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Auburn Football Recruiting: Recapping War Eagle Picnic

Like Big Cat Weekend, the goal of this past weekend was to get a number of top targets on campus in order to lay the groundwork for future booms. Mission accomplished.

Lee Hunter’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeeHunt54019537/status/1155260243275845634

This week is a unique week on the recruiting trail. For much of July and all of August, it’s the dead period in recruiting which means that prospects and coaching staffs can not have any face to face contact. But from July 25th to July 31st, there is a quiet period which allows recruits to have face to face contact only on a college campus. That has lead to the majority of programs throwing very large recruiting events in hopes of getting their top targets on campus one more time before fall camp begins.

Starting in 2016, Auburn has taken advantage of this time period by throwing a picnic/bbq event at the end of each July. It’s almost like a second Big Cat Weekend though its focus is a bit more split between this class and future ones. It’s proven to be successful thus far. This year it looks likely to have the same results.

The Tigers landed one commit and sure sounds like a few more could pop in the coming weeks. Like Big Cat Weekend, the goal of this event isn’t necessarily to land same day commits. Instead, it’s to forge strong bonds not only between their top targets and the coaching staff but also allow current commits and future targets to bond as well. Often times, it’s the connection between fellow prospects that ends up mattering just as much as the relationships with the coaching staff.

Here’s a rundown of who made the trip and updates on their recruitments.

Auburn Commits

All but four Auburn commits made it to campus this past weekend and it doesn’t appear that any of the four showed up at other events. Last year, George Pickens spurned Auburn’s event for Georgia’s, something that in hindsight proved more important than I realized at the time so I was playing close attention to see if something similar went down this year. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case and even more importantly, the majority of Auburn’s top ranked commits made the trip to help the staff recruit.

The biggest news from this group is obviously Wright’s commitment. He’s someone JB Grimes has wanted for a long time and Auburn is reportedly thrilled they could get him on board before the season. He gives Auburn 6 offensive line commits which could mean they are done at that position. However, they will reportedly continue to pursue some JUCO OT talent and don’t be surprised if they host some more OL official visitors during the season.

2020 Targets

One of the bigger storylines this weekend was tracking where Tank Bigsby would visit. There was confidence that he would be on the Plains but with Tank anything is possible. Well the nation’s #7 running back elected to head to Auburn over Athens and even more importantly returned Sunday to talk with the staff. This is turning into an AU alum showdown between Carnell Williams and Dell McGee. Can Caddy land his first big boom as an assistant? That possibility feels MUCH more realistic than it did just a few weeks ago.

The other big time offensive target to visit was Phenix City native EJ Williams. He was close to being an AU commit following this event last year but his recruitment absolutely exploded during the fall and now Auburn has been playing catch up. The good news is he stated Auburn had moved up to #2 on his list following the visit. The bad news is Clemson continues to lead and with a decision coming at the end of August, it’s hard to see this one going Auburn’s way. Luckily, the Tigers already have a very strong WR class committed so Williams is more of a “really nice to have” than a necessity.

It’s been hard to get a handle on Auburn’s top DB targets this cycle and even harder to know who might actually be favoring the Tigers. That picture got a lot more clear this weekend. All four DB prospects that visited are absolute takes for the Tigers and there’s a chance all four might now be favoring Auburn. Two are JUCO prospects Marco Domio and Brian George. Both have already used official visits to the Plains and could be closing in on a decision. Interestingly, EJ Williams was only one of two uncommitted prospects to visit Auburn for both Big Cat Weekend and the War Eagle Picnic. The other? The nation’s #2 JUCO cornerback Brian George. Jason Caldwell also reports that Domio’s flight was cancelled which could have meant taking the much shorter drive to College Station but his family instead elected to drive 10 hours to the Plains. The JUCO prospects also reportedly spent a lot of time together during the event. Auburn very well could have to replace both starting cornerbacks next season. Signing two of the top three JUCO recruits this cycle sure ain’t a bad way of going about filling that hole.

As for prep targets LaDarrius Tennison and Kendall Dennis, both have been reported in the past as having Auburn as a top school. But you really can’t start taking players’ interest seriously until they start taking multiple visits to campus. The fact both elected to travel to Auburn for this weekend is big news. Getting Domio, George, Tennison and Dennis in this year’s class would be huge for Auburn. The other name to continue to track is 4* CB Ethan Pouncey. Chances are good at least three from that group will be Auburn Tigers next season.

2021 Targets

This weekend wasn’t just about locking down some top 2020 targets, it was also about getting a jump start on the 2021 class. The recruiting cycles kick into gear so much earlier with the new early signing period. That’s why Auburn really split their focus of this event between finishing out their current class and getting a foundation in place for the next one. It sounds like they made signifiant progress on both.

It’s believed that Kenny Dillingham’s cryptic tweets on Saturday evening about a 2nd possible commit were in regards to Alpharetta, GA native Aaron McLaughlin. The 6’4” 225 lb gunslinger camped (along with 3* Will Crowder) with the Tigers on Friday and it sounds like he impressed both Gus Malzahn and Kenny Dillingham. So much so that the Tigers are hoping to get him on board very soon. It’s interesting that Auburn might go so hard after a pro style QB given Auburn’s recent focus on dual threat prospects the past few classes, but supposedly McLaughlin showed enough mobility during camp to make the coaching staff feel good about him being able to run the whole offense. One thing is for sure though this dude can throw the football.

McLaughlin might not be the only future 2021 boom. Lee Hunter has long favored the Tigers so much so that when asked about his top schools his answer was “Auburn, Auburn, Auburn, Auburn”. The Eight Mile, AL native is a 247 Composite 5* already and expected to be one of the top prospects in the country next season. Landing Hunter would be a massive early boom for this 2021 class. He reminds me a lot of Derrick Brown at this point in his career and I don’t say that lightly.

Hunter wasn’t the only instate 5* on campus. The man they call Kool-Aid, Ga’Quincy McKinstry, was back on campus again this weekend. Ranked as the nation’s #15 overall prospect in the 2021 class, McKinstry has long been a frequent visitor to the Plains. But this trip was a bit different as it wasn’t only Gus Malzahn that wanted to meet with him. Bruce Pearl stopped by and let McKinstry know that he also has an offer to play basketball for the Tigers.

You don’t see many kids play both football and basketball in college but Auburn is willing to let McKinstry do both. This is going to be one of the most hotly contested recruitments in the state next cycle. It will be interesting to see if Alabama follows Auburn’s lead and gives Kool-Aid a chance to be a dual sport athlete at the next level.

Finally, file the name Isaac Washington away. Visiting from Pilot Mountain, NC, Washington appears to be an early top target for Rodney Garner. He left the Plains with the Tigers on top. Don’t be surprised if his name quickly climbs the prospect rankings over the next year.

2022

I will admit that even my obsessiveness over recruiting hasn’t lead me to watch much 2022 film but there was a bit of news from this list. Khamauri Rogers left the Plains with an offer in hand. Given Auburn’s recent success in the state of Mississippi and Rogers having Marcus Woodson has his position coach, I think he’s a name to track over the next couple of cycles. I am guessing we will see him on campus more in the future.

War Eagle!