In just seven days, the 2021 recruiting cycle will officially come to an end. A cycle that started with such promise for the Tigers, collapsed, seemed poised to rebound and then morphed into a transition year. It will undoubtedly be one of the lowest ranked classes in the modern era of recruiting for the Tigers. Under Gus Malzahn entering a ninth season, that would have been devastating. Under Bryan Harsin entering his first season, it’s an understandable and necessary evil.
The goal next for Auburn’s new coaching staff is to close on a handful of remaining top targets. While there aren’t many big fish left in the sea, there are still some very good football players out there who could have a positive impact on the Tigers program in the future.
Auburn signed 11 in the early period. Oscar Chapman’s blueshirt counts against Auburn’s incoming class numbers this cycle meaning the Tigers have 13 scholarships to work with. It’s highly unlikely Auburn signs that many recruits next week. Expect Auburn to be very active in the portal this off-season but also don’t be surprised if Harsin holds some scholarship for next year’s class.
Here’s a rundown on names to know heading into the final stretch.
There’s been nothing new since Brooks asked out of his National Letter of Intent following the dismissal of Jeremy Pruitt. If he is granted that release, Auburn appears to be the overwhelming favorite to land Brooks’s signature. Could things change if Brooks likes the new hire in Knoxville? Possibly but as of today it appears the top 100 player is Auburn bound once given his freedom.
In just two weeks, Auburn went from not in the picture to a top contender for the nation’s #8 running back. Unfortunately, they could not make up enough ground in such a short amount of time to land the outstanding tailback. Cardwell elected to stay out west, committing to Oregon on Monday. I imagine Auburn will recruit him up until his signing but it would be a surprise at this point if anything changed in his recruitment.
Confidence that Wallace would end up a Tiger even if Travis Williams was not retained appears to have cratered. The nation’s #13 ILB appears to be rethinking his recruitment with the Kentucky Wildcats now surging ahead. But this race isn’t done just yet. New head coach Bryan Harsin, defensive coordinator Derek Mason and inside linebackers coach Jeff Schmedding are all hard after the big time playmaker. Is there enough time to build a strong enough relationship to convince Wallace that Auburn is still the best place for him? That remains to be seen.
Auburn’s lone 2021 commit that did not sign early appears set to stick with the Tigers next week. The do it all athlete out of Lehigh Acres, FL has received plenty of attention from a number of top programs, most notably Texas A&M, but Auburn’s new coaching staff has done a good job convincing Dawson to stick with the Tigers. He’s listed as defensive back on 247 but Harsin wants him at wideout.
I mentioned last week that Perkins is a name I was monitoring over the final weeks. That hunch proved accurate as it has since been reported the Tigers have emerged as a top contender for one of the top JUCO prospects in the 2021 class. Perkins has admitted in the past that Oregon is his dream school but the distance from home might prove to be too much for him and his family. If that ends up the case, Auburn has a great chance at snagging the talented defender. He has a long standing relationship with Zac Etheridge who began recruiting him three years ago.
Everyone knows Auburn needs offensive tackle help. Some will likely come via the transfer portal this summer but it wouldn’t hurt to add some in the 2021 class if possible. The Tigers are taking a swing at the top JUCO OT in this class. An Australian, Moko is one of the more intriguing prospects this cycle and has received attention from a number of major programs including Oregon, Texas A&M and LSU. The Aggies are believed to be the team to beat but the Tigers are trying to make a late push.
White does not yet hold an Auburn offer but after missing out on Cardwell, might the staff circle back to the instate prospect? I think it’s more likely Auburn signs just one prep back and lands a transfer, leaving 2-3 spots open for a loaded 2022 RB class. But if Harsin and Mike Bobo are worried about RB depth they could give the Dothan standout a closer look.
It hasn’t taken long for Will Friend’s impact to be felt on the recruiting trail. Smith originally committed to Tennessee when Friend was coaching there but reopened things following Jeremy Pruitt’s firing. Now the two could reunite on the Plains. North Carolina is a factor as well but the Tigers appear to be sitting in a good position heading to the home stretch.
This is an interesting recruitment to follow. Gaston was one of the surprise standouts at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. South Carolina jumped into the fray in early December and have long been viewed as the leader. But Auburn’s offer last week shook things up. However, Gaston appears to be telling folks different things, likely in order to build up hype for his announcement next week. He told GoSpurs, South Carolina’s 247 affiliate, that even though Auburn offered he was likely to sign with the Gamecocks. He then told AuburnUndercover that the two teams are neck and neck. I personally believe Gaston will choose to stay instate but he’s definitely creating some drama around his final decision.
The player I am most confident in signing with Auburn next week is Jarquez Hunter. A highly productive back out of Mississippi, Hunter was the first 2021 offer to go out following Harsin’s hire. He’s since named the Tigers his leader and barring any late surprises will be an Auburn Tiger.
Auburn was poised to sign Balfour during the early signing period. However, the coaching staff turnover has shaken things up. A number of programs saw the opportunity to swoop in and steal Balfour including UNC and LSU. The Tar Heels now appear to be the leader though this race is far from over. Can Zac Etheridge close the deal over the next 7 days?
I mentioned Perkins last week as a name to keep an eye on who might emerge as an Auburn target. This week it’s the nation’s #2 JUCO ILB Joko Willis. Willis recently decommited from Kentucky and now the South Carolina Gamecocks are believed to be the leader. However, given where things are going in Trevin Wallace’s recruitment, might Auburn attempt to make a late push for the Georgia native? That’s something I am monitoring over these final days.
The other LB candidate that I am keeping an eye on is Vanderbilt commit Michael Mincey. He committed to the Dores back in September when Derek Mason was still head coach. He’s remained firm since the coaching change but I would imagine he’d be open to discussing possibilities at Auburn if Mason were to circle back around. File this name away for National Signing Day.
The Texas transfer was reportedly a top Auburn target when he hit the portal last week. However, convincing a senior who just left a program where he was forced to play behind a phenom freshman to join another program where he would have to play behind a phenom freshman would be difficult. Unsurprisingly, Ingram elected to go a different route, announcing yesterday his transfer to USC.
Wilson was set to be an Auburn Tigers last December until Gus Malzahn was let go. Auburn’s new head coach Bryan Harsin continued to pursue the Harvard graduate transfer but it appears it was too little too late. Penn State pounced on the opportunity and earlier this morning Wilson announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions.
A lot can happen in a few months, especially in 2020. Unexpected changes have led me to commit to Penn State where I will play for the Nittany Lions as a grad transfer next year. Looking forward to getting to Happy Valley and working with @CoachTrautFB ! #10000menofharvard #WeAre pic.twitter.com/RRqDNb2QZX— Eric Wilson (@ejwilson38) January 27, 2021
The other running back transfer whom Auburn has been linked too is former Tennesse back Eric Gray. Rivals reported following Gray’s announcement that the Tigers might be the leader. But that’s been it in terms of intel since. Gray reportedly took a trip to Austin, TX this past weekend but it’s the Oklahoma Sooners who are now surging. Don’t be surprised if he joins the transfer train to Norman, OK in the very near future.