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A Final Look at the 2018 Auburn Signing Class

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A review of every prospect signed in the SEC’s 3rd ranked class in 2018.

Auburn’s highest rated 2018 signee 4* QB Joey Gatewood
Student Sports

Another recruiting cycle has come to an end and Auburn has 24 new faces signed and ready to join the Auburn roster in 2018. Overall, I feel like the 2018 class was a success. There were some tough misses and obviously not having any offensive tackles signed is a problem, but this is one of the deeper classes Malzahn has signed since arriving to the Plains. It barely missed out on top 10 status (by 4 points) but did hit on some crucial immediate needs in 2018. Let’s take one final look at the 2018 Auburn signing class.

Quarterback

I have said it over and over again this past year, Joey Gatewood just might have the highest ceiling of any QB prospect in the 2018 class. He’s far from reaching that ceiling but there just aren’t many human beings in the world that possess his skillset. The great news for Auburn is he will enroll early and get a lot of work this spring especially with Jarrett Stidham planning on sitting out for a large portion of practice to recover from shoulder surgery. He and Malik Willis will be the frontrunners for the QB battle in 2019 and this spring is a good chance for both to assert themselves early. Auburn fans will get an early taste of Gatewood’s talent at A-Day this spring.

Running Back

It’s hard to not love this running back class. The Tigers signed the rated #1 running back in the state of Alabama in Harold Joiner, 2017 Alabama’s Mr Football in Asa Martin and one of the fastest players in the country in Shaun Shivers. All three bring different but important skillsets to the table. Joiner is a swiss army knife capable of lining up anywhere on the field and being a weapon. Martin is your prototypical bellcow back who is already a talented pass protector and can hurt you out of the backfield. Then you have Shivers, who has explosive speed but is also capable of running between the tackles. All three could see time on the field next year in different capacities. I think Martin is a darkhorse to win the starting running back job while I expect Auburn to experiment with Joiner in a number of different spots. Shivers could get some speed sweep looks or maybe run a few wheel routes. There’s also Gus’s patented “Woody” trick play that Shivers is a perfect fit to execute. Bottom line, depth at running back should not be a concern moving forward for the Tigers.

Wide Receiver

Like running back, Auburn is bringing in a deep and talented wide receiver core who all bring very different skillsets to Auburn’s passing game. Hill is Mr Do It All. He could line up at any of Auburn’s wide receiver spots and make plays. Heck, they could put him at running back like his high school did if needed. My hope is he gets a good luck at punt returner this fall because he could make an early impact that way in 2018. Auburn had to fight off a strong push from Clemson to hang onto the top 100 player.

When Shaun Shivers isn’t the fastest guy in your class, then you know you recruited some speed. Schwartz is arguably the fastest prospect in the country and will be an absolute weapon in the quick screen/jet sweep packages Auburn loves to use. He could also be a threat as a return man and you know they are going to send him deep a few times to see if he can run by the opposing secondary. Then there’s a guy like Seth Williams who is more athleticism than speed. He’s a big bodied kid at 6’3” 215 lbs with the ability to go up and get the ball when needed. He reminds me a lot of what Auburn had in Duke Williams back in 2014 and what they currently have in Nate Craig-Myers. Williams should be a weapon over the middle for this Auburn passing attack.

Finally, there’s Shedrick Jackson who while not carrying the highest of ratings is following in some pretty massive footsteps left behind by his uncle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson was the receiver that saw the most early action from the above group. That’s not just because he will be on campus first but because of his ability to stretch defenses vertically and the fact he’s already a well developed route runner. Not sure I saw a prospect better at tracking the ball than Jackson and am excited to see what kind of noise he makes this spring.

Offensive Line

There’s no sugar coating the struggles Auburn had recruiting offensive lineman this cycle, it was a mess. But that’s not an indictment on the two guys the Tigers did sign. In fact, I am very high on both Jalil Irvin and Kameron Stutts. Irvin has a bright future at the center position and is already a well developed prospect. If he were on campus in the spring I might label him the darkhorse to win the starting center job. Either way, I think he can help the Tigers early.

Stutts is a guy that will need some time to develop but it’s hard to not love his potential as a road grader inside. He’s got the massive frame and the athleticism to match which is exciting but what really stands out is his attitude. Every time he could he visited Auburn and camped for the coaches even though he didn’t need to having already committed, but he wanted to get better. If he keeps that attitude and puts in the work, I think he will be a starter for the Tigers one day.

But the black hole in this class is offensive tackle. Auburn wanted to sign at least 4 OL prospects with 2 being interior players (check) and 2 on the outside (miss). Auburn passed on some guys they probably shouldn’t have in 3* Jalen Goss and 3* Walker Culver to pursue some big names like 4* Richard Gouraige, 4* William Barnes and 4* Dylan Wonnum. Obviously, it’s easy in hindsight to point out what coaches should or should not have done but there is no excuse for not signing an underclassmen at OT this year. Auburn still has a shot at graduate transfer Calvin Anderson but he’s a one year solution. Auburn must absolutely hit on offensive tackle in 2019.

Defensive Line

Upside. That’s the first word that comes to mind when looking at this defensive line class. I don’t know if any of these guys outside of Newkirk will be apart of the rotation next season but down the road I could see all four starting for the Tigers. There is a lot to like about this group.

Miller has a chance to be Auburn’s next dominant defensive tackle. He didn’t have as strong a senior year as hoped but you could see in Orlando at the Under Armour All-America Game what this kid can do against top competition. He’s a freak athlete at his frame and could play all along the line of scrimmage. I think he sees a lot of the same type of snaps Big Kat Bryant saw this past year where he doesn’t play in a ton of high pressure situations but they get his feet wet against some SEC competition. I fully expect him to be a starter in 2019.

There is no better example of a raw talent than Kayode Oladele. The Nigerian native has played exactly one year of football and that was as a junior in high school. He missed his senior year due to visa issues. But having such little experience also means he’s not had much of an opportunity to pick up bad habits. He will be a blank canvas for Rodney Garner and I see a lot of Nick Coe in his game. I would be shocked if he doesn’t redshirt in 2018 but watch out for this kid down the road. He’s got all the tools to be elite.

Newkirk embodies the word “commitment” that gets thrown around in recruiting. After failing to do what he needed to do in the classroom to sign with Auburn in 2016, he buckled down his first year at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and got his grades in order. He then went out in 2017 and had a fantastic season on the field. Other programs came calling but Newkirk stuck with his first love and Auburn stuck with him. Both should be rewarded in 2018 as I believe Newkirk will be a nice piece in the DL rotation. I suspect he will be used a lot like Marlon Davidson, playing him both at strongside defensive end but also some in the interior. Newkirk is also only a redshirt sophomore so he has three more years of eligibility.

Finally, there is Auburn’s last addition to the 2018 class in Caleb Johnson. I have absolutely no idea where Johnson will play on the defensive line but Garner will find somewhere to use his skillset. He’s athletic enough that he could start out at the buck or he might grow into a defensive tackle. Johnson was a playmaker for his high school team and a guy that could end up being one of the biggest steals in this class.

Linebacker

I listed both Richard Jibunor and Josh Marsh as linebackers though both could end up elsewhere. Jibunor will start out at the Buck which is Auburn’s hybrid linebacker/defensive end position. Auburn leans heavily on this position for it’s pass rush and Jibunor is a guy that could follow the same developmental path Jeff Holland did in his career. Holland went from outside linebacker recruit to sack leader in the SEC. Jibunor has a very similar skillset and that same hunger to be great. Marsh, on the other hand, will play that hybrid linebacker/safety role in Auburn’s system. The Tigers typically utilize a DB at that nickel spot but against teams with more size they could play someone like Marsh as a SAM to give them a better run stopper but also someone that can cover if needed. I am very interested to see how Marsh is used in the coming seasons, unfortunately he will miss spring practice recovering from leg surgery.

Then there’s the bash bros at inside linebacker. Travis Williams wanted these two from the jump and was able to snag both. McClain could ironically enough be the next T-WILL. He’s undersized but my goodness he packs a punch. He can fly to the football and hits like a 6’4” 240 lb beast. I have a sneaky suspicion he is going to end up a fan favorite. Harris, on the other hand, looks like a middle linebacker should. I personally believe he was one of the top 5 inside linebacker prospects in the southeast in the 2018 class. The Tucker native hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz but that will change when he gets a chance to get on the field. He can affect a game in a lot of different ways and has that leadership attitude you love to see at the MIKE position. Him and KJ Britt are Auburn’s next outstanding MLB pair.

Cornerback

Speed was the theme of this signing class and it continues at cornerback. Both Tutt and McCreary are quick kids that can run with almost any wide receiver on the field. Tutt will probably start at boundary cornerback but I think his future is at the nickel. He’s incredibly physical and an outstanding tackler. Tutt could also help in the return game as well. McCreary, on the other hand, will probably start out at the field cornerback spot but could also play safety if needed. He’s one of the fastest prospects in the state of Alabama and a big time athlete. Both of these recruits might be called on to help Auburn out early in the secondary where the Tigers are looking for more depth heading into 2018.

Safety

No position heading into the 2018 season is in more dire need of immediate help from this year’s signing class than safety. No position in this class is more ready to help next season than this safety class. Auburn hit an absolute home run at this position in the 2018 signing class.

My bold prediction is Smoke Monday will be Auburn’s starting free safety vs Washington to open the season. He’s an elite prospect with an incredibly diverse skillset on a long, wiry frame. He will need to bulk up some more over the summer but there isn’t a player on Auburn’s roster more confident in himself than Monday and this dude backs it up. A well known trash talker, Monday will step right in nicely for the departing Tray Matthews as the vocal leader on the backend of this defense. There’s a chance Monday could even see some work at CB this spring but I think he’s a 3 year starter, off to the NFL type of talent at the safety position.

Sherwood is also already on campus and could compete for the starting strong safety position. What I love about Sherwood is he can really do anything you want. Need him to cover a slot receiver? Done. Fill the alley in run support? Tackle for loss. Rush the passer? Sack incoming. Run the football? Touchdown. There’s a chance Sherwood grows into a linebacker ala Montavius Atkinson but my bet is he sticks at SS and gives Auburn some valuable snaps in 2018.

Finally, there’s the kid I am cheering the hardest for over the next four seasons in Kolbi Fuqua. The Cordova native committed to Auburn at A-Day last year but his spot ended up being not guaranteed at all. The coaching staff asked him to hold off signing in December and he didn’t get the green light until basically an hour before Malzahn’s press conference yesterday. But through it all, he stuck with Auburn and you know he’s going to come to campus with a chip on his shoulder ready to prove he belongs. Fuqua has the ability to play a few different positions including wide receiver or safety. Hopefully, he’s healthy enough to try and push for some early PT this fall. It’s going to be awesome if he can carve out a role in this defense in the near future.

Special Teams

The last prospect to discuss is also the most interesting one. Siposs is an Australian native who has already had a short professional career in the Australian Football League. He attended the Pro Kick Australia punter school which has been pumping elite punter talent into college football over the recent seasons. Siposs looks to be the next one in line. He’s not your usual punter as he’s also a tremendous athlete. At some point in his career at Auburn, you know he’s going to pull that ball down and run for a touchdown and it’s gonna be awesome.

War Eagle!