Fair warning this is going to be a long post. Most major programs a week out from early signing period have the majority of their class in place and are looking to close on a few high profile targets. But given the absolute bananas coaching carousel this off-season and Bryan Harsin’s more methodical, patient recruiting process, Auburn heads into next week with a lot still up in the air.
It honestly feels like a more old school National Signing Day when you’d take off work or skip school to watch the theatrics of major college programs attempting to predict the mind’s of teenage athletes. Or was that just me....
Auburn currently has the 34th ranked class in the country and the 13th ranked class in the SEC per 247 Composite. Those are very un-Auburn like numbers and there is a noticeable portion of the fanbase on edge about where things might be going. Given the fact we just witnessed one of the most epic collapses by an Auburn football team that I can remember this past November, I understand their reservations.
But it would rival giving up 40 unanswered in Jordan-Hare to a Mike Leach offense or failing to complete one of the biggest Iron Bowl upsets in history despite having a 99.9% win projection with less than 2 minutes to go for the Tigers to finish ranked 2nd to last in the conference this recruiting cycle. The real question is how high is the ceiling in 2022? To be honest, I didn’t think it would be very high a couple of months ago. However, all the coaching change craziness and the absolutely insane Iron Bowl atmosphere along with Auburn’s relentless pursuit of some big time prospects, the Tigers are in position to have one of the strongest closes in college football.
Finishing is not something Harsin’s program did well on the field to end the season. It’s something he HAS to do on the trail over the coming days.
Let’s take a look.
Auburn’s three year starting QB and AU legacy has yet to confirm he’s coming back next season because that’s just how things are these days on the Plains. The Tigers have flirted with the idea of taking a 2nd quarterback all cycle but obviously if Bo bolts for the NFL or shockingly enters the transfer portal then I would expect Bryan Harsin to look for a replacement via the portal.
- 4-star Holden Geriner - Geriner wasted no time taking to social media to reaffirm his commitment following Mike Bobo’s ouster. Auburn’s longest tenured commit has been one of the leaders of this class and is completely bought into what Bryan Harsin is selling as his vision of the program. Geriner is also putting together a monster senior season and will play for a state title this Friday. I don’t think he’s ready to be a day 1 starter on the Plains but he’s the prototype for what Harsin wants running this offense in the future.
- 4-star Tanner Bailey - Following the news that Mario Cristobal was headed to Miami, long time Ducks commit Tanner Bailey announced he was stepping back from his pledge. The Gordo High School standout is an Auburn legacy and would jump at the opportunity to play for the Tigers. The big question is whether Auburn will make a move. We will likely know this weekend if he shows up for an official visit. Something I am keeping a close eye on in the coming days.
- 3-star Bennett Meredith - When it looked like Zak Hill would be Auburn’s new offensive coordinator this was a name I was going to keep a close eye on. Meredith had an excellent senior year with Hoover and was previously committed to Northwestern. However, he recently decommitted from the Wildcats with the Sun Devils having made a major move. If Hill was coming to the Plains, it would not have surprised me to see Auburn make a late offer. Now, I am not so sure but he’s still a name I am tracking.
Running Back (2)
It seems certain at this point that Auburn will take two running backs. If Tank were to enter the portal Auburn would likely look for a third via transfer but I refuse to consider that reality just yet so we will stick with two for now. That final running back spot appears down to two names.
- 4-star Damari Alston - One of Auburn’s most vocal recruiters, Alston is completely locked in with the Tigers despite the OC change. He continues to work hard behind the scenes trying to recruit other big name players to join him on the Plains. I am not sure there’s ever been a player as active as a recruiter as Alston. Oh and he’s a pretty durn good back too.
- 4-star Tre’Vonte Citizen - Following an in home visit from Carnell Williams last Sunday, Citizen chose to back off his LSU pledge. The nation’s #9 back is unquestionably Auburn’s top target at running back and they are throwing everything into completing this flip. But this recruitment is still very much up in the air including whether or not he signs next week. Florida, now lead by Billy Napier who has built lots of strong Louisiana connections, is attempting to make a late push and might be getting him on campus for an official visit this weekend. It remains to be seen what new LSU head coach Brian Kelly decides to do but you would have to think he’d make getting Citizen back into the class a top priority. Whole lot of turns left in this race.
S/O to @AuburnFootball for coming by to recruit @Tre_Citizen1 and our prospects today. (@ZacEtheridge4 , @CoachCaddy24 , @CoachHarsin , @CoachDerekMason , @TrovonReed ) #RepThePrep#ThePrepWay #AGNB pic.twitter.com/Cx9X5Btih1— Lake Charles College Prep Recruits (@Recruit_LCCP) December 7, 2021
- 4-star Justin Wiliams - Williams’s patience was finally rewarded at the Iron Bowl when Auburn extended an offer. Williams, despite being committed to West Virginia for much of the fall, was a regular attendee to games at Jordan-Hare. He’s someone Auburn RB coach Carnell Williams loves. But Auburn won’t give him the green light until they have gotten a firm red one from Citizen so the dance continues. Meanwhile, Tennessee is looking to capitalize on the delay and will be hosting Williams for an official visit this weekend. He took one to the Plains last weekend and announced on social media these are his final 2 teams. How Auburn handles this final RB spot in the class will be fascinating to watch over this next week.
Wide Receiver (4-5)
Auburn has already lost one player to the portal and I expect more defections before the 2022 season. This was a glaring weakness for the Tigers this past fall and I think the staff would be completely fine overturning this room over the off-season. There are some critical battles down the stretch that could turn this from a pretty good group to one of the strengths of the class. Oh and the Tigers are swinging for the fences in the portal as well.
- 4-star Omari Kelly - Despite the WR and OC coaching changes, Kelly appears to be solid to the Tigers. The Hewitt-Trussville star could feasibly play all 3 wide receiver spots in Auburn’s offense and has a chance to be an early impact player for the Tigers.
- 3-star Jay Fair - Fair is criminally underrated by most recruiting services. The speedy wideout remains solidly committed to the Tigers despite the coaching changes. He’s someone that Auburn targeted fairly early on as a must get and he’ll have an opportunity to see the field early in 2022.
- 4-star WR Darrius Clemons - This has been a wild ride of a recruitment and we aren’t close to done. Clemons was the very first recruit Bryan Harsin offered after taking the Auburn job and has been near, if not at the top of the recruiting board the whole cycle. The Tigers felt great about where they stood heading into the season and then the Ducks WR class fell apart. Following 2 decommits, Oregon made it clear the big man could stay close to home and it appeared that Auburn was done. But then Mario Cristobal took the Miami job and now things have swung dramatically back in the Tigers direction. Just a week ago Auburn was not planning on flying out to see Clemons but are now expected to be in Portland tomorrow in hopes of locking down the big WR. Michigan is working hard to get a late OV from the playmaker and USC under Lincoln Riley is also trying to get involved. As of today though the Tigers look to once again be the team to beat.
- 4-star Antonio Williams - Outside of his son, the recruit that was likely most impacted by Mike Bobo’s departure was Williams. Bobo was the lead recruiter for the South Carolina native who took an official visit for the Iron Bowl. He claims the Tigers remain a factor but this coaching change paired with a recent Clemson offer makes it unlikely the explosive WR chooses the Tigers.
- 3-star Marquarius White (Tennessee) - I’m a big fan of Vols commit Marquarius “Squirrel” White and it turns out so is AU WR coach Eric Kiesau. The Tigers started turn the heat up after the change at WR coach and are hoping to get him on campus for an official visit this weekend. UGA is also heavily involved. White plans to make a final decision next week.
- 3-star Camden Brown - Remember this name? Over the summer, Brown was set to take an official visit where he was likely going to leave the campus committed to the Tigers. But Auburn wasn’t ready to take him at the time and cancelled the visit. He eventually committed to Pittsburgh but following an impressive senior season is back on the market and looking at some big time programs including Auburn. He finally got to take that official visit last weekend and it doesn’t appear he’s holding any grudges against Auburn. However, UGA offered last week and are making a really strong late push. They’ll host him on an official visit this weekend. This has been a wild recruitment so it’s hard to see where it ends but my gut says Brown will be playing in the SEC next year.
- Theo Wease (Oklahoma) - It did not take long for Oklahoma players to hop into the portal following Lincoln Riley’s shocking bait and switch. One of those players is former 5-star Theo Wease who missed all of 2021 with an injury. However, he’s expected to be one of the top WRs in the portal and Auburn’s coaching staff has wasted little time getting involved. Kiesau is reportedly in constant contact and working to land an official visit. Wease doesn’t seem to be in a hurry so this recruitment is likely to last into 2022. Let’s see if the Tigers can land another former 5-star wideout from the portal.
Tight End (1)
Barring any surprises Auburn seems set at tight end. They identified their top target and were able to land him over the summer.
- 3-star Micah Riley-Ducker - You’d be hard pressed to find a prospect better suited to play the tight end position in Auburn’s offense than Riley-Ducker. The Nebraska native chose the Tigers over Iowa, Iowa State, and Illinois over the summer. He took to social media not long after the Bobo news hit to let everyone know he’s still committed and ready to work. I truly believe the Tigers have a chance at putting two NFL caliber tight ends on the field over the next 3-4 years with Riley-Ducker and Landen King.
- 3-star Colston Loveland (Michigan) - If there is a surprise at the tight end position it would be the flipping of Wolverine commit Colston Loveland. The top ranked player in the state of Idaho is someone Harsin is very familiar with the but the big man appears to be locked in with the Wolverines. Per AuburnLive’s Cole Pinkston, the Tigers are expected to visit Loveland this week. Undoubtedly they are hoping to convince him to take an official visit this weekend but as of today that looks unlikely.
Offensive Line (4-6)
There are lots of reasons for why Auburn floundered in November but none bigger than the simple fact that Auburn could not run the ball when they needed to most. That all starts up front where the Tigers have not fielded an SEC caliber OL in some time. I expect Auburn to be VERY active in the portal but that has to be a stop gap measure. The real solution to this problem is signing 4-5 quality prep prospects every cycle. Gus Malzahn failed to do that during his tenure. Starting next week we will see if Bryan Harsin can do better.
- 3-star Eston Harris - One of the quietest but biggest pieces of news to come out from this past weekend was Harris announcing that he’s solid to the Tigers. The big man took his official visit to the Plains this past weekend and despite the shake up at OC is planning to sign with Auburn next week. Interestingly, he’s expected to begin his career at guard.
- 3-star Drew Bobo - It’s one thing to not let where your father is employed impact your decision. It’s another to sign with a school who just fired your dad. While nothing has come out publicly I do not expect Drew Bobo to be a member of Auburn’s 2022 recruiting class. UGA is trying to make a late push though I think Kentucky is the more likely landing spot. It’s a blow because I think Bobo has excellent upside but it’s unsurprising given the circumstances. My guess is Drew won’t decommit until he knows where he wants to go.
- 4-star Julian Armella - I don’t know how Bryan Harsin is going to be as a closer on the trail but you have to give him some respect for his ability to very quickly get involved with some big time players. Auburn has been in contact with Armella for a month or so but have never really been considered a contender. That changed over the weekend when the big man joined his high school teammate Camden Brown for an official visit. This is probably still a long shot with FSU seen as the team to beat. But the Tigers are at least in the picture and will likely be a hat on the table next week.
- 4-star Malik Agbo - This recruitment has taken an odd turn recently. Auburn has long been seen as one of the top challengers and hosted the big man for an official visit for the Iron Bowl. But it appears following his OV, Auburn’s coaching staff has decided to go in a different direction and now Texas looks like the landing spot for the Washington native.
- 4-star Tae Woody (Florida State) - It seems his position projection changes weekly but given the bigger board at DT and the bigger need at OL I’ve moved Woody back to OL. Regardless, this has been quite the battle down the stretch. Woody committed to FSU over the summer but Auburn made a strong surge during the fall. So strong, many thought he was close to flipping his pledge but that never happened. He then claimed a couple of weeks ago that he’s 100% committed to the Noles. However, he’s expected to take an official visit to the Plains this weekend. Put simply, this recruitment isn’t over but the Tigers have a lot of work to do if they want to finish the flip.
- 4-star Qae’shon Sapp (Florida State) - While I believe Auburn has a realistic shot at flipping Woody, I am not so sure they do with Qae’shon Sapp. The Georgia native made a number of trips to the Plains over the summer but ultimately elected to commit to the Noles. Auburn though hasn’t given up and are pushing hard to get him on campus for an official visit this weekend. It’s pretty simple. If he makes that trip then things could get real interesting, otherwise he’s all Nole.
- 3-star Percy Lewis - Auburn was hoping to sign a JUCO OT this cycle but that’s looking less and less likely these days. Tyrone Webber committed to Oklahoma State and while the Tigers are pushing hard, it’s looking like former Oregon commit Percy Lewis will stay in his home state of Mississippi. I expect Auburn to hit the portal hard for impact offensive linemen.
- 3-star Jalen Farmer (Florida) - Farmer is a name that has shot up Auburn’s board recently. The Gators commit landed an offer while attending the Iron Bowl. While listed as a guard the Tigers’ staff believe he has the versatility to play outside as well. As of now, Farmer is likely to sign in February so he probably won’t take an official visit to the Plains until January. If the Tigers push, I like their chances.
- 3-star Anez Cooper - With Bobo likely headed elsewhere and the unlikelihood Auburn can flip Qae’shon Sapp, I think there’s a very good chance Cooper ends up in Auburn’s class. The big man is one of the most physical players in the state but has struggled with his weight. He’s worked hard though to get that under control and the Tigers offered him earlier this fall. Cooper would like to sign next week so I am interested to see if the Tigers bring him on campus for an official visit this weekend. If Auburn pushes, he will be a Tiger.
- Miles Frazier (FIU) - It’s still early but Frazier has very quickly become one of the top offensive tackles to enter the transfer portal. He started every game last season for the Panthers and graded out as one of the top performers in C-USA. Even more important he has 3 years of eligibility remaining so he’s not a one year rental. Florida State is considered the early favorite but Auburn OL coach Will Friend paid Frazier a visit earlier this week and it seems likely he will visit the Plains in January. Arizona State, NC State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are all major factors as well per AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr. Needless to say this is one of Auburn’s most important targets on the board right now.
Defensive Line (3-4)
Undoubtedly the position with the most upside as we enter the final stretch is defensive line. Nick Eason has the early makings of an elite recruiter but we will see if he can close the deal over the coming days. A few of these recruitments go Auburn’s way and the perception of this class changes dramatically.
- 4-star Caden Story - Not much has been said or written about Auburn’s highest ranked commit but that’s what happens to kids that commit early and don’t waiver. The big man is a perfect fit for Derek Mason’s multiple fronts and reminds me a lot of Marcus Harris. Don’t sleep on this kid. He can play.
- 5-star Shemar Stewart - I don’t have a ton of optimism here but it’s a recruitment worth tracking. The #8 overall player in the 2022 class won’t sign until February and still has 3 official visits to use. Auburn is working hard to land one of them in January and it sounds like it’s actually possible. However, Texas A&M is the major favorite right now with Miami likely poised to make a big move. But hey, anything can happen if you can get a kid on campus.
- 4-star Khurtiss Perry - Following the Iron Bowl, Perry made waves when he told AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr that the Tigers were now his top team. However, no one seemed to really believe him. Most believe the Tide are still the team to beat and will ultimately be the choice next week. He’s taking an official visit to UCF this weekend but the Tigers staff is expected to visit with him before he leaves at some point this week if they haven’t already. I really don’t know what to think about this recruitment other than I’ve been burned plenty of times before. Maybe though Nick Eason can swing one of these recruitments Auburn’s way.
- 4-star Tyre West (Georgia) - West is technically committed to Georgia but the two sides are expected to part ways before signing day. Florida State (yes them again) have long been viewed as the top threat but Auburn is making a really strong push. He visited for the Iron Bowl and was blown away by the experience. So much so, he’s squeezing a mid week official visit to the Plains which starts today before taking his final OV over the weekend to Tennessee. This is shaping up to be another AU/FSU battle and I am not quite sure how it will end.
- 4-star Jeffrey M’ba - The #1 JUCO prospect in the country spent plenty of time on Auburn’s campus last week. He visited for the Iron Bowl unofficially and then returned a day later to start his official visit once his family was able to fly in. He’s down to a final 5 of Auburn, Miami, Missouri, Oregon, and Tennessee. But this is shaping up to be a showdown between the Tigers and Vols with our ole pal Rodney Garner leading the way for the Vols. Can Eason beat one of the best closers for the top JUCO player in this class?
- 3-star Enyce Sledge - The former Baylor commit was reportedly shocked when Nick Eason offered him on a visit last week. The Louisiana native has very quickly risen up Auburn’s board and is expected to take an official visit this weekend. The Tigers are involved with a lot of big name DL down the stretch but all of those are battles that could go different ways. I think Auburn likes Sledge enough they are willing to take him and ensure they add some interior DL talent to this class.
Jeff Schmedding has the challenging task of stepping into the job held by former Auburn fan favorite and ace recruiter Travis Williams. There are still a lot of people down on Schmedding because he’s not T-WILL. He has a chance though next week to prove he can bring some big time players to the Plains too.
- 3-star Powell Gordon - Injuries really impacted Gordon’s season in 2022 but Auburn fans got a taste of what this kid can bring when Auburn High School nearly pulled the upset over IMG. Gordon was unblockable all night coming off the edge consistently whooping 5-star Bama commit Tyler Booker. The big question is whether or not Gordon can keep that quickness while bulking up to 230+ pounds. If he can, he’s got a chance to be a major impact player for the Tigers.
- 4-star Robert Woodyard (Alabama) - At this point it would be a bigger surprise if Woodyard signed with Bama than Auburn. Schmedding made Woodyard an immediate priority after being hired and it seems this recruitment has been trending Auburn’s way since a quiet official visit over the summer. I feel like because Woodyard’s recruitment has been headed this way for some time people aren’t giving this possible victory the credit it deserves. If Auburn can successfully flip a blue chip linebacker from Mobile, AL away from the Tide on signing day, that’s a massive win for the Tigers and not something they’ve really ever pulled off before against Nick Saban.
- 4-star DeMario Tolan (LSU) - Schmedding has his eyes on another SEC West rival LB commit. Tolan was one of the very first players Schmedding offered after being hired but could never get him on campus over the summer. Tolan committed to LSU but the coaching change in Baton Rouge has opened the door once again for the better looking Tigers. He finally made it to campus for the Iron Bowl where he gave the trip a 10 out of 10. He’s returning to LSU this weekend for an official visit where the job status of LSU LB coach Blake Baker looms large. If he doesn’t get assurances that Baker is sticking around don’t be surprised if Auburn pulls off this flip.
- 4-star TJ Dudley - Dudley was one of many Oregon recruits to decommit following news that Mario Cristobal was headed to Miami. If either instate programs made a push they’d likely easily land the hard hitting backer but so far neither seem inclined to do so. I am interested to see if Auburn brings Dudley on campus this weekend for an OV as a backup option if they can’t land Tolan. Definitely a recruitment to track over the coming days.
- 3-star Deuce Spurlock (Michigan) - I imagine if the staff could have a do over they’d offer Spurlock much earlier. The instate prospect finally landed an AU offer on his way up for an official visit to Ann Arbor where he left a Wolverine commit. The Tigers have since pushed hard to convince him to change his mind but he’s been adamant that he’s locked in with Michigan. Auburn is hoping to get him on campus for an official visit this weekend. If that happens things could get interesting but as of now that visit doesn’t look likely.
A lot of recruits have taken notice of Roger McCreary’s climbing draft stock and Auburn cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge has the Tigers poised for a big time finish. Like Eason, he’s showing some early flashes of being a big time recruiter.
- 4-star JaDarian Rhym (LSU) - Auburn has been working to flip Rhym since the summer but didn’t seem to start gaining traction until this fall. Now it’s a full on battle with Auburn positioned to possibly pull off the big time flip next week. If LSU retains Corey Raymond as is expected that would make things more difficult but even in that case it seems Auburn is sitting in a really good spot. He’s expected to officially visit the Plains this weekend. If he makes that trip instead of returning to Baton Rouge, I really like Auburn’s chances.
- 4-star Austin Ausberry - Despite his father working in LSU’s athletic department, Austin Ausberry has always made it clear that he’s open to leaving the state. Now that’s looking even more likely as Auburn has made a big time push and likely sits in the lead heading into the final weekend. However, LSU will host Ausberry for an official visit this weekend. When a Louisiana kid heads to Baton Rouge for an OV you always have to worry. Let’s see if AU can survive the late surge by the Bayou Bengals.
- 3-star Keionte Scott - With McCreary off to the NFL after this season, Auburn is hoping to add some immediate impact players to that CB room. Scott is one they’ve had circled for some time and they hosted the big time JUCO prospect for an official visit for the Iron Bowl. Auburn appears to like where they sit but Tennessee is also pushing hard. He’ll officially visit BYU this weekend and make his decision next week. As of today, I think Auburn is the team to beat.
- 3-star Myles Pollard (Michigan) - Auburn has not given up pursuing this Michigan commit. I completely understand as Pollard is woefully underrated by recruiting services. The Tigers lost out to Harbaugh over the summer but Zac Etheridge continues to push to flip the Tennessee native. I don’t like the Tigers chances but he’s definitely another name to track next week as a potential surprise.
Derek Mason overturned the safety room pretty quickly last off-season and will probably do the same this year with Smoke Monday, Bydarrius Knighten and Ladarrius Tennison all gone. The Tigers already have a number of safeties committed but still have their eyes on a player or two.
- 4-star Tre Donaldson - I am skeptical Donaldson ever plays a single snap of football on the Plains but so far the plan for him is to play both football and basketball. After returning from injury Donaldson absolutely balled out and to me has the makings of an NFL safety one day. But Bruce Pearl also sees him as his future point guard and in all things we must trust Bruce.
- 3-star Ja’Kobi Albert - Albert is listed as a safety but could very well slide to wide receiver if needed. Bottom line is he’s a playmaker and Auburn will do what they can to get him on the field. It’s important to note he’s one of the few Auburn commits planning to officially visit elsewhere this weekend. Kentucky, who at one point was considered the team to beat, will host the long time Auburn commit. However, they just lost defensive coordinator Jon Sumrall who took the head coaching job at Troy. He was one of Albert’s main recruiters. My understanding is that most insiders believe he will stick with the Tigers.
- 3-star Caleb Wooden - Like his older brother Colby, Caleb is a no nonsense, high IQ, hard hitting defender who will compete for early playing time. He’s likely projected to slide into that boundary safety role that Smoke manned this past fall. Don’t be surprised if he’s a special teams standout next season. This kid can play.
- 3-star Marquis Gilbert - Once again Auburn and Florida State are locked in a major recruiting battle. The #1 JUCO safety seemed to be favoring the Tigers earlier this fall but an FSU offer shook things up. The Noles are closer to home and that appeals to Gilbert but this battle is far from over. The Tigers continue to push and both sides seem confident in where they stand as we hit the home stretch.
- Juwon Gaston - Gaston signed with AU last signing day but did not make it to campus despite actually qualifying academically. It’s been assumed he would enroll at Auburn in January but now I am not so sure that will be the case. This has been a bizarre recruitment since he signed so I am interested to see how it finishes.
Special Teams (1)
Gotta give kickers some love too especially when they are the best at what they do.
- 3-star Alex McPherson - Anders Carlson is reportedly mulling over a return to the Plains next fall but regardless if it’s next year or 2023, McPherson is the future at Auburn’s kicker position. He’s not very big but McPherson possesses one of the strongest legs in the class and will look to continue Auburn’s long stretch of excellent kickers.