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Auburn Football Recruiting: Big Cat Weekend Review

Auburn appears to have made some big moves for quite a few top targets this past weekend.

Auburn OL commits Avery Jernigan & Javion Cohen with OL coach JB Grimes
Avery Jernigan’s Twitter:

It’s been an up and down start to the 2020 class. There were some big booms early but struggles on the field in 2018 lead to questions about how much longer Gus Malzahn might be at the helm of the Tigers and that in turn lead to a slew of decommits. Some top targets such as 5* DL Myles Murphy and 3* OL Marlon Martinez committed elsewhere while some other important targets such as 4* LB Phillip Webb and 4* RB Tank Bigsby appear to be trending elsewhere.

But Big Cat Weekend is typically when Auburn gets a big boost on the trail and it was no different this past weekend. Despite the adversity Auburn’s coaching staff has faced so far this cycle, they were still able to get a large number of elite prospects to make the journey to the Plains for one of premier recruiting events in the country. It was another star studded event with Auburn appearing to have put themselves in position to be a major threat in quite a few recruitments over the coming months.

Here’s a rundown of who all made it to the Plains and some quick notes on their recruitments.

Friday Only Visitors

A few prospects stopped by Friday but did not participate in Big Cat on Saturday due to prior visit commitments. But these are still names to keep an eye on moving forward, especially

Auburn was a little late to this race only offering earlier this month but the Tigers are hoping his Friday visit made a strong impression on the Chattanooga native. Let’s see if he gets back to the Plains this spring.

This is a name to know moving forward. Auburn is casting a far and wide net for offensive line talent but it might be some late bloomers instate that fill out the class. The Tigers snagged Javion Cohen this weekend and could soon do the same with Wright. But keep an eye on the Vols, they were the first SEC school to offer him and he was in Knoxville Saturday following his trip to Auburn.

I don’t know much about Carroll’s recruitment but I do know that with a name like that he must be near the top of almost every major programs’ board.

Official Visitors

With the recent rule change allowing official visits in the spring and summer, Big Cat Weekend has become an important official visit weekend for prospects that are expected to make their decisions early in the cycle.

Simpson grew up in Columbus, GA attending many Auburn football games at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But the Tigers entered the weekend trailing UNC and UGA in his recruitment. That may have changed following this important official visit. Travis Williams has made Simpson a priority this cycle and it seems to be paying off. There’s a feeling following this visit that Auburn might have surged up the list. But keep an eye on the Dawgs. He seems infatuated with Kirby Smart’s program and they’ve been tough to beat on the trail in recent cycles.

The biggest news of the weekend was Cohen’s commitment. He’s the exact type of prospect Auburn has not done a great job of landing in recent cycles. I don’t see him as a day one starter at OT in the SEC but he’s a guy that given a year or two of development could hold down a tackle position for a multiple seasons for the Tigers. No doubt he will also now be working hard on his teammate and top 100 prospect 4* WR EJ Williams who was also on campus this past weekend.

Auburn needs immediate help on the OL next year, specifically at offensive tackle. They already have JUCO product in Jonathan Buskey committed but are hoping to add another early impact player if possible at the position. Zierer has jumped to the top of that list. The German native only recently picked up football and is still in the early stages of his recruitment but Auburn apparently set the bar high for him and his family moving forward. Signing what could be the #1 and #2 JUCO OTs in this 2020 class would be a nice boost to next year’s OT depleted roster.

2020 Unofficial Visitor List

Yes you read that correctly. A 5* tight end from Las Vegas travelled to Auburn on his own dime to visit this past weekend. As impossible as it might be to believe it, the Tigers are very much a factor in this recruitment. But so are Alabama and Georgia so we will see if Malzahn can pull off the biggest of upsets on the trail.

This was an incredibly important visit for Auburn to nail. Clemson is doing ungodly things on the trail right now and appear to be pulling ahead for Webb. But Auburn continues to hang tough and a strong season on the field in 2019 could give the Tigers the boost to win this important battle. He’s undoubtedly Auburn’s top LB target this class.

As long as Gus Malzahn is at Auburn, Hudson appears to be locked in with the Tigers. He spent this weekend trying to recruit some other elite talents to join him on the Plains. I expect a huge senior campaign from the Lagrange native.

Marcus Woodson did work in Mississippi in 2019. While the 2020 class is nowhere near as stacked, he’s got Auburn in the thick of it for the top two prospects in Jackson and 4* TE JJ Pegues. Jackson was once a 5* but has seen his rating fall a bit this spring. But he’s still a consensus top 100 player and there probably isn’t a better gap plugger in this class. This recruitment has some Charles Moore feel to it early on and is one to watch closely over the coming months.

This was the big surprise of the weekend. Morris hasn’t really been a name linked to Auburn this cycle but he left the Plains with the Tigers sitting #2 on his list behind Texas A&M. Memphis is loaded with OL talent this cycle with Morris arguably being the top talent. The Tigers have a couple of coaches with Memphis connections on the staff. Just something to file away.

The last two cycles have produced heartbreak when it comes to recruiting elite instate WRs. Justyn Ross spurned AU for Clemson while George Pickens pulled off a maddening late flip to the Dawgs. Up next is EJ Williams who happens to be a former teammate of Ross’s. Auburn appeared set to land Williams’s commitment this past fall until a whirlwind of offers came flying in that included those two programs who might be near the top of his list. But Auburn isn’t giving up the fight and continue to get the talented instate wideout on campus pretty consistently. We will see if landing Cohen gives AU a boost in this race.

Unfortunately, Auburn finds themselves in a similar battle to ones they have lost in recent cycles. Steiner released a top 4 last week but he’s pretty much confirmed that Auburn and Stanford are his top two right now. The Tigers lost out to the Cardinal for Ryan Johnson in 2017 and Andres Fox in 2018 so it’s hard to feel uber confident heading into this battle. But it sounds like the Tigers really helped themselves this past weekend.

I have a hard time seeing Walker go anywhere other than Georgia but his name continues to pop up on Auburn’s visitor lists. The Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers have also continued their strong pursuits so this race might still truly be wide open.

Whether Auburn gets EJ Williams or not they might already have the best wideout in the state committed. Evans was on hand to help AU recruit and appears to be firm to the Tigers.

Auburn finished 2nd in Williams’s recruitment last fall and still remain there. But anytime a Bama commit makes it to campus for Big Cat Weekend that can’t help but raise some eyebrows. There are murmurs the Hueytown native might be a bit miffed that the Tide are still in hot pursuit for some elite backs in this class. If there were anything to change in Williams’s recruitment it would probably mean good news for the Tigers.

Toafili was either the 2nd or 3rd stop for new Auburn RB coach Carnell Williams following his hire and since that moment the Tigers have become a top contender in the Florida native’s recruitment. The Noles are still the overwhelmng favorite but it would not at all be a surprise to see Toafili end up a Tiger. Can Cadillac pull off a big boom his first cycle?

Capers is currently the crown jewel of Chad Morris’s class but the Hog commit is still very much on the market. It was big for the Tigers to get him on campus this weekend as they are hoping to land at least one more high profile WR in this class. Let’s see if Capers returns for an official visit.

Stackhouse might be a Dawg commit but he’s been in Auburn more than Athens this year. Saturday was Stackhouses’s 3rd trip already to the Plains in 2019. While he continues to affirm he’s solid to UGA, it does appear AU is making him think hard about that commitment. Dontavius Russell 2.0?

This isn’t a great DB class so if you can get a top prospect in the secondary you better snag him. Auburn is hoping that’s the case with Pouncey. While the big three in the state of Florida cannot be counted out, it appears the Tigers have the early lead for the Winter Park native. He’s one Auburn would love to get on board this summer if possible.

Boykin was Auburn’s first commit of the 2020 class. But he backed off that pledge just before the start of the 2018 campaign and it seemed likely he was headed to UGA. That never happened and after a short flirtation with the Tide, it appears Boykin could be trending back to Auburn. It might end up being a question of whether or not Auburn will take him back. That’s pure speculation but don’t be surprised if Boykin ends up back on Auburn’s commit list at some point in the near future.

There were 3 prospects on commit watch this weekend, Tisdol was one of them. This has been a back and forth battle between Auburn and South Carolina early this cycle but in recent days there’s been some major buzz that the Tigers could be close to ending this race. It didn’t happen this weekend. We will see if Auburn can close the deal at a later date this summer but keep an eye on UGA in this one. If Smart were to offer Tisdol might jump on it immediately which also makes you wonder how long Auburn will wait on the talented backer.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not a great DB class so programs are going wherever they can to find top talent. Auburn will more than likely lose most of their starting DBs after the 2019 season and would love for some early impact talent in this class if they can find it.

This is an interesting recruitment to follow. I am not 100% sure what position Auburn is recruiting Shaw to play or how hard he’s being pursued by the Tigers. But it would not at all be a surprise to see the big man end up on Auburn’s commit list at some point in the future.

A day after visiting the Plains in April, Bell committed to the Gators. That’s obviously less than ideal. But it looks like the talented athlete hasn’t yet shut things down. He was a star at The Opening in Atlanta earning an invite to the prestigious event in July thanks to his performance. My understanding is he’s a guy Kodi Burns would LOVE to have in this class if possible.

One of the most active recruits turned recruiters in Auburn’s class, Jernigan spent most of the week trying to convince other talented OL to join him on the Plains. He got some good news when Cohen committed and there’s a chance he could get some more in the coming weeks. Jernigan is by far one of my favorite commits in this class and I fully expect him to be an impact player for the Tigers in the coming seasons.

Canion is a name that has been flying up Auburn’s board in recent weeks. A standout at Shaun Shivers’s alma matter, the lanky wideout has a top 2 featuring the Tigers and the Florida Gators. A decision could be coming by the end of this month.

Foster-Allen is all upside at this point. The tools are there to be a big time DL one day but he will more than likely need time to reach fulfill that potential.

The third man on commit watch this weekend was Tate Johnson. The Callaway standout has been fiercely recruited by Auburn, Florida State and Georgia Tech but the Tigers appear to have all the momentum. Johnson is expected back on campus for an official visit in two weeks. I will be shocked if that visit doesn’t end in a commitment to the good guys.

Garnett doesn’t hold the flashy rating that turns heads of other prospects like Bo Nix from last cycle, but it’s still important for the QB commit of the class to be at big events like this to help recruit. I am very interested to see what Garnett does as a senior in 2019. He’s someone Kenny Dillingham is reportedly very high on.

2021 Unofficial Visitor List

Big Cat Weekend’s focus is usually on the current class but often a few elite prospects of future classes get an invite too. James Williams absolutely fits the bill. While Miami is thought to be the early favorite this is a race that Auburn very much in early on. A strong campaign in 2019 could give the Tigers the boost they need to pull this off.

Carnell Williams already has one huge boom under his belt landing the explosive Goodwin a could weeks ago. It’s good to see him back on campus following that commitment as Auburn is going to have to work hard to hold on to that pledge with almost every school in the country after the talented Trussville native.

Lewis is close with Williams though they aren’t necessary a package deal. Still, landing one should undoubtedly help with the other. Right now though Clemson appears to have the edge for the talented 2021 backer.

War Eagle!