It’s been a weird week for Auburn football. First, there was Saturday where Auburn ball carriers developed an allergy to holding onto the football resulting in Mercer only trailing by 7 halfway through the 4th quarter. Then Sunday morning, Sean White was arrested for public intoxication right after having served a 2 game suspension to start the season. It proved the third strike and he was dismissed Monday. Finally, on Tuesday the former #3 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class according to 247 Composite, Byron Cowart, transferred out of the program after concerns about his mother’s health and lack of playing time.
The truth is I don’t think either departure is a sign that things are off behind the scenes, I just really wanted to use that gif....
However, you have to wonder if White and Cowart leaving will affect Auburn’s recruiting plans for the 2018 cycle. Here’s a look at both positions and how either departure may or may not affect Auburn’s recruiting.
I will be honest, I doubt this changes much. I have been saying for awhile now that chances were low both Jarrett Stidham and Sean White would both be back next season. Either Stidham was going to tear things up and go pro or White would qualify as a graduate transfer and finish his senior year elsewhere. In a perfect world, I do think Auburn’s coaching staff would like to have four quarterbacks on the roster next season. But considering just how good Joey Gatewood has been to start this season and the fact that Bo Nix is lurking out there in the 2019 class, I don’t expect Auburn to reach for anybody.
But for the fun of it, who might Auburn target if they decide they need 2 quarterbacks? The first name is obvious as he’s been at the top of Auburn’s wishlist since the summer: 5* Justin Fields. A few months ago I did liked Auburn’s chances. Between his relationship with Chip Lindsey, love of Cam Newton and my expectation that Auburn’s offense would be explosive this fall, I thought the Tigers would land the top rated player in the country. However, given how Auburn’s offense has started this season and the number of times Fields has been seen in Athens, GA recently, I am having major doubts. It’s not over and if Auburn can get him back on campus soon (possibly in two weeks for Mississippi State) and the offense can get to clicking, the Tigers would still have a great shot. But a lot has to change fast for all that to happen and so for now I am going to assume the worst in that Fields dons that ugly red and black next fall.
So who might else be in the picture? Great question. It’s hard to really get a feel for who might be plan B after Fields and if there really is a plan B. 3* Steven Krajewski had a strong camp at Auburn over the summer and given Lindsey’s close relationship with his head coach, Rush Propst, he could certainly end up being a possibility. There’s also current Princeton commit (yes you read that right) 4* Brevin White whose brother, Brady White, played for Lindsey at Arizona State. Also former Ohio State Buckeye and 4* QB target a few years ago, Torrance Gibson, made a visit to AU recently. It doesn’t sound like he’s a target right now but things could always change.
Personally, I would like to see Auburn take a hard look at 3* Cordell Littlejohn and 3* James Foster (Missouri Commit). Both are true dual threat QBs with strong arms who could develop into playmakers in Auburn’s offense. The good news right now for the Tigers is no matter what they decide to do for that 2nd spot, they can feel confident they are bringing in a big time player in Joey Gatewood. It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out.
I do think there’s a better chance that Cowart’s departure allows Garner to sign another body. Over the spring, Garner said he would like to bring in two defensive tackles, two defensive ends and a Buck end if possible. Now that Cowart is gone I think the odds are better of him getting his wish, especially if someone like Dontavius Russell decides to declare early at the end of the year.
Auburn already has one DT committed in 3* Daquan Newkirk. He’s listed as an end but is starting at DT for his JUCO and supposedly is around 300 lbs now. He will actually have three years of eligibility when he arrives at Auburn because he redshirted his first year at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Tigers are also hard after 4* Coynis Miller who recently named Florida his leader. However, many still think the Tigers will end up the pick when it’s all said and done. He’s very close with Rodney Garner and Auburn commit Asa Martin. Martin even said this past Saturday he still thinks the Tigers reel in the talented defensive lineman.
So what if Miller does pick Florida? Well that’s where things could get interesting. Garner likes recruiting big framed ends that can grow into defensive tackles. Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe, Andrew Williams and Byron Cowart are all great examples. Both Coe and Davidson are expected to possibly play some more snaps inside with Cowart’s transfer and that type of flexibility with players up front has been a huge reason why Auburn’s defense has been strong the past two seasons. There are three guys that sort of fit that bill Auburn is targeting in 3* Andres Fox, 3* Kayode Oladele and 3* Caleb Johnson. There’s also a plethora of instate guys in 3* Jalen Cunningham (Bama lean), 3* Timaje Porter, 3* Ka’Darian Hill (Ole Miss Commit), 3* Allen Love (Ole Miss Commit) and 4* Alfred Thomas. Also, Garner loves to mine the JUCO ranks for talent so Auburn could always add another JUCO player up front.
Bottom line is I expect Auburn to sign at least five defensive lineman this class. While losing Antwuan Jackson and Byron Cowart has been disappointing, it’s clear that Garner has done a great job of recruiting and developing players up front. He’s one of the best closers in the country and once again I suspect the Tigers sign another outstanding defensive line class.