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C&M Re-Rank: 2013 Signing Class

A look back at Gus Malzahn’s first signing class.

South Carolina v Auburn Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Next Wednesday, Auburn will close on another signing class. Afterwards, everyone, including yours truly, will attempt to explain to you dear readers why this is a class you should be excited about based off the bits of film they’ve seen of said signees. Some will explain how the fact that one class has a higher player rating average means that their class is in fact much better than their rivals’ ranked 3 spots higher while others will point to the sheer depth of their class as why it is in fact the best.

But the truth is we actually have no idea how good or not good a class is next Wednesday. Yes, it’s been shown over and over again that schools who typically finish ranked higher tend to be more successful. You will never hear me debate that fact. However, the level of success of a class can’t really be judged until those kids hit the gridiron. So this week, we here at College & Magnolia have taken the time go back and re rank Auburn’s signing classes based on their actual success on the field. It will be interesting to see if some classes that were thought to be poor end up strong while great on paper classes turn to disappointment upon reexamination.

I should point out that we are ranking based on the success of the player while at Auburn. We aren’t concerned about where they landed in the NFL Draft or any success they might have had after leaving the Plains. We are grading strictly on how these players produced while donning the orange and blue. Our final rating is an average of grades (1-5) given to signees by the majority of the brain trust here at C&M. You could call it a C&M Composite score if you so felt inclined...

Anyway, enough rambling, onto the re-ranks!

Consensus Five Stars

We start first with the folks that we all agreed were 5* impact players for the Tigers. What we defined as 5* is pretty subjective but for me at least it’s someone that was not only ultra productive but raised the level of play of those around him as well. Three 5*s in a single class ain’t bad at all.

#14 QB Nick Marshall

This was the easiest rerank of the class. Marshall was the engine behind Auburn’s high powered offenses in 2013 and 2014. I will completely admit to the fact that I was very confused on why Gus would take a flyer on a 20+ INT thrower from some JUCO when he had the stud QB of the future coming in the same class back in 2013. But you see, there is a reason I am an internet blogger and not a multi million dollar head football coach.

#18 K Daniel Carlson

One of the dumbest things recruiting sites do is give kickers a ceiling of 3*s. Not here at College & Magnolia. Our experts here understand the value of kickers especially someone like Mr. Legatron whom not only leads Auburn in scoring but the SEC overall. That’s right, no human being that has ever played in the best football conference in America has scored as many points as Daniel Carlson. Did you see that Mike?

#55 BUCK/DE Carl Lawson

There will always be a feeling of what if with Lawson. What if he had not missed all of 2015? But that one year actually helped prove just how valuable a player he was to that Auburn defense. Teams always had to account for Lawson which opened up opportunities for guys elsewhere and his leadership was special. He’s now making a bunch of NFL front offices look super dumb which is just an added bonus honestly.

The Four Stars

What you are going to notice about this class is it is very top heavy. In some other re-ranks I will have to delineate a bit at the 4* level but in 2013, guys were pretty clearly either a consensus 5* or a consensus 4*.

#23 S Johnathan “Rudy” Ford

Auburn flipped Ford from Vanderbilt late in the 2013 class and brought him on as a running back. He switched to defense before his sophomore year where he became an instant impact player and led the Tigers in tackles the next two seasons. I still think he could have been a dang good tailback if he left on that side of the ball but hard to complain too much about how his career turned out.

#1 Montravius Adams

I was a bit surprised to see consensus across the board that Adams was a 4*. This was a tough one because we all love Adams and there’s no denying he had a productive career for the Tigers. But consistency eluded him and he just never seemed to have that one big game changing moment in his career. If I were fully re-ranking the 2013 class he might be a 4* but he would be a top 50 player just outside the 5*s. If you disagree, feel free to make a passionate case for Adams in the comments, chances are high you will convince us.

#44 Cameron Artis-Payne

I vividly remembering telling my buddy with me in Atlanta when Artis-Payne broke off that tremendous late TD run against Missouri that the Tigers would be just fine at tailback in 2014. Artis-Payne was another successful JUCO hit for Malzahn and I think is overlooked in Auburn RB lore. He was insanely light on his feet for a 210 lb running back and delivered more blows than he took that season.

Borderline Four Star

Here resides one player where the C&M crew had mixed thoughts on his rank. The 4s outweighed the 3s though.

#25 Peyton Barber

Barber’s career has been far from typical. A nasty knee injury robbed him of his junior year in high school and resulted in him not being as highly pursued as he probably should have been. He redshirted in 2013 and took garbage time reps in 2014 before emerging as the lead tailback for much of the tumultuous 2015 campaign when all of Auburn’s other more highly rated backs were all hurt. Then, after a fantastic redshirt sophomore year, Barber shockingly declared for the NFL though he gave a pretty good reason for it later. Now he’s Tampa Bay’s starting tailback after going undrafted and battling a learning disability all his life. Keep doing you Peyton.

Three Star-ish

Here we find a trio of key contributors that didn’t necessarily have consensus on their rank. One had a few more 4* votes while the other two picked up some lower 2* and even a 1* rank.

#80 Marcus Davis

Davis’s best year ended up being his first one. He never broke the 200 yard barrier after a strong debut season in 2013. But I will never forget that wheel route catch against Texas A&M.

#53 Devonte Danzey

Danzey was never a star for the Tigers but was a crucial backup in both 2014 and 2015. He started 7 games at left guard in 2014 and filled in for an injured Xavier Dampeer at center the final 3 games of the 2015 campaign.

#50 Ben Bradley

Bradley was an important rotational piece for Auburn’s defensive line in 2013 and 2014. Never a major impact player, Bradley saw plenty of action and was a useful backup for the Tigers when Adams or Dontavius Russell needed a blow.

The Two Stars

This is an interesting category. Some names here I feel might have been judged too harshly while others probably given too much credit. As you can see, this 2013 class was very top but filled with a lot of signees who never really made a huge impact.

#8 Tony Stevens

I was a bit surprised to see Stevens rated so low by some of my esteemed colleagues. I personally had him as a clear 3* talent but can understand some of the harsh grading. Stevens would have moments where you believed the top 150 talent was showing out but would often times disappear for long stretches. His inability to stay healthy undoubtedly played a large role in those consistency struggles as well.

#6 Jeremy Johnson

There’s no point in rehashing this story that has been told plenty. All I will say is that I greatly respected the way Johnson handled his struggles both during his collegiate career and after. He’s still got a fan in me.

#29 Brandon King

Despite having a pretty nondescript career for the Tigers, King has carved out a niche in the NFL as a special teams beast and is finishing his 4th year with New England. Not a bad way to make a living.

#47 Cameron Toney

I really liked Toney coming out of high school but there were some concerns about his athleticism. He proved too slow to play linebacker and not big enough to play defensive line. I think though he could have been a half decent Buck if he could have played in Kevin Steele’s system. Muschamp moved him there in 2015 before he left the team.

#75 Deon Mix

Mix was a career backup for the Tigers before transferring to Houston. There was always talk he was in the “Mix” at center but it never came to fruition. Sorry, just wanted to type that sentence.

The Busts

Probably harsh but this is a harsh business. There’s an uncomfortable amount of 1s in this class though it’s not a huge surprise considering that Gus had to scramble to put this class together after being hired.

#22 Khari Harding

I loved Harding’s tape coming out of high school and was so excited when the Tigers stole him away from the Hogs. But sadly, illness in his family cut his Auburn career short and he transferred back to Tulsa where he never really made much of an impact.

#44 Kenny Flowers

Flowers was a hard hitting backer out of JUCO who looked poised to find a role early on a defense that needed help at linebacker. That never materialized and Flowers left the Plains without ever hearing his name called much on Saturdays, though he did win the Defensive MVP in the 2014 A-Day Game.

#97 Elijah Daniel

Daniel was a nice signing day surprise that did not work out. After an encouraging sophomore campaign that saw the Indiana native make the move inside where he proved more effective, Daniel was dismissed from the team after being arrested for burglary.

#83 Dominic Walker

Walker decided to join teammate Tony Stevens on the Plains in 2013, flipping from Nebraska which did not go over well with the typically pleasant Bo Pelini. Sadly, Walker’s career didn’t amount to much on the Plains and he transferred to Troy after redshirting.

#37 Kamryn Melton

Melton was apart of the DB migration in 2015 when Will Muschamp came back to town. He ended up playing two solid seasons for Troy in 2016 and 2017.

#21 Mackenro Alexander

Auburn’s first attempt at a package deal under Gus went poorly. Clemson landed 5* Mackenzie Alexander who went on to have a brilliant career for the purple shaded Tigers. Mackenro picked Auburn where after two seasons of not contributing he transferred to Iowa State where he had a solid senior year.

Earnest Robinson

Robinson failed to qualify after signing with the Tigers and then was arrested for setting up a man for a robbery a year later. Kid had immense talent but that can only get you so far.

This class was ranked #10 overall in 2013 which was only good for 6th in the conference because that’s life in the SEC. It proved incredibly top heavy with three clear 5* impact players, one more borderline 5* talent, two outstanding tailbacks and then a whole lotta meh. This was really Gus Malzahn’s Year 0 class considering he didn’t have all cycle to recruit these kids. So while this class lacked depth, it did provide plenty of punch at the top of the list to make it a solid first signing class for Malzahn. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the very interesting 2014 group.

War Eagle!