Let’s face it, since Auburn blew a 10 point 4th quarter lead to LSU it feels like there’s been very little positivity around Auburn’s football program. That’s what happens when you go 7-5, lose to all your major rivals and somehow lose at home to one of the worst teams in the country. It’s been amped up even more in recent weeks thanks to the numerous “insiders” with their “sources” throwing out hot takes as “news” like their livelihoods depend on it (they kinda do). Throw in the Tuesday night news that Kelly Bryant would rather spend a year under Derek Dooley’s tutelage than Gus Malzahn’s and well....
Yet somehow Auburn University is still standing and there’s still a football program. Turns out, a lot of really talented kids still wanna play for that program too. Weird right?
The next two weekends are huge for Auburn as Early Signing Day is just under 2 weeks away. The majority of prospects will sign on December 19th leaving a very small pool of players for a lot of programs to pick through to fill out their classes in the remaining two and half months. It’s a lot better to have most of the hay in the barn by then.
This weekend, will be the first major step towards that goal. Auburn will host a number of commitments and five big time targets this weekend on official visits. Gus Malzahn STILL has a chance to close on one of his highest ranked recruiting classes while at Auburn. These next two weekends will be critical to achieving that goal.
It will be a busy weekend on the Plains this weekend as Auburn will host 10 official visitors. The AHSAA state championship games are also being played in Jordan-Hare this weekend. Don’t be surprised if some of the big name underclassmen that are playing in title games stick around for unofficial visits this weekend as well.
First off, it doesn’t appear this is a lock to happen just yet. Both AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr and AuburnSports’s Benjamin Wolk have said it’s possible but not yet confirmed. I suspect whether he officially visits or not will be tied to whether or not Auburn has an OC in place. If they do, I wouldn’t be shocked to seem him on campus this weekend. If not, Auburn may wait to have him visit once an OC is nailed down.
Pickens is coming off an official visit to LSU last weekend and the Bayou Bengals seem to feel good about where they sit. Alabama, Georgia and Florida State continue to pursue the talented pass catcher who climbed to #9 overall in Rivals updated rankings this past week. Chip Lindsey’s departure doesn’t help Auburn’s chances of hanging onto Pickens as Lindsey was close to the family having coached Pickens’s brother in high school. But I still think with Gus Malzhan, Kodi Burns and Bo Nix all being very close to Pickens, that relationships will win out and the elite wideout will sign with the Tigers in February.
Later this evening, Bo Nix will attempt to win a 2nd straight state title for Pinson Valley inside the confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Afterwards, he plans to stay on campus and go on his official visit to the Tigers. Nix is as solid a commit as any on Auburn’s list and with the news Kelly Bryant is heading to Missouri, Nix still has a strong chance of being Auburn’s starting QB next season. I imagine a perfect world for Auburn would be to have an OC in place by this evening so they can get both Pickens and Nix on campus at the same time to meet with the new coordinator.
Auburn has done VERY well at defensive back this cycle and they may not be done yet. Hampton is an elite playmaker out of Memphis who has been committed to LSU since July. The better looking Tigers though have never given up pursuit. Auburn went on an in home visit with Hampton last week and were able to secure an official visit for this weekend. Interestingly, Hampton is a big time baseball prospect as well coming in at #27 on MLB.com’s new prospect rankings. As such, Hampton will want to play both sports at whichever university he decides to attend next fall. He’s expected to spend some time around Butch Thompson this weekend as Butch and Gus are both hoping they can convince the nation’s #63 overall prospect to flip his commitment. However, it should also be noted that if Hampton were an early draft pick in the MLB Draft, chances are pretty good he would sign and skip college. It appears the Tigers are ok with taking that chance.
Possibly the biggest impact of Chip Lindsey’s departure was with Mark-Antony Richards. One of Auburn’s top running back targets, Richards was close with Auburn’s former OC and excited about his plan for him in the offense next year. If would greatly benefit the Tigers’ chances if they could have their new OC hired before his visit so that Richards can once again feel comfortable with how Auburn envisions his fit in the offense. Richards is also very high on Gus Malzahn who recruited his older brother a few years ago. Given all the noise about his job security and the Lindsey departure, this is a very important visit for the Tigers to set the record straight with one of their top overall targets in the 2019 class. The good news is he doesn’t plan to sign until February so there is plenty of time for the new OC to build a relationship before Richards makes his final decision.
Handy appears to be taking the Coynis Miller route this recruiting cycle as like Miller last year he plans to wait until February to sign so he can use all of his official visits. Also like Miller, he is adamant he’s solid to the Tigers. I expect Auburn to try and convince him to change plans if possible this weekend but honestly when kids click Rodney Garner they seem to stay committed so the Tigers might just let him do as he pleases. Auburn will definitely lose Dontavius Russell and Andrew Williams to graduation while Derrick Brown is very likely to declare. Both Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe are draft eligible as well so it’s clear the Tigers will need some immediate help next season. Handy has the skillset to be an early impact player in 2019.
Moore has been committed to Mississippi State for over a year. Despite a devastating ACL injury his junior year, new Bulldog head coach Joe Moorehead agreed to honor his commitment. That loyalty is a very big reason why Moore is still committed to the Dawgs. But if there’s any team that can pull off this flip it’s Auburn. Moore has been on campus a number of times this year and plans to be back on an official visit this weekend. He’s also very close with Auburn commit Jaren Handy who will be on campus this weekend as well. Moore will not sign early so the Tigers have plenty of time to convince him to flip but it’s clear that will be far from easy.
Way back in the spring, Fuller took a visit to the Plains and came away with an offer. I don’t think he’s been back since then. That will change this weekend. Fuller has been committed to the Noles since February but he’s flirted with plenty of other programs including Georgia, Florida, Miami and now Auburn. I’m not really sure of where the Tigers stand in his recruitment but getting an OV is big. We will see if Garner can make this one interesting....
One thing that pretty much all Auburn fans can agree on right now is that offensive tackle recruiting has been a struggle. The Tigers failed to sign a single high school tackle in last year’s class and only have one committed so far in 2019 in 3* Justin Osborne. Osborne could even be considered more of a “swing” player than a true OT as he could just as easily slide inside. That’s why landing this official visit is huge for Auburn. Olaseni is a giant human being at 6’8” 330 lbs who plays at one of the premier junior colleges in the country in Garden City. He holds offers from the likes of Ohio State, Texas and Utah with the Utes looking to be the early favorite. While Olaseni would once again be a non high school tackle signee he would at least have multiple years of eligibility available and with three of Auburn’s six listed offensive tackles being seniors next year, the Tigers will need someone ready to go in 2020.
Bo Nix isn’t the only Auburn commit playing in a state title game Friday night before taking his official visit. Fromm and his Warner Robins squad upset last year’s Georgia 5A state champ Rome 45-28 in the semi-finals. Fromm missed most of this season recovering from a shoulder injury so his stats aren’t all the eye popping but the big man came down with a crucial TD catch last week in the upset win. He appears to be extremely solid with the Tigers.
Arguably the breakout star in the state of Alabama, Johnson’s senior season came to a disappointing end last week when Hewitt-Trussville was bounced by Thompson in the semi finals 37-13. Johnson came just a 50 yards short of setting the AHSAA receiving record for most yards in a season. The Crimson Tide have noticed his big senior year and if they were to offer that might shake things up for Johnson. But it doesn’t appear that offer will come and if so, I expect Johnson to sign with Auburn in December.
Owen Pappoe Reaffirms Commitment
Disrupting the storm of negativity this past week was some big time positive news for Auburn when 5* LB Owen Pappoe announced on Twitter he was 100% committed to the Tigers.
Let me clear things up...I am 100% committed to Auburn!!! War Eagle pic.twitter.com/2L1UcVVFFF— Owen Pappoe (@opfreak15) December 5, 2018
Tennessee has been hard after the talented backer and there has been some serious buzz they might be closing in on a flip. He was expected to take an official visit to Knoxville this weekend where Jeremy Pruitt was undoubtedly ready to make his final push. But Gus and Travis Williams got to him first. After visiting Pappoe at his home Wednesday, Pappoe effectively shut down his recruitment publicly reaffirming his pledge and cancelling his official visit to Tennessee this weekend. He’s expected to be in Auburn the final weekend before early signing day for his official visit.
Pruitt still has an in home visit to use which will happen next week but Pappoe not visiting this weekend and setting up one for the following weekend to Auburn makes it hard now to see a flip happening. Tennessee will continue to recruit Pappoe until he signs but finally it appears that the Tigers just might have locked this thing down for good. I have little doubt Pappoe will be an early impact player for the Tigers in 2019.