Auburn’s 2021 signing class is officially a transition class which makes its #47 overall ranking much easier to swallow. Obviously it’s not great but now it’s at least the first part of a recruiting class for a brand new coach rather than multi years worth of work from a coach in his 8th season.
What’s also nice for new head coach Bryan Harsin is that he has plenty of spots to work with over the coming months. The Tigers signed only 11 players during the early signing period. Blue shirt Oscar Chapman’s scholarship counted towards this year’s 25 incoming scholarship limit so theoretically Auburn should have 13 spots to fill.
Who might those guys be? Well it’s still pretty early so it’s hard to be too specific. Especially considering he hasn’t hired any new staff members. My suspicion is he will wait for Auburn to finish their bowl game before announcing staffing changes. I expect you will see targets start to pop up on the board next week. But for now, I am going to take some educated guesses at names to know and what Harsin might consider to be the biggest positions of need.
Offensive Line (2-3)
Remember how excited we all were about this OL class over the summer? At the time the Tigers had four commits, two from blue chips, and were still chasing the big fish of 5-star Amarius Mims.
Those days are long gone.
3-star Garner Langlo was the only OL signee two weeks ago. 4-star OG Jaeden Roberts elected to flip to the Tide while previous flips 3-star OT J’Marion Gooch (Tennessee) and 4-star OT Caleb Johnson (Notre Dame) both signed. It also looks likely the Tigers will lose Harvard graduate transfer commit Eric Wilson to LSU though I believe Harsin is working to keep him the fold.
Put simply, Auburn’s new head coach has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.
I will be shocked if Auburn doesn’t sign at least one offensive tackle from the transfer portal. My bet is the Tigers try to get two and maybe even an interior lineman. Auburn could also go to the JUCO or undergraduate ranks too. I think ideally, Auburn would get a starter caliber tackle from the portal, a prep OT with upside and then maybe one more starter caliber lineman from the portal. The Tigers need more competition up front.
Who might those names be remain a mystery. I was keeping an eye on guys like Triston Miller (UNC transfer), Junior Uzebu (Vandy transfer) and Willie Allen (La Tech transfer) but they have all recently committed. More names will likely hit the portal in the coming days as well. I also have my eyes on Marcus Minor (Maryland transfer) and Ty’kieast Crawford (Charlotte transfer). Both were former blue chip OTs coming out of high school.
As for the high school or JUCO ranks, 3-star OT Jason White is a current Boise State commit that might be someone Harsin tries to bring with him to the Plains. There’s also 4-star OG Josh Simmons who he offered while at Boise State that appears to be trending to San Diego State. Might Harsin try to reconnect and convince him to give AU a look? Finally, 3-star OT Jordan Moko, 3-star OT Jeremiah Crawford and OT Matt Keeler are JUCO names to monitor moving forward.
Again, there should be better intel starting next week when Auburn’s new coaching staff takes over.
Defensive Line (1-2)
Despite the coaching turnover, Auburn did a very good job keeping this solid defensive line class in tact. 4-star Lee Hunter, 4-star Marquis Robinson and 3-star Tobechi Okoli all elected to sign early. That gives Harsin two interior defensive lineman who could potentially help immediately and a developmental prospect at end with a high ceiling.
Now Auburn needs a pass rusher. 4-star BUCK Jeremiah Williams flirted with the idea of waiting until February but decided to stick with the Gators. He was likely one of the two players Kevin Steele mentioned that “they flipped but they flipped back”. 3-star BUCK George Wilson and 3-star JUCO BUCK Byron Young both were trending towards Auburn the week before Malzahn’s firing. That changed things and Wilson ended up signing with Florida State while Young surprised a lot of people by signing with Tennessee. The final bit of bad news came with graduate transfer Keion White deciding to sign with Georgia Tech.
But it’s not all bad. Long time Auburn target 4-star DL Dylan Brooks did not sign early with Tennessee and per AuburnUndercover’s Keith Nieburh, Harsin has made him a top priority. Boise State has had some great success putting pass rushers in the league and Harsin is attempting to sell that background to Brooks. Given Brooks family ties to the program and the fact he decided to wait to sign makes me believe Auburn will end up snagging the top 100 player come National Signing Day.
There’s also 3-star JUCO DL Jimmori Robinson to consider. He was an early Auburn target before they elected to push for Byron Young instead. Robinson committed to UTSA but decommitted this week. If Harsin wants to add another edge player to this class he might circle back to the JUCO standout.
Also always the possibility Auburn gets a pass rusher from the transfer portal.
Defensive Back (2-3)
I have no intel backing up this claim but I suspect most of the juniors in Auburn’s secondary will declare early for the draft. Jamien Sherwood, Smoke Monday, Roger McCreary and Christian Tutt are eligible to head off to the next level. It would not surprise me if at least two, if not more, make that jump.
If that ends up being the case, I imagine Harsin will attempt to add a few more DB pieces to this 2021 class. He inherits three good ones in 4-star Ahmari Harvey, 3-star Kamal Hadden and 3-star A.D. Diamond. Do it all athlete 3-star Tar’Varish Dawson is still committed to Auburn but has now become one of the hottest names on the recruiting trail in the late period. He’s landed a bunch of offers recently most notably from Texas A&M. Auburn has its work cut out to keep him but Harsin has made it clear to the long time AU commit he wants him in this class.
I don’t have a ton of names right now which shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are a few guys though that are worth monitoring. From the transfer portal, keep an eye on former South Carolina Gamecock Jammie Robinson. He played with Big Kat Bryant in high school and the Tigers recruited him hard a few years ago. In the prep ranks, in state stand out 3-star Juwan Gaston is someone Kevin Steele is reportedly high on. Will he land an offer with this new staff? No idea but definitely a name to watch.
Running Back (1-2)
Auburn has already lost two running backs to the transfer portal this year and could lose more following the bowl game. Before I go any further, no I do not believe Tank Bigsby will transfer. He’s the one I am most confident in returning next season.
Best case scenario, Auburn has 3 backs return next year in Bigsby, D.J. Williams and Shaun Shivers. Worst case, only 1 in Bigsby. Either way, Auburn needs to add more bodies. My suspicion is the Tigers will look to add one back from the portal and one from the prep ranks. The portal names to watch are Deondrick Glass (Oklahoma State transfer), Markese Stepp (USC transfer), Iverson Clement (Florida transfer) and Christian Turner (Michigan transfer). In the high school ranks there’s former Boise State commit 3-star Eli Sanders, 3-star Alton McCaskill, 4-star Ke’Travion Hargrove and 3-star Jaylin White.
It will likely be difficult to convince a kid from the portal to be Tank’s backup so I lean more towards Auburn working hard to keep Williams and Shivers on the team while adding one back from high school ranks.
Before Malzahn was fired, Auburn was on pace to close very strong at this position. 5-star Terrence Lewis and 4-star Trevin Wallace were likely to commit and sign with the Tigers during the Early Signing Period. But the coaching change has understandably shaken things up.
It now appears Auburn is out of the Lewis sweepstakes. Maryland and Miami have now emerged as possibly the top contenders and it doesn’t sound like Harsin is going to push to get Auburn back in the race. Wallace, however, remains a top target for the Tigers. Per Keith Niebuhr, Auburn’s new head coach had a positive one hour conversation with the four star linebacker. If Travis Williams is retained, I believe Wallace still ends up in Auburn’s class. If not, Auburn will still have a chance but will likely face some stiff competition.
I am as big a Bo Nix fan as you will find on Auburn internet but even I have limits to my homerism. While I believe Bryan Harsin can unlock Nix’s 5-star potential, it would be foolish to assume that just because there’s been a coaching change that things will get much better at quarterback. Nix has under performed in his two years as starter and will need to take a major step forward in 2021 if the Tigers want to challenge for any sort of championships. 4-star Dematrius Davis is a big time player and could push Nix this spring but don’t be surprised if Harsin decides to bring in someone from the portal to compete for the starting job.
I don’t know of any specific target but some names to monitor are former UNC 4-star signee Jace Ruder and USF transfer Jordan McCloud. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Auburn kick the tires on guys like Jawon Pass from Louisville and Jake Bentley.
In a perfect world, Nix will click with Harsin and Auburn fans can finally see the former 5-star reach his potential. But if it doesn’t happen, Auburn’s new head coach will need to have a backup plan. He didn’t recruit Nix so there’s unlikely to be the same attachment we saw with Gus Malzahn. Just one of the many interesting storylines to unfold this off-season on the Plains.