlete" meaning they could play him at RB, slot WR or even DB. It's unclear if he's happy or not with that designation. If Auburn feels like they are going to miss on Martin, I would not be surprised if they committed Provens to RB. Him and Shivers are great all purpose backs that you can use in open space or in the passing game but there is still a question about whether or not they are 30 carries against an SEC defense type of player.
There's also 4* Harold Joiner. The Tigers, along with basically everyone not named LSU, are recruiting Joiner as an "athlete". Many think he's a bit too tall to be a RB but he seems dead set on the position unless he grows another inch. Auburn might decide that it's worth the risk and commit to recruiting him as a RB. I think if they did that things could get interesting real quick. But as of now LSU is the clear favorite.
Another name to watch is 3* Charles Strong. The Florida State commit visited for junior day earlier this year and had a great time. This dude is a bruising back. Some sites even have him listed as a fullback. With Pettway's success, I would not be surprised if Auburn decided to push for Strong if things go south with Martin, Joiner and Pierce. There's also local 3* La'damian Webb who has been putting up video game numbers at Beauregard. However, he's 5'9" and Auburn already has a short back in Shivers. The staff might not be comfortable taking two sub 5'10" backs though I would argue Webb could be a 30 carry guy in the SEC.
With all that said, I don't stress too much about RB recruiting. Tim Horton has shown he will find good fits and Auburn will get production from that spot. My personal perfect world would be Asa Martin and Harold Joiner. Joiner is a guy you could move around as a RB/H-Back/WR type of player and allow for the offense to go fast without substituting while Martin fits the mold of the type of back Lindsey likes in his system. However, life is not perfect and if I had to guess right now, Auburn will end up taking Pierce and Provens. That’s not a bad way to go either. Long way to National Signing Day so plenty of time for new names (5* James Cook?) to emerge and for things to change.
Justin Fields Visits Auburn
Auburn’s top target stopped by Tuesday before heading south to Tallahassee for a planned visit on the way to his 7v7 tourney at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. This is believed to be Fields’ first visit since last fall when he stopped by for a game. From everything I have read, it honestly seems like no side really knows what is going to happen. Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Florida State all seem to feel relatively confident in where they stand for the 5* stud. He supposedly wants to have a decision before the season so this could end up an all out sprint of a recruitment. As of right now, I still feel pretty good about Auburn’s chances and every visit helps.