Over the next 2 weeks, we will be taking a position by position look at the top targets on Auburn’s 2021 board. This is a first pass at who might be looking at Auburn the hardest this early in the cycle and whom Auburn might have the most interest in. However, recruiting is fluid and these lists will likely change.
No position produces a domino effect each cycle like quarterback. Just ask former SBNation recruiting contributor Bud Elliott:
Quarterback is the most important position in football. Most college programs want to carry four on scholarship, which means most schools will sign a QB every year.
Typically, only about 20 are rated four- or five-stars, so demand for elite QBs far outpaces supply. And teams usually do not move on from their No. 1 targets to accept a commitment from another until it is clear they are out of the running for their first choice. Lesser-rated recruits know this.
Given that teams rarely rotate quarterbacks, a top QB will often want to reserve his spot with the school of his choice. QB is also the noted position of leadership, so a committed QB often become a class’ lead recruiter.
Every year, we track the dominoes as they fall. QB1 picks school A, so School B moves on to QB2 as School C moves on to QB3. But then QB1 decommits from School A, and the cycle is thrown into chaos.
Auburn’s QB recruiting has already seen some early chaos. 4* Aaron McLaughlin committed to Auburn last spring but reopened his recruitment earlier this month. The Tigers top target on the board, 5* Brock Vandagriff, initially committed to Oklahoma before stepping back from that pledge and deciding to stay instate with UGA. Coaching changes on Auburn’s staff and at other programs in the SEC West has shaken up the board as well.
There’s also the question of how many quarterbacks Auburn signs in 2021. With 3 scholarship QBs on roster, Auburn could be ok with just one signee this cycle if there is no further attrition at that position. But there could also be the case where new offensive coordinator Chad Morris is concerned about the talent already on campus and elects to take 2 this class if he can find two quality prospects open to competition in a couple of seasons. The good news is 2021 is considered a loaded class so chances are high the Tigers should be able to bring in at least one blue chipper this cycle.
As of now, I am going to assume Auburn signs only one quarterback. Here are the early names to know.
Something that you will likely notice very quickly is that the majority of Auburn’s top QB targets reside in the Lone Star State. That isn’t a coincidence. New Auburn OC Chad Morris graduated from Texas A&M, spent 15 seasons as a head coach at various high schools in Texas and was the head coach at SMU for 3 years. He’s well known in Texas and has always made the state a priority in recruiting. That won’t be changing while he’s on the Plains either.
What is probably a bigger surprise is that Auburn might try and flip one of the top ranked QB prospects in that state from the Texas Longhorns. The odds of that happening don’t seem great but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. There have been mixed reports on whether or not new Texas OC Mike Yurcich wants to keep Milroe or has eyes on another prospect. This is where the spring visit schedule being cancelled due to coronavirus could really hurt Auburn. I think chances are pretty good they would have gotten the top 100 player on campus this spring. Now, it’s not as certain. But this is definitely a recruitment to keep an eye on when restrictions on visits are finally lifted.
Milroe is a deadly accurate QB with the ability to also burn defense with his legs. Completing over 60% of his passes as a junior with 29 TDs to only 8 INTs, Milroe has all the tools to pick apart defenses in the pocket. An electric athlete, Milroe can also tuck it and go but tends to use that athleticism more for extending plays than necessarily running the ball. He only ran the ball 73 times last year but scored 8 TDs and averaged over 5 yards a pop. He would have a chance to see the field very early for the Tigers if Morris can pull off the flip.
Chances are high you have already seen this kid play, you just didn’t realize it. Remember that viral video from two years ago where a Texas state title was won on a Hail Mary? Ya that was Davis making that throw.
Now he’s becoming one of the most highly sought after QB prospects in the 2021 class recently rising to #96 overall in 247’s prospect rankings. Davis committed to Virginia Tech in November but considering the hotness of Justin Fuente’s seat and the heavy interest from some top programs, I will be a little surprised if Davis ends up a Hokie this time next year. I fully expect Davis to take an official visit to the Plains before this cycle ends. Once that happens, things could get interesting for the Tigers
A quick decision maker possessing an elite arm, Davis has the upside to be a dominant QB at the next level. He will undoubtedly draw Russell Wilson comparisons given his frame and skillset. Capable of inflicting equal damage with arms and legs, Davis is a true dual threat QB prospect. The big knock against him, outside of height, is probably the fact he plays on such a loaded team. It helps when someone like Zach Evans is in your backfield but his skills standout nonetheless. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Davis end up a top 50 player per 247 Composite by the end of this cycle.
Salter was one of the biggest risers in the recent 247 rankings updates jumping all the way to #89 overall which makes him the top ranked QB in the state of Texas. Baylor was the first P5 team in on Salter which isn’t a surprise considering the Bears’ associate head coach was the head coach at his high school for 14 years. But the Tigers are making a serious push and hosted Salter on campus just before everything got shut down by COVID-19. Ole Miss and Arkansas are also looking to get involved with their new coaching staffs.
One of the better improvisers in this class, Salter is a threat to make a big play at any moment down the field. He excels at keeping plays alive with his feet and does a great job keeping his eyes down the field looking to burn defenses deep. He’s got the arm to stretch defenses vertically along with the accuracy to cause damage in the short passing game. Given his frame, Salter can likely add 20 lbs at the next level without losing any of his quickness. He might need to work on shortening his release a bit but overall he’s a high upside player who has a chance to develop into a very good QB at next level.
This time last year, this looked to be a clear Auburn-Mississippi State battle with the Tigers likely the frontrunners. Then Auburn landed Aaron McLaughlin. That appeared to tilt the scales towards the instate Bulldogs up until Joe Moorehead was let go. New head coach Mike Leach is apparently looking elsewhere to fill the QB spot in his class while Auburn is now once again in the market for a top QB prospect. Crystal Ball picks have been coming in recently for the Tigers on Keyes but the big question is whether or not he’s a take right now for Chad Morris. That’s even more in question now since Morris was not able to evaluate him in person this spring. Still, he’s a name to know in the 2021 class and one who could very well end up an Auburn Tiger before this cycle is over.
Keyes was named starter as a freshman in high school and promptly lead his team to a 2A state title. He’s been back two more times winning a 2nd state championship just last season. Put simply, this kid is used to winning. When you watch his tape it is easy to see why. Possessing a long, skinny frame at 6’1” 180 lbs, Keyes can and will need to add more weight to play at the next level. Put him in a collegiate strength and conditioning program and I suspect he can play at 6’1” 200 lbs easy without losing a step. He excels in the quick passing game, throwing with great timing and accuracy. He can push the ball down the field but there is often a lot of air under his deeper throws which does bring some questions about his arm strength. He will need to improve his velocity to beat P5 defenses at the next level. He also has a bit of an elongated throwing motion. Still, Keyes has the tools to develop into a very good quarterback and I am high on his upside.
One of the prospects most impacted by the suspension of visits this cycle is Will Crowder. He is the only name on this list that doesn’t yet hold an Auburn offer but he was expected to come throw for Morris at one of Auburn’s camps this summer. For Crowder, the hope was that a strong showing would lead to an offer. If it did, it would be a shock if he didn’t end up in this class. Crowder was in attendance at camp the same day Auburn took McLaughlin’s commit last spring but with a new offensive coordinator on board, Crowder has a second chance at landing an offer he covets. As of now, it’s believed West Virginia is the program with momentum in his recruitment with Kentucky likely running #2.
Crowder is a kid with tremendous upside. Not the strongest arm in the world but outstanding touch which allows him to put the ball wherever he wants it. While listed as a pro style prospect, he’s actually quite mobile consistently making plays with his feet. I think if in the right system Crowder could excel at the next level.
Pay attention to this kid. His recruitment is just starting to pick up and I fully expect him to end up being one of the more highly recruited prospects in this class. The Texan took over as starter last season for Shadow Creek and lead that program to its first ever 5A state championship. Now offers are starting to roll in with Auburn being the biggest so far. He was expected to take an official visit this past weekend to the Plains but that is obviously on hold for the time being.
Drones is a big kid with a big arm and an incredible ability to escape pressure. He’s a bona fide dual threat QB despite maybe lacking elite top end speed. You won’t see him break off many 50+ yard TD runs at the next level but he’s so quick and possesses great instincts that make him so difficult to take down behind the line of scrimmage. As a passer, I love his arm. He’s got a cannon though accuracy will need to improve as he only completed 57% of his passes last season. But he’s got all the tools to be an elite QB.