It was a good weekend for Auburn football until it wasn’t. On Saturday, Auburn dismantled a woeful Arkansas squad. On Sunday, their top ranked commit announced his decommitment.
I wrote after Auburn’s home victory over Mississippi State that 4* LB Trenton Simpson’s recruitment was one to watch. Instead of making the trek west to the Plains, Simpson elected to stay closer to home and watch the Tar Heels almost knock off formerly top ranked Clemson. That was a red flag but there was still confidence Auburn could hang onto the talented backer due to his connection with Travis Williams and childhood fandom of the Tigers. But Mack Brown is making some big moves on the trail, specifically amongst top instate talent, recently landing 5* DE Desmond Evans who is the #1 player in the state of North Carolina. Now he appears to be closing in on the state’s #2 ranked prospect.
For Auburn, this is obviously a huge blow. Simpson is an elite prospect who had a chance to make an impact day one next season for the Tigers. He’s also the 3rd top 100 linebacker to decommit from Auburn this cycle joining now Bama commits Quandarrius Robinson and Demouy Kennedy. Travis Williams is undoubtedly an outstanding recruiter who is still poised to bring in a very talented linebacker class but it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed losing so many elite prospects especially considering AU will have to face all three next season.
The good news is Auburn has a very clear contingency plan. 4* LB Desmond Tidsol was close to committing to Auburn in the summer but was beat to the punch by 4* LB Wesley Steiner. He was very aware of the big news Sunday night.
Woah ♂️— Desmond Tisdol⭐️ (@Des_Tisdol) October 21, 2019
T-WILL has always wanted to add the hard hitting Georgia native in this class but has been limited by spots. Simpson’s departure opens up a spot for Tisdol and I fully expect Auburn to make a strong push in the coming weeks. I think it’s likely Auburn will stay after Simpson but I don’t see them waiting in hopes of convincing the former commit to jump back on board. Instead, go fill that spot as quickly as possible with a blue chip player who wants to be a Tiger.
One final note on Simpson. This is pure speculation on my part but I think this decommit is a very good example of the problems Auburn’s schedule has had on the Tigers’ recruiting efforts. Only one meaningful home game early in the schedule has made it extremely difficult to get kids on campus. Auburn never really had a chance to slow UNC’s momentum by getting Simpson inside Jordan-Hare. Maybe it would not have mattered but it sure wouldn’t have hurt...
Decommit To Watch
There was a 2nd decommit of note this week but one that should make Auburn fans happier. After taking down Texas A&M in College Station, Auburn put out a very interesting offer to Texas commit 4* DL Princely Umanmielen. Given he’s from Manor, TX which is only an hour at worst from UT’s campus and was committed to the Longhorns, the move seemed peculiar. Not anymore...
Umanmielen took an official visit to Norman, OK in late September but it’s not the Sooners that are thought to be the top contenders but the Tigers and Aggies. It’s very likely he will take an official visit to the Plains at some point before early signing day. Could Auburn be close to stealing a 2nd blue chip defender from the state of Texas from the Horns?
Never count out Rodney Garner.
Arik Gilbert Fallout
Finally, the biggest shocker of the 2020 recruiting cycle went down yesterday evening when 5* TE Arik Gilbert announced his commitment to LSU. For pretty much all of his recruitment this was thought to be an Alabama vs UGA battle with the Tide expected to come out on top. But LSU’s new look passing attack and Gilbert’s desire to be used more as a hybrid WR/TE than a standard inline blocker turned this to Ed O’s favor. No one saw this coming, not even the LSU folks but it’s an absolutely huge win for the Bayou Bengals who are putting together one of the best classes in the 2020 cycle.
But this commitment could have negative ramifications for Auburn. For much of the 2020 cycle, Auburn’s focus at tight end has been on 4* J.J. Pegues. Most have seen this as an Auburn-Ole Miss battle but there has always been a 3rd threat lurking in the background - the Crimson Tide. Pegues listed Alabama in his top 3 earlier this fall but the consensus among recruiting experts was that Gilbert would sign with Alabama leaving no room for Pegues.
Things have changed. Alabama will undoubtedly go after top 100 prospects 5* Darnell Washington and 4* Theo Johnson but they have some serious work to do if they want to win those battles. That means it’s likely they turn the heat up on Pegues which could be bad news for Auburn. As of today, I still think he ends up in the Tigers’ class but now Auburn must fight off not only the instate rebels but Nick Saban’s Tide as well.