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Auburn Football Recruiting: The Opening Recap

Many of Auburn’s top targets were in Oregon this past weekend to participate in The Opening, one of the premier high school camps.

5* QB Justin Fields had a huge weekend in Oregon
Student Sports

From National Signing Day until fall camp, recruiting camps rule the world. Teams host numerous camps to scout top talent and potential sleepers. Big time sponsors like Adidas, Nike and Under Armour put on camps around the country to hype up their brand and showcase top talent. Of all these events, Nike’s The Opening held in Beaverton, OR every year has become “the event” in the camp world. It’s a chance for recruits to see how they stack up against other top prospects nationwide.

Unfortunately, Auburn did not have any commits participating in the event this year. However, plenty of possible future commits and top targets were on hand. Here’s a recap of how they performed and any notes on their recruitments:

5* QB Justin Fields

This year’s Opening event turned into the “Justin Fields Show”. There was a lot of excitement around seeing how Fields compared to the top rated player in the country and Clemson commit: 5* QB Trevor Lawrence. Turns out, he compares quite well. In fact, after winning the Elite 11 MVP and The Opening MVP, there are some starting to wonder if they have the wrong QB in the top overall slot.

Personally, I still would have Lawrence #1 overall and Fields #2. It’s important to remember that this is fake football right now. 7v7 is a good tool for evaluation and development but when there are no 6’4” 300 lbs beasts bearing down on you, it’s much easier to pick apart defenses. Still, it has become clear that the supposed canyon that existed between Trevor Lawrence and everyone else is not as great as first thought. No doubt these two will be compared constantly not only during their senior seasons but probably in their college careers as well.

As for Fields’s recruitment, things are still the same. Everyone has a source who is telling them that their team leads. The big news though is Fields announced he will be making two visits this July. The first will be an overnight stay in Auburn on the 13th and then a trip over to Athens on the 16th. Those are two HUGE visits for both sides. Georgia, believe it or not, is actually the leader for another 5* QB in former USC commit Matt Corral. The buzz seems to be that chances are really high if Corral visits UGA on July 25th and Fields hasn’t yet committed to the Dawgs, Corral will pull the trigger. So if UGA is going to land Fields they need to do it soon, otherwise it’s hard to see Smart’s staff saying no to the #17 overall player in the country and a guy that looks like a better fit for Jim Chaney’s system.

For Auburn, this visit is a chance to possibly grab some real momentum in this recruitment. The Tigers aren’t getting a lot of buzz from national pundits but it seems like many team insiders recognize Auburn as a real threat. Chip Lindsey is a crucial piece in this recruitment and if he and the Auburn staff can sell not only Fields but his family on what Auburn has to offer, the Tigers just might nab one of the best in the country.

5* WR Justyn Ross

The 2018 class is absolutely loaded at wide receiver and it showed this past weekend. Ross is a REALLY good WR but was outshone some by other top guys. He played on Trevor Lawrence’s team (more on that later) who struggled some with his consistency. It just seemed like there wasn’t a ton of chemistry between Lawrence and his wideouts leading to disappointing performances for quite a few on that team. Still, there’s no doubt Ross is a player with immense potential and will no doubt still finish the season as a top 50 player though he might lose that 5th star.

As for his recruitment, things have taken a bit of an interesting turn. For awhile it was considered a 2 team battle between Auburn and Alabama. Then, Clemson entered the mix. Well now, it might be back to a two team battle but with Clemson, not Alabama, being Auburn’s top opponent. Make no mistake, Ross wearing orange and purple this weekend while playing with Lawrence was a big plus for Dabo’s Tigers and Clemson is a very real threat. I will never count Alabama out though for the #1 player in the state but as of right now it seems there is some momentum for the Tiger teams. If Auburn can land Justin Fields and put together a strong year on the field, it’s hard to see Ross going elsewhere. But those are two HUGE ifs and his recruitment is far from over.

4* OG Trey Hill

If I could have any OL in the country in the 2018 class, it would be Hill. Why? Because this dude is just a monster at 6’4” 345 lbs and would excel in Auburn’s system. Unfortunately, it looks like the Tigers are chasing Georgia and possibly Clemson and Florida State as well. But Hill is a long way from a decision and a big year on the field could change things for the Tigers.

As for his performance at the Opening, there wasn’t a ton coming out on him. He did some of his usual mauling and made the SBNation All-Opening team but might have been outplayed by a few other guys. Still, if there’s one guy out there right now not named Fields that I want, it’s this kid. Him and Kameron Stutts could give Auburn a pair of monster guards in the future if the Tigers can somehow land his commitment.

4* LB JJ Peterson

Peterson doesn’t do a ton of interviews but when he does he is pretty honest. Alabama leads and everyone else is chasing. Auburn, though, is one of the closest chasers thanks in large part to Travis Williams. However, Peterson said that Oregon has passed Auburn for the #2 spot and is very close to Alabama. This happens every year though. When kids get a chance to get out to Oregon they love it and all of a sudden the Ducks are a contender. Heck, last season 3* TE Tre McKitty even committed at the event. But once they get back to the southeast that dream fades and it’s harder to see them making that far of a trek (McKitty later flipped to Florida State). I still think this is a clear Auburn/Alabama battle where unless something wild happens, he ends up wearing crimson.

4* TE Luke Ford

Ford is a new name on Auburn’s target list after his recent decommitment from Arkansas. All the buzz surrounding him at The Opening was Alabama and Georgia. However, Auburn is in this race but he wants to see us use the tight end. Hard to argue that. Ford showed out in Oregon and made a strong case for the #2 TE at the event behind Jeremy Ruckert.

4* WR Kearis Jackson

There’s no doubt who Jackson is feeling right now. The Dawgs have long been considered the leader and nothing this past weekend changed those thoughts. However, many believe that Jackson really wants to play with Fields and if Auburn can land the 5* QB the race for Jackson could get really interesting.

4* WR Anthony Schwartz

Schwartz just might be the fastest recruit in the country and displayed some of that in Oregon posting a 4.27 40 yard dash time. Believe it or not, he did get beat out by all world CB Isaac Stuart-Taylor for “The Fastest Man” award but it’s clear this kid has speed. Because of that a school’s track program looms large in his decision making. That’s why Florida has been his #1 but Auburn’s recent success at the NCAA meet has him giving AU a closer look. I still think he ends up a Gator but if Ralph Spry can sell him on the future of Auburn’s track program, the Tigers just might be able to make it happen.

4* ATH Harold Joiner

Joiner is working hard on having the weirdest recruitment this cycle. He was all Auburn, then it was Auburn/LSU, then all LSU, then LSU/UGA and now both are eliminated with Michigan State the supposed leader but Auburn is back trending. However, LSU just lost a RB commitment and now might try to get back in the race. Bottom line no one really knows what this kid is thinking or where he lands.

4* LB Channing Tindall

Tindall is making a strong case to end up a top 100 player this year. There were some big time names on hand but it was Tindall that showed out and had many believing he was the best LB in attendance.

South Carolina was his sole leader but he’s backed off that some now. He has a top group of Auburn, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina with all four supposedly tied at the top. I think Auburn is a serious darkhorse in this race and although the Gamecocks will be tough to beat as will his childhood favorite Georgia, it’s clear he’s giving Auburn a hard look. If he does indeed visit later this July for a camp to work with Travis Williams, Auburn could have a real shot at pulling him in.

4* DE Azeez Ojulari

For most of this cycle, Andres Fox and Caleb Tannor have been the most mentioned names when it comes to Auburn’s defensive end recruiting. However, Ojulari is a name to track as well. The talented pass rusher out of Marietta told reporters at The Opening that Auburn is very much in the race and he is hoping to visit soon. It’s clear Auburn is searching hard for pass rushers this cycle and need to get at least one from Fox, Tannor and Ojulari if not two.

Stay patient Auburn fans, according to AU commit Shaun Shivers, good news is on the way soon:

War Eagle!