This time next week the fax machines will be buzzing as the majority of the 2020 class will make their final decisions on where they will be playing next fall. Coaches only have a few more days to visit top prospects in person and there is only one weekend left for programs to host their top targets on official visits. So expect a flurry of action over these next 7 days as Auburn’s coaching staff looks to secure the majority of what should be another top 10 class.
Chad Morris Impact
Before looking at the spots left to fill in this class, we should probably talk about that thing that happened yesterday. In news everyone saw coming, Chad Morris was named Auburn’s new offensive coordinator yesterday afternoon. Personally, I think it’s as good a hire as you could expect to be made under Malzahn. Morris someone that Malzahn trusts completely, a proven successful offensive coordinator and a really durn good recruiter.
As for that last part, I don’t expect his hire to have a major impact on the 2020 class outside of maybe the QB position (but not who you are thinking, more on that later). The nice part about Malzahn being so hands on with the offense is that when assistant coaches on his side of the ball leave, it typically doesn’t have major ramifications on the recruiting class. That’s because kids that sign to play for Auburn on offense are signing to play for Gus Malzahn.
But Morris should have a huge impact on the 2021 cycle. While at Clemson, Morris did a lot of work recruiting Georgia and Florida with his most notable signee being Deshaun Watson, something that will be mentioned ad nauseam this offseason. For me, I think what he was doing at Arkansas before getting fired really shows his recruiting chops. He reeled in a top 25 class for the Hogs in 2019, the first since 2016. He was assembling another solid group until his firing. Most of that came from raiding the state of Texas which is where Auburn has started to find some success lately (Justin Osborne, Chris Thompson). Having proven success recruiting the three most talent rich states in Auburn’s vicinity in Florida, Georgia and Texas is a nice boost to Auburn’s recruiting efforts.
But right now all the focus is on 2020. The Tigers currently have the nation’s 8th ranked class consisting of 21 commits. No one really knows the exact numbers because coaching staffs don’t like that getting out but the consensus is Auburn will sign 25 players this cycle. That means they have 4 spots left. However, chances are pretty good there will be at least one decommit in the next week, possibly two. So I would move forward assuming Auburn actually has 5-6 spots to fill before February.
Below are the known top targets. More than likely, there are some names not on this list that pop up either in the next week or in January following the early signing period. But for now, these are the names to pay attention to as the early signing period quickly approaches.
With Joey Gatewood’s transfer to Kentucky, Auburn wants a 2nd QB in this class. The only problem is you have to convince someone to come wait their turn behind Bo Nix. As of now, these are the only two names being mentioned for that 2nd QB spot though I think this is the one position guaranteed to not be filled next week and where some new names will appear in January.
- 4* Jacolby Criswell (UNC Commit) - The long time Tar Heel commit has been recruited by Auburn for some time now. The coaching staff let him know that if anything happened with Gatewood, he would get an offer. That’s exactly what went down but unfortunately for Auburn, it appears a new challenger might be the team to watch. Arkansas’s new boss, Sam Pittman, has made his state’s #2 ranked player a must get target for his inaugural class and it sounds like the young man is listening. This has likely turned into an Arkansas-North Carolina battle with Auburn on the outside looking in.
- 4* Chandler Morris - The assumption has been that whomever reeled in Chad Morris would likely get his highly ranked son as well. That might not be the case though. While Auburn has been recruiting Morris, including hosting him for the Iron Bowl, it’s the Oklahoma Sooners getting the most buzz right now. Things could change but as of today, it seems unlikely Chandler ends up playing for his dad.
Tight End (1)
Auburn would like to take one tight end in this class. The top target is still the same one it was back in March.
- 4* Jeremiah Pegues - There has been little fuzziness surrounding Auburn’s tight end recruiting. It’s Pegues or bust. The Mississippi standout has consistently put Auburn at the top of his list but has yet to pull the trigger. Now it appears to be a true 50/50 battle between the Tigers and Tide with Lane Kiffin possibly lurking nearby. I still think Pegues ends up at Auburn just due to the strength of the relationships built in this recruitment but I do think Alabama is a team to be very concerned about come signing day.
- 3* Brandon Frazier - A former Arkansas commit, Frazier’s recruitment has taken off in the last month since stepping back from his pledge to the Hogs. If Auburn were to miss on Pegues, might Morris make a run at his former commit? Something to watch moving forward.
- 3* Jay Rudolph (San Diego State) - This one is interesting. Rudolph doesn’t yet hold an offer from Auburn but AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr reported recently that former Auburn OC Kenny Dillingham had gone out to visit the Arizona native. He was also on the expected visitor list for the Iron Bowl though I am not sure if it has been confirmed that he made it or not. Does he get an offer if Auburn misses on Pegues? My guess is that this was a Dillingham target so it wouldn’t shock me with Morris on board if nothing materializes in this recruitment. Again though a name to remember if things go wrong with Pegues.
Offensive Line (1-2)
Ah offensive line recruiting. Auburn fans favorite subject... If there is attrition in the 2020 class next week, it will come from this position. Barring a late change of heart, it seems all but certain 4* OT Javion Cohen will flip to Alabama. There are serious concerns as well about 3* OT Jonathan Buskey’s ability to qualify. So despite technically holding pledges from 7 offensive lineman, Auburn might have 2 spots to fill at this crucial position in Auburn’s 2020 class.
- 5* Broderick Jones (UGA Commit) - So how do you take the sting out of losing another top prep offensive tackle commit to a rival? How about stealing an even better prep offensive tackle commit from from another rival? I am not saying it’s going to happen, Auburn has A LOT of work to do but the chances of the Tigers landing Jones jumped dramatically following Pittman’s surprising departure from Athens. Jones is not expected to sign next week and will take official visits to Auburn and Georgia in January. That’s the plan for now. You know Kirby Smart will do his best to see if he can convince the nation’s #2 ranked offensive tackle to go ahead sign next week. For Auburn, no news on Jones next week would mean good news.
- 3* Jeremy Flax - Given Auburn’s continued struggles to land top prep offensive tackle talent, the staff turned to the JUCO ranks this cycle in hopes of finding immediate impact players. On paper they have done an outstanding job with commitments from the #2, #3 and #7 JUCO tackles (a lot of credit to Dillingham for these dudes). Unfortunately, none of those players will be able to participate in spring practice due to injuries and grades. So Auburn has now turned the heat up on the #1 JUCO OT who was on campus for an official visit last weekend and left with the Tigers on top. He will take an OV to Lexington this weekend but the buzz is very positive for AU right now. Flax has 3 years to play 3 so that makes him even more valuable. This would be a big signing day boom for the Tigers.
Defensive Line (1-2)
Just a couple of months ago this position was the #1 concern for this cycle. But with recent commitments from 4* Jay Hardy and 4* Zykeivous Walker, it’s quickly becoming a strength of the class. That’s just what Rodney Garner does. However, there is still some work to do especially with 4* Omari Thomas picking Tennessee earlier this week.
- 4* McKinnley Jackson - Jackson’s recruitment will go the distance so there are still many twists and turns to go in this race. Auburn hosted the top ranked player in the state of Mississippi last weekend for an official visit. He’s someone Auburn has been pursuing for going on 3 years now and find themselves in a battle with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M for his signature. The Aggies might be the team to watch in this race right now but Auburn should be there until the end.
- 4* Josaih Hayes - Another Mississippi standout, Hayes took an official visit during the Iron Bowl two weeks ago. There hasn’t been a ton of Auburn buzz in this recruitment though so I would be a little surprised if he picks the Tigers next week. He’s a former Ole Miss commit that could end up back in Oxford though Kentucky is the team making a major push at the moment.
- 4* DeAndre Butler - A JUCO teammate of Jeremy Flax’s, Butler isn’t expected to sign until February so there shouldn’t be a ton of news on him over the next week. He’s someone that will likely visit in January though how big a need he is for Auburn will likely be decided by what happens with the next target.
- 3* Dallas Walker (A&M Commit) - It will be a VERY good signing day for Auburn if they can flip Walker. Committed to the Aggies since June, Walker has been a frequent visitor to the Plains in recent weeks, most recently he took an official visit last weekend. But A&M isn’t going down without a fight and are hoping to get him back in College Station on an unofficial visit this weekend. This one will likely go down to the wire next week. Let’s see if Rodney Garner can beat out another SEC program for a big time defensive lineman.
Buck recruiting has not been fun this year but none of that matters if Auburn can close strong. We will see if that happens
- 4* Phillip Webb - There was a time it looked like Webb to AU would likely happen but things often change in recruiting. Per AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr, Auburn and Webb mutually parted ways last week and cancelled his official visit. The Tigers though will likely have to deal with him the next 3-4 years as he will sign with Alabama or LSU next week.
- 3* Romello Height (Miami Commit) - With Webb off the board, Auburn has turned the heat up on Miami commit Romello Height. He’s someone the Tigers have targeted since the summer but it’s been difficult getting him on campus. As of today, my bet is he sticks with Miami but if Auburn can get him on campus this weekend things could get interesting.
With the loss of Trenton Simpson in the 2020 class and the transfer of Michael Harris, Auburn would like to land another linebacker if possible.
- 4* Desmond Tisdol - Auburn’s on and off again pursuit of Tisdol is very much ON again. The Tigers were once the favorite to land the thumper out of Rochelle, GA but backed off when they landed pledges from Cam Riley, Trenton Simpson and Wesley Steiner this summer. During that off period, Tennessee made a major push and it looks to be another Auburn/Tennessee showdown for this recruitment. South Carolina is also in the picture but they are likely a distant 3rd. Tidsol will make his decision next Wednesday. Can T-WILL make one final last push to finish off this linebacker class?
- 3* Eric Shaw (SCAR Commit) - Shaw could play linebacker or tight end at the next level. He’s a unique athlete just up the road from Auburn’s campus who committed to the Gamecocks over the Tigers back in August in large part because Auburn hadn’t yet made him a priority with a loaded linebacker class and leading for Pegues. But with a spot to fill at LB now and the chance Pegues could go elsewhere, might Auburn try and make a late push? Shaw was on campus a few times this fall for some games. Let’s see if he makes it for an official visit this weekend.
Defensive Back (1)
- 4* Eric Reed Jr - The former Ole Miss commit is down to a final four of Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame but the prevalent thought is this is a Tiger/Dawg battle. The 6th ranked prospect out of Louisiana was on an official visit for Auburn’s epic Iron Bowl win but right now it is UGA getting all the buzz. He will be in Athens this weekend before making his final decision on Wednesday. Something to watch though is UGA will also play host to two more 5* DBs that same weekend. Would they take all three if they wanted on board?
- 4* Brian George - It feels like a matter of time before George is an Auburn Tiger. The nation’s #6 overall JUCO prospects visited for the Iron Bowl two weeks ago and then returned to campus this past weekend for an official visit. He told reporters that he was working on a commitment video and that he should have his decision very soon. A&M appears to be Auburn’s only challenger but it would be a shocker for him not to pick the Tigers at this point. I expect a Boom to come emanating from the Plains soon.
- Emmanuel Appiah - An intriguing prospect originally from Ghana, Appiah has been on Auburn’s radar for some time now. Unfortunately for the talented JUCO standout, his spot is likely lost to George. Given some of his recent social media activity affirming that his recruitment is still 100% open, I think you can also take that as an indication that Auburn expects to sign George next week. Appiah is a prospect I expect gets plenty of attention in January as programs look to fill DB slots following the early signing period
One Week Prediction
The picture should become a bit more clear following visits this weekend but with one week to go, here’s how I see the early signing period going for the Tigers. Reminder, I am no insider. Just a dude that spends too much of his spare time tracking this stuff. I fully expect to be wrong on some of these and chances are good I will change my mind on a few of these predictions as well. My final predictions will come next Tuesday but for now here’s what I got:
- Javion Cohen flips to Alabama
- Every AU commit sans Jonathan Buskey signs early with the Tigers
- Jeremy Flax commits to Auburn over UK, Texas Tech
- Broderick Jones does not sign early
- Brian George commits later this week to AU over A&M
- Eric Reed commits to UGA
- Auburn flips Dallas Walker from the Aggies
- Josaih Hayes picks UK over AU & Ole Miss
- Jeremiah Pegues commits to AU over Bama, Ole Miss
- Desmond Tisdol chooses Tennessee over Auburn
- Eric Shaw signs with South Carolina
- Romello Height sticks with Miami
- Phillip Webb signs with LSU
If that shakes out it would mean Auburn would have only 2 spots left to fill heading into January with maybe a 3rd depending on what happens with Buskey. Those final spots would then be focused on finding a 2nd QB, landing a pass rusher or flipping Jones from UGA.
Auburn expects the majority of their commits who have not taking an official visit yet to be on campus this weekend. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few uncommitted prospects show up as well. It’s always a wild ride to early signing day and given how many Auburn targets are set to make a decision next week, I fully expect things to be plenty entertaining for Auburn fans over the next 7 days.