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Auburn Football Recruiting: End of Dead Period

The sprint to National Signing Day is underway.

NCAA Football: Advocare Classic-Auburn vs Oregon Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The final dead period of the 2020 cycle started on December 16, 2019. The NCAA defines the dead period as the following:

During a dead period a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.

Today it ends.

That means coaches and recruits can once again meet in person. Coaches will scour the country to visit their top targets not only in the 2020 class but in the 2021 as well. The top remaining prospects in 2020 will use these final 3 weekends to take official visits before making a final decision on Wednesday, February 5th.

For Auburn, most of the work is already done. The Tigers signed 22 players back in December and 10 of them are already on campus. The final number still hasn’t been reported but it’s somewhere between 25-27. That means that at most, Auburn can sign five more players next month which is where you want to be at this point. Auburn won’t have to reach for any players but can instead go get who they think are the best available to round out what should be another top 10 class.

Jonathan Buskey Update

On February 12th, 2019, Auburn thought they had landed their starting left tackle for the 2020 season in JUCO Jonathan Buskey. At the time, he was Auburn’s 2nd OL commit but was thought to possibly end up being their most important. As often happens though in the wild world of recruiting, things change.

When he committed, it was believed he would be an early enrollee. However, as December quickly approached there began to be concerns that would happen. By the time the early signing period arrived, it was 100% certain Buskey would not be on campus at the start of the 2020 spring semester. In fact, the question had gone from “would Buskey be able to enroll early to “will Buskey be able to enroll at all”. It appears he won’t.

Yesterday evening, AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr reported that Auburn and Buskey had officially parted ways. From all indications, it has nothing to do with Buskey’s talent. The staff would have loved to have him in this class, things just didn’t work out. You hate to see it happen but hopefully the nation’s #6 ranked JUCO OT will find a solid place to land. He’s good player and from all reports a good kid.

Broderick Jones’s Visit Plans

Regardless of what was going to happen with Jonathan Buskey, Auburn was going to go all in for 5* OT Broderick Jones. But this news makes it even more important the Tigers pull off the big time flip. Given the fact Kilian Zierer will have to sit out of spring practice with a knee injury and Brenden Coffey won’t be on campus until the summer, there will be ample opportunity for Jones, if he were to pick the Tigers, to win the starting job this fall. But there is a lot of work to be done for that to happen.

Jones initially announced he would take official visits to Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn respectively. However, those plans have already changed. Jones will not be in Knoxville this weekend, instead he will be in Fayetteville to hear what one of his former UGA lead recruiters, Sam Pittman, has planned for the Hogs. While Auburn and Georgia are likely the top 2, this is still a visit to watch. Pittman is an elite recruiter and played an important role for the Dawgs in landing Jones’s pledge just under two years ago. Seeing as all three of his finalists have gaping holes at tackle for next season, early playing time won’t be the deciding factor. It will come down to relationships and where Jones feels most comfortable.

So with relationships playing an important role, should there be concerns that J.B. Grimes’s departure will hurt the Tigers’ chances? Not necessarily. Jones told reporters at the Under Armour All-America game that the coach he has the best relationship with is actually Auburn’s tight end coach Larry Porter. Rodney Garner has also played a major role in his recruitment and those two relationships should keep the Tigers firmly in this battle. It will all come down to these final visits.

The Tigers will get Jones’s last visit on February 1st. That same weekend Auburn plays Kentucky inside Auburn Arena. Flipping Jones is a tall task because you don’t take many 5*’s from Kirby Smart. But I still think that as of right now, Auburn is the team trending. Let’s see if they can finish.

Jay Hardy Shuts Recruitment Down

As for Auburn’s other unsigned commitment, 4* DL Jay Hardy dropped some big news earlier this week. He told’s Jeffery Lee that his recruitment is over. He does not plan to take a visit to Tennessee like initially planned.

This is obviously big news for the Tigers. Auburn’s staff has reported to have been confident the whole time he would stick to his pledge but you can never be too certain in recruiting. Tennessee (among many others) will likely stay in his ear in hopes of changing that decision. We will see if he pops up anywhere this weekend but I would be surprised if that were to happen. Hardy has been pretty open and honest about his recruitment up to this point. He’s a crucial member of this 2020 signing class and will have a chance to make an immediate impact next season.

Interesting Official Visitor

This will be a light weekend for the Tigers. They wisely planned for both big junior days and official visitor weekends to coincide with Auburn basketball home games. I expect to see some 2021 prospects stop by but for the most part, it won’t be a very busy day on the Plains. The focus will be squarely on one player, 3* TE Brandon Frazier.

Back in 2017, Auburn seemingly began to transition the 3-back position from a fullback skillset to a tight end one. They signed John Samuel Shenker in that class then last year landed two highly regarded prospects in Tyler Fromm and Luke Deal. In the early period, Auburn beat out the Tide for jumbo athlete J.J. Pegues. So would Auburn really be interested in ANOTHER tight end?

Turns out they are. Frazier was once a Razorback commit when Chad Morris was running things. That relationship didn’t end following his firing and Auburn’s new offensive coordinator has made Frazier a top target for the Tigers. He will take his first trip to the Plains this weekend and it’s hard not to see Auburn as the favorite at the moment. Texas Tech hosted him on a visit in December and Frazier could take trips to Arkansas and Alabama later this month. But as of today, Auburn is likely the team to beat.

Morris has a strong track record of utilizing the tight end and he’s selling Frazier on that history continuing at Auburn. With Spencer Nigh graduating, Auburn really doesn’t have a fullback on roster anymore unless they decide to move Malik Miller. It appears likely then that Auburn will be using 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) more often moving forward. Frazier has the skillset that he could see time immediately in 2020. We will see if any booms come emanating from the Plains this weekend.

Top Target Visit Plans

With Auburn only hosting one official visitor this weekend, their remaining top targets will be elsewhere visiting their other finalists over the next 2-3 days. Here’s a quick rundown of who is visiting where this weekend:

4* WR Malachi Wideman was a name being linked to Auburn in December but he announced his visits would be to Tennessee, Oregon and FAU. I will update list above with any news on confirmed visits for Jackson, Umanmielen and Burks this weekend.

War Eagle!