All in all, things went pretty well for Auburn this week. The Tigers closed on two very important targets, signed all but one commitment and positioned themselves to finish with another top 10 class. It wasn’t perfect, missing on William Putnam is a big blow and not having George Pickens signed is a bit of a concern, but overall the early signing period was a success for the Tigers. Especially when you count in a 7-5 season followed by whatever the heck these past two weeks were rumor wise.
But it’s all about finishing and Auburn has some REALLY important pieces they still need to add. What is a concern is that the pool of talent to recruit from has dropped DRAMATICALLY after this week.
Those numbers are tracking higher than last year. By Saturday there will be barely 20 percent of the typical inventory of recruits to choose from in January.— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) December 20, 2018
..early signing day is THE signing day https://t.co/4vIn5dYsXE
That’s why it is a bit troubling that Auburn still has 9 or so spots left to fill instead of 3-4 like other top programs. There are clear targets to fill those spots but if you miss on any, there are not a lot of true P5 calibre prospects to turn to. The margin of error is very slim over the next two months and the Tigers need to execute at a high level if they want this class to finish strong.
So let’s take a look at what work is still left to be done for this 2019 signing class.
Sign George Pickens
The 4* wideout out of Hoover was the only Auburn commitment to not sign early. That was always the plan but it’s still a bit concerning when you see everyone go ahead and sign. Most coaches don’t consider a recruit committed if he doesn’t sign early. I think the way to look at Pickens recruitment right now is that Auburn is the favorite but they still have A LOT of work to do to finish this thing off.
LSU appears to have emerged as Auburn’s top threat to steal the beastly receiver. He took an official visit there last month and supposedly grew up a fan of the Bayou Bengals. They have given him plenty to think about and there was even some noise he might go ahead and decommit after that trip. But his official visit to the Plains two weeks ago seems to have shored things up for the correct colored Tigers. However, Auburn must survive three more official visits. Where those visits will be, hasn’t been locked down yet but keep an eye on Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, and Tennessee. Chances are good three from that group will be where he visits.
As of today, I think he sticks with Auburn. But it’s recruiting and things can change in a heartbeat so this will be one of the top stories to follow over the coming weeks.
Find Offensive Line Help
Everyone’s favorite topic will continue to be debated, argued and yelled about over the next two months. Whether or not that frustration continues into the offseason depends on whether Auburn can find some more OL help or not. To be clear, I think the Tigers got two really good ones in 4* OG Keiondre Jones and 3* OT Justin Osborne. But after only signing two HS prospects last year, Auburn desperately needs a class of at least four this go around. So far they’ve struck out on the majority of their top targets.
There are still a few left on the board. 3* OG Kamaar Bell will be one of the most hotly contested recruitments in the coming weeks. The Georgia native landed an offer from Florida State yesterday after the Noles also missed out on Putnam. He’s expected to take an official visit to Auburn on January 13th, one to Florida State on January 25th and chances are good he will be in Gainesville the weekend in between. As of today, the Tigers are probably the team to beat but this will be a battle to the finish. Bell tweeted out today that the #1 thing he’s looking for in a school is a chance to see the field early. Both AU and FSU can make that pitch pretty easily. Whomever can make it better will be the winner.
I’m picking my school based on depth chart , and who needs the most help. I can feel at home anywhere . I just need some playing time and accomplishing my goal #NFL— k ️〽️ ️ELL 4star ⭐️ (@BKamaar) December 21, 2018
The other known target is junior college offensive tackle 4* Bamidele Olaseni. A native of London, England, Olaseni moved to the States two years ago where he played football for the first time at Garden City Community College. Now he’s one of the country’s most wanted OL prospects. Standing at 6’8” 330 lbs, Olaseni is a giant of a man who is still learning how to play the position. He would not be a guy that comes in and is plugged in immediately to start in 2019. Instead, he would probably redshirt before attempting to compete for playing time in 2020 as a redshirt junior. He’s already used official visits to Auburn and Utah. He plans to take three more before making a final decision. Like Bell, I think Auburn is the team to beat right now but there’s a LONG ways to go in this recruitment.
Outside of those two, it’s a whole lotta guessing. I fully expect Auburn to pursue some graduate transfers if there are any that pop up that staff believe can contribute immediately. I also expect some more offers to go out in the coming weeks and don’t be surprised if they go to some low ranked kids. There just aren’t a ton of highly ranked unsigned OL that AU can get in the race for at this point. This is a total stab in the dark but here are a few names I will be keeping an eye on to in the coming days:
- 4* Javonne Shepherd | 6’6” | 346 lbs | Houston, TX
- 3* Howard Allen | 6’5” | 266 lbs | Jacksonville, FL
- 3* Dawand Jones | 6’8” | 360 lbs | Indianapolis, IND
- 3* Adarius Tolliver | 6’6” | 333 lbs | Prattville, AL
- 3* Joseph Stone | 6’8” | 354 lbs | Gulf Breeze, FL
- 3* William Rogers | 6’4” | 295 lbs | Hampton, GA
Flip a Defensive Line Target
One bit of bad news that came out this past week was the decommitment of 3* DL Jamond Gordon. The Tigers flipped Gordon from Ole Miss back in the summer but he’s been a frequent visitor to Oxford this past fall. The decommitment wasn’t really a surprise though I thought it would happen after taking his OV to the Rebels in January. Whether Auburn decides to continue to pursue Gordon or not is to be seen but it is clear the Tigers have their sights set on a threesome of DL prospects committed elsewhere to round out this class.
The biggest name of the bunch is 4* Charles Moore. Moore committed to Mississippi State last fall and has stuck by that pledge despite a coaching change. But the buzz is growing that he might not be as rock solid to the Bulldogs as he once was. Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee are all hard after the Louisville, MS native. The Tigers have an extra advantage in that his buddy Jaren Handy is a Tiger signee. The two have hinted often they will play together at the next level with Moore going even so far as to say this after his official visit to Auburn two weekends ago:
“Oh yeah, we here,” Moore said. “We here. We might — I don’t want to just freak everybody out, but be looking for us to be beside each other in May or when the fall comes. Be looking for us to be beside each other.”
Obviously, for this to happen Moore would have to flip to Auburn. Prospects talk about being package deals all the time and it’s rarely actually a thing. Owen Pappoe and Trezman Marshall were adamant early in their recruitments they would end up at the same school and now both are set to do battle over the next 3-4 years. But that relationship sure doesn’t hurt the Tigers pursuit.
One of the newer names to jump on the board is Florida State commit 4* Quashon Fuller. His mom pushed him to take an official visit to the Plains two weekends ago and he came away very impressed with the Tigers. Specifically, he noted the fact that at Auburn the defensive line is well respected and appreciated. But this won’t be an easy flip. The Seminoles had him back on campus for an official visit this past weekend and seem to be feeling better about hanging onto his pledge. He will take three more visits in January before making his final decision.
Finally, there’s 3* LeDarrius Cox from McGill-Toolen who has long been committed to the Volunteers. However, he’s also been long pegged as a flip candidate for the Tigers. It hasn’t happened yet and Cox was adamant this past week at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game that he’s solid. But he has official visits set to Auburn and Oxford in January after not signing early. The Tigers are big fans of this young man and would love to add him to this class.
I’m not sure if there is a set number for how many more defensive lineman the Tigers will take this class but I feel confident that they will get at least one more from those three. If they can get all three, I have a hard time seeing them say no. I’ll also be keeping an eye out on any new visitors in January especially amongst those Mississippi kids that didn’t sign early. 4* Nathan Pickering and 4* Byron Young are both still in play though neither have really been linked to Auburn at this point. But like I keep saying, things change fast in recruiting.
Find Owen A Mate
Weird title I know but I don’t sleep much anymore and my humor gets weird... Auburn swung for the fences this year at linebacker and hit a deep home run when they landed 5* Owen Pappoe but then followed it up with multiple strikeouts. 5* Nakobe Dean, 4* Trezman Marshall, 4* Kalen Deloach and 4* Tyron Hopper were all guys the Tigers targeted and hoped to pair with Pappoe in this class. Unfortunately, Auburn missed on all four and are now left looking to add 1-2 more backers to this class.
The two names that have now jumped to the top of the list are 3*s Christopher Russell and Octavius Brothers. Russell is a Tennessee native who appears to be taking hard looks at Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee while Brothers is a former UCF commit who is set to officially visit Auburn, Ole Miss and Miami in the coming months. Both are solid ball players who would provide a bit more size to this class. I would also keep an eye on Tennessee commit Lakia Henry. The #3 JUCO prospect in the country did not sign early with the Vols and appears to be looking around. I expect Auburn will push hard to get him on campus at some point.
Gus Malzahn said in his press conference Wednesday that Auburn would like to sign a “couple more linebackers”. For that to happen they might have to spread their search a little wider in the coming days. The good news is they know already they have a day 1 impact player signed and ready to go.
Another Defensive Back?
Auburn already has four defensive backs committed but they might not be done just yet. The Tigers hosted longtime LSU commit and elite MLB prospect 4* CB Maurice Hampton on an official visit two weekends ago. And while the talented defensive back reaffirmed his commitment to the Bayou Bengals after his official visit there last weekend, he did not sign early leaving the door open still for Auburn to make a push. As of today, I think he sticks with LSU but this is a recruitment to monitor over the next couple of months.
The other two names to watch at DB are 3* Jammie Robinson and 3* DJ James. Robinson has been a target of Auburn’s for awhile but has yet to take an official visit. That could happen in January. Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina appear to be the top teams at the moment but if Auburn makes a big push that could change.
As for James, he’s an instate kid committed to Mississippi State but was asked to hold off signing early by Alabama’s Nick Saban. That might prove an opportunity for Auburn who reportedly offered the talented corner this past week. I’ve been high on James since the summer and would love to see the Tigers make a big push here. I would not be surprised at all to see him to an official visit to the Plains down the road.
Close on Mark-Antony Richards
Last but absolutely not least, there’s Auburn’s pursuit of one more top 100 player. The Tigers have three signed (Bo Nix, Owen Pappoe, Jaren Handy) and one committed (George Pickens) as of today. For context, Auburn had four total top 100 players in the last two classes combined. Auburn’s hoping it’s 5 this class.
Mark-Antony Richards recruitment has been going on for a long time now. His brother, Ahmmon Richards, was once one of Auburn’s top targets in the 2016 class. They lost the talented wideout to Miami but those relationships forged with the Richards family years ago could pay dividends this go around. Richards is one of the most explosive athletes in the country. He could play a number of different positions at the next level but he wants to be a running back. Auburn wants him at running back as well and have compared him to Kerryon Johnson.
Interestingly, it appears that longtime favorite Miami is not really a major threat anymore in this race. I think you can’t completely count them out but that doesn’t appear to be Auburn’s biggest competition. Instead, it’s become Penn State but even that has changed. The Nittany Lions landed Noah Cain this week to go with longtime 4* commit Devyn Ford. It’s hard to see three 4* backs heading to Happy Valley.
So that puts Auburn in a really good spot right now. Expect more teams to take a run at Richards, most notably Florida, but it’s hard not to feel good about where the Tigers sit with the nation’s # overall player. Pairing Richards and DJ Williams together would be a home run of a running back class.