We are just over 1 week from early signing day which means it’s crunch time on the recruiting trail. This past weekend was one of two remaining weekends for top programs around the country to get their top targets on campus before many of them make their final decision and sign. The Tigers hosted eight players on official visits this weekend. All but one is expected to sign on December 18th so this was a big chance for Auburn’s coaching staff to make a final push for some big targets.
Here’s a rundown of who made it to campus this past weekend
Committed to Auburn since the beginning of July, Steiner has remained rock solid to the Tigers throughout his recruitment. Due to his quiet recruitment and the drama surrounding Auburn’s previously top ranked linebacker commit Trenton Simpson, Steiner doesn’t get the amount of attention you might expect for a top 100 player. But I have a feeling Auburn fans will be talking about him plenty when he suits up for the Tigers next fall. He’s a special athlete that has a chance to make an impact as a true freshman in 2020.
Jackson is the only visitor this weekend not expected to sign early. Instead, the former LSU commit plans to use the rest of his visits in January and announce his decision on National Signing Day in February. But this was likely the last time he will be on campus for the Tigers before his decision so Auburn hopefully made the most of it. He confirmed with reporters Sunday afternoon that he’s dropped Ole Miss from his top five following Matt Luke’s firing meaning he’s down to Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. He’s already officially visited the Tide and will use his remaining three visits in January. Auburn is in the middle of this race and I think it will come down to an AU/A&M battle.
Another longtime Auburn commit, Evans was #2 in receiving yards in the state of Alabama last season. Unfortunately, an ankle injury hampered Evans much of the 2019 campaign but he still put together a productive senior season. At one time this fall it looked like the Crimson Tide might become a factor for the state’s 5th ranked player but Evans appears to be all Auburn at this time and is expected to sign during the early signing period.
One of the most important visitors this weekend was the nation’s #6 overall JUCO prospect Brian George. He’s had an interesting recruitment to say the least. Auburn looked to be close to landing his pledge following the War Eagle Picnic but then George went dark. There were rumors he would take an official visit to Kentucky but that never happened. Instead, he popped up in College Station one weekend resulting in many believing he would end up an Aggie. But George decided to visit for the Iron Bowl last weekend and it looks like that might have been a game changer for Auburn in his recruitment. After leaving his official visit this past weekend, he told reporters that Auburn was now his top team and he would announce his decision later this week. The Tigers want at least one more DB in this class. Could George finish off what has been an outstanding 2020 DB class for the Tigers?
Back in auburn this Weekend for an Official— BrianGeorge (@briangeorge1100) December 6, 2019
Last week, AuburnUndercover’s Brandon Marcello reported that Auburn’s top ranked JUCO commit Kilien Zierer had suffered an ACL injury and would miss all of spring practice. For a few weeks now there has been buzz that longtime JUCO OT commit Jonathan Buskey might have some academic issues preventing him from enrolling at Auburn. Auburn’s final JUCO OL commit, Brenden Coffey, is not expected to enroll until this summer. So that means Auburn has 3 JUCO OT commits but none capable of battling for the starting spot this spring.
Enter Jeremy Flax.
The newly minted top JUCO OT in the 2020 class per 247 Composite, Flax has suddenly become a top target for the Tigers. Auburn offered him last week and then were able to get him on campus this past weekend. He apparently liked what he saw, naming the Tigers his top team following his official visit. He still has one final official visit to Lexington before making his decision. Flax has three years to play three after redshirting his freshman season at Independence Community College and is also an early enrollee. This would be a very big late pull if Auburn could pull it off.
OT at the University of......— Jeremy Flax 6️⃣6️⃣ (@BiggFlax) December 9, 2019
There is one simple rule you can follow when attempting to evaluate high school defensive line talent. Does Rodney Garner want this kid?
Despite not boasting the flashiest rating, Walker is one of Auburn’s top targets in the 2020 class. After evaluating the Tennessee native in person this past spring, Auburn offered and have been heavily pursuing ever since. Walker committed to Texas A&M back in June but has been a frequent visitor to Auburn’s campus in recent weeks including witnessing the Iron Bowl just last weekend inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. He was back on campus this weekend but declined to do interviews. If a flip happens, it likely won’t come until signing day. With that said, I think Auburn is a in a very good spot to land a 2nd stud defensive lineman from the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class.
There has been some recent Georgia Tech buzz with Wright so it’s good to see him making it to campus this past weekend. He’s a big kid with the potential play anywhere along the line though I suspect his future is in the interior. Wright is not expected to be an early enrollee but could sign on December 18th.
Probably the least talked about recruit in this class, Foster-Allen committed to Auburn back in February and basically shut his recruitment down. He took what will be his only official visit over the weekend and is as locked in with the Tigers as any recruit. I suspect he will start his career at strong side defensive end (ala Marlon Davidson) but grow into an interior defensive lineman.
Decision Dates Set
With signing day just over a week away, there are lot of decisions to be made which means a lot of decision dates to be set. Quite a few Auburn targets have already done so starting with a big one later this morning in 4* DL Omari Thomas.
I am blessed and honored to be in this position. I would like to invite everyone to my COLLEGE COMMITMENT and All American Jersey Presentation which will be held on December 9th at Briarcrest Christian School. @AABonNBC @_KhariThompson @Local24Jessica TIME WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON! pic.twitter.com/nMTGXwhJpQ— Omari "Big O" Thomas (@901_sxvxge) November 24, 2019
This is a recruitment Auburn has made up a ton of ground on in just a few months culminating in his official visit two weekends ago for the Iron Bowl. But while the Tigers have made this a legitimate battle, I will be shocked if Tennessee is not the pick today. The Vols have long been considered one of his top schools and with his close friend and teammate 3* RB Jabari Small expected to pick UT in a few days too, all the signs are there for a big win on the trail for Tennessee. Luckily for Auburn they have some very good remaining options on the table including the afore mentioned Dallas Walker, McKinnley Jackson and JUCO prospect DeAndre Butler (who will not sign until February).
Next there’s long time Auburn LB target 4* LB Desmond Tisdol who has officially locked in his top 3 of Auburn, Tennessee and South Carolina with a date set for the first day of the early signing period.
This recruitment has seen plenty of twists and turns. The Gamecocks were the early favorite before Auburn surged ahead this summer. But Wesley Steiner pulled the trigger first, stealing what was at the time the only remaining linebacker slot in the 2020 class for Auburn. But Simpson’s decommitment plus Michael Harris’s decision to transfer has made Tisdol to Auburn a possible scenario once again. However, during the cool down time between Auburn and Tisdol, Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols have made a big move. As of now, Tennessee might be the favorite but it’s probably too close to call today. It will be interesting to see if he makes it to campus before he announces his final decision.
While Auburn is hoping they get a Boom from Brian George later this week, there’s also an underclassmen to consider. Former Ole Miss commit, 4* DB Eric Reed Jr, is set to make his pledge on the first day of early signing day as well.
While he lists a top four of Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Notre Dame, this is really a two team battle between the Dawgs and Tigers. UGA was seen as the leader heading into his official visit this past weekend so this might be a tough race for Auburn to win. If Auburn does indeed land George then I think they will be ok with missing on Reed. Still, UGA is pursuing some other elite CB talent so there’s always a chance Reed loses his spot there too. I don’t expect it to happen but you can never really know in recruiting.
Finally, a very big domino is expected to drop in the 2021 class the day before the start of the early signing period. The #38 prospect in next year’s class, 4* OT Micah Morris, will make his decision next Tuesday.
No more interviews at this time... Commitment on the 17th pic.twitter.com/ENjEgyoHYw— Micah Morris® (@MicahMorris56cc) December 6, 2019
Like Reed, this is believed to be another Auburn-Georgia contest. The Dawgs have long been thought to be the leader but Auburn has made a strong charge in recent weeks including hosting Morris for the Iron Bowl. There was also a recent staff change in Athens that could make things interesting too...
Coaching Carousel Impact
The coaching carousel is at full tilt. Many of these changes will likely have an effect on Auburn’s recruiting efforts down the road. Lane Kiffin will make Mississipp recruiting even wilder than usual. Mike Norvell could try and poach his former assistants from Malzahn at his new FSU gig. A former Malzahn protege is likely headed to Columbia so could see some more Auburn/Missouri battles down the road. But undoubtedly the biggest news so far has been Arkansas’s surprising move to hire away UGA’s OL coach Sam Pittman.
We’ve got ourselves a new Head Hog! Welcome to Arkansas, Coach Pittman! pic.twitter.com/is92knv5pQ— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) December 9, 2019
Kirby Smart has built a recruiting death machine in Athens, reeling in top class after top class since his arrival. Sam Pittman has been a key cog in that machine. In his four years between the hedges, he helped sign 8 top 100 OL, four being 5*s and currently has four more top 200 players committed including 5* OT Broderick Jones. This is a big loss for the Dawgs.
More importantly, it could be a big boost for the Tigers. Auburn has never given up their pursuit of the nation’s #2 overall offensive tackle prospect Jones. Just last week, he confirmed that he won’t be signing early and will be taking an official visit to the Plains in January.
As mentioned above, one of the best OL prospects in the country for the 2021 class is expected to make his decision next week. Does he decide to hold off or pull the trigger? There will be some fall out from this move. Will it result in some crucial wins on the trail for the Tigers? We will see but this is definitely something to track in the coming weeks.