Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the top early targets for the Tigers in the 2022 class.
In Bryan Harsin’s introductory press conference he made sure to state that he planned on going anywhere and everywhere to find talent. That his recruiting strategy would not be limited to Auburn’s traditional territories.
The wide receiver position might be where he puts that strategy to the test. It’s early and this will likely change but only 1 receiver from the states of Alabama or Georgia are ranked in the top 30 at that position. That means new Auburn wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams has his work cut out for him in year 1.
My guess is the Tigers will attempt to sign at least three wide receivers this cycle. Given the amount of young talent on the roster already, this is a position Auburn doesn’t necessarily need to sign immediate impact players but could target more developmental prospects to groom for the next couple of years.
Here are some early names I am keeping an eye on in the 2022 class.
4-star Shazz Preston | 6’0” | 190 lbs | Saint James, LA
Preston is the the #3 player in the state of Louisiana which means he’s LSU’s to lose until proven otherwise. Mississippi State might be the top contender as Preston’s older brother is currently on the Bulldogs roster. However, Auburn did make the initial cut when he dropped a top 10 earlier this year.
THE PROCESS CONTINUES‼️ @Hayesfawcett3 pic.twitter.com/W0YXpNoz8T— shazz preston (@shazzpreston7) January 1, 2021
You will be hard pressed to find a more electric WR in this class than Preston. The Louisiana native has elite burst, allowing him to explode past defenders after a catch. He’s got elite hands and shows the consistent ability to come down with the ball in traffic. Could play a number of different wide receiver positions at the next level. Bona fide top 100 talent.
4-star Darrius Clemons | 6’3” | 205 lbs | Portland, OR
Auburn doesn’t usually spend a lot of time recruiting in the state of Oregon but they are taking a swing at one of the top WR prospects on the west coast. Darrius Clemons told AuburnSports’s Jeffery Lee that he is open to heading to the southeast to play college football. Harsin was previously recruiting Clemons when he was head coach at Boise State and is hoping to make use of that previous relationship. This is a target that Auburn really needs to get on campus for an official visit whenever the NCAA allows them again.
It’s hard not to like Clemons. He’s a big kid at 6’3” 205 lbs with elite speed. Most of his tape is him blowing by defensive backs for big plays. He’s the prototype of what Harsin wants at the X or boundary receiver in his offense. Clemons reminds me a bit of Darius Slayton with even more size. Would be a monster addition to Auburn’s class if Harsin and Coach Corn can make it happen.
4-star Janiran Bonner | 6’1” | 193 lbs | Ellenwood, GA
Bonner was a top priority for Gus Malzahn and Kodi Burns. The Tigers looked to be the leader last fall but now this recruitment is up in the air. I haven’t gotten much information on where Bonner stands with AU or how Bonner feels about this new staff. I imagine though there’s been some communication and we will see if the Tigers are still a major factor for one of the top wideouts in the state of Georgia in the coming months.
I was unable to find any 2020 tape on Bonner but you can see his skillset from his sophomore year. A long, lanky athlete with excellent speed, Bonner is a strong wideout with the ability to shed tackles after the catch for big gains. He’s got the top end speed to beat defenses deep and the quickness to get open over the middle. Could play the X or Z in Harsin’s scheme.
4-star Jadyn Marshall | 6’0” | 185 lbs | Stockton, CA
Marshall is another west coast native that is contemplating making the journey east to the SEC. A number of PAC-12 programs like Cal, Oregon, UCLA and USC are hard after the blue chip prospect but so is Auburn and Marshall is listening. Gus Malzahn’s staff was the first SEC program to offer Marshall and it sounds like Harsin’s new regime will continue to recruit him.
Due to California canceling the high school football season this past fall, Marshall was unable to play his junior year. So this is probably a bold statement given all I have to review is his sophomore year but I’ll make it nonetheless. I think Marshall is a 5-star talent. He did it all for St. Mary’s in 2019 compiling over 1,800 yards of all purpose yardage. He’s scary with the ball in his hands, capable of consistently making men miss in the open field and having the speed to beat them over the top. My guess is he will stay out west but I would love to see Marshall suit up in the orange and blue in 2022.
4-star Barion Brown | 6’1” | 160 lbs | Nashville, TN
It’s a solid cycle for the Volunteer state in 2022 with Brown being one of its top prospects. The Nashville native sports an impressive offer list that continues to grow daily. Auburn offered last April so it’s hard to know how high he might still be on Auburn’s new coaching staff’s board but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s near the top.
Brown is another speedy wideout in this 2022 class. He’s going to need to put some weight on at the next level but there’s no question he’s got the quickness to be an impact player in the SEC. Brown’s tape is mostly him blowing by some poor defensive backs so I’d love to see him in some camp settings against more talented DBs. Harsin loves speed at wideout so it wouldn’t shock me to see Brown become a priority in this class.
4-star Kyion Grayes | 6’1” | 170 lbs | Chandler, AZ
Again, Auburn is looking outside its normal stomping grounds to find WR talent this class. The Tigers very recently offered Grayes and he’s intrigued. He told AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr he’s open to visiting the Plains. The longer the NCAA prolongs visits though the lower the odds are Auburn can be a factor in this race. Let’s see if he holds off making a decision until he can take some summer official visits. Ohio State is considered the current leader.
Grayes is a fluid athlete who has a knack for getting open. A good frame capable of adding some weight at the next level, Grayes is a versatile wide receiver who could play all over the field in Auburn’s offense. He’s got great hands and good speed. Will likely be a big riser in the next recruiting ranking updates.
4-star Omari Kelly | 6’2” | 180 lbs | Trussville, AL
It did not take long for Auburn’s new wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams to make Omari Kelly a priority. Kelly admitted to AuburnUndercover’s Keith Neibuhr that he wasn’t really interested in Auburn when Malzahn was in charge but that’s changing. Last week, he dropped a top 8 that included the Tigers. This is a prospect Auburn fans should be keeping a close eye on in the coming months.
Top 8️⃣ #AG2G @ChadSimmons_ @joshfloydHT @CoachYeah @CoachBillyG @coachjstepp @HolmonWiggins @coachmhagans @coachmann @CoachRoyM @CollinDAngelo pic.twitter.com/hzhKBkmXKM— Omari Kelly (@kelly_omari) February 9, 2021
Kelly’s a versatile prospect with plus route running ability. Fluid in and out of his breaks, he can consistently earn separation. Shows the ability to be a deep threat. Plays safety as well where he shows ability to be physical. High upside prospect that could develop into a go to #1 wideout at the next level.
3-star Chris Marshall | 6’3” | 195 lbs | Missouri City, TX
This is probably one of the most interesting prospects this cycle. Chris Marshall played football for the very first time last fall. The result? How about 45 receptions for 1,009 yards and 18 touchdowns in Texas 5A football?
Auburn offered last week and are hoping to make a push in his recruitment. In the early going, instate programs Texas and Texas A&M appear to be the top competition along with USC. However, his recruitment has absolutely blown up in recent weeks so I suspect it’s still too early to really know where things stand in this race.
In his football debut, Marshall was a matchup nightmare. Unsurprisingly being he’s a D1 basketball prospect as well, Marshall was at his best in jump ball situations. He’s got some of the stickiest hands in this class. While lacking elite speed, he more than makes up for it in terms of general athleticism, most notably his consistent ability to win when the ball is in the air. This is a kid you feed in the redzone and on 3rd down. Just scraping the surface on his potential.
3-star Kaydin Pope | 6’1” | 172 lbs | Savannah, TN
Like I said earlier, this is a very good 2022 class in the state of Tennessee. Pope has emerged as a priority prospect for the Tigers. He was offered by the Tigers on February 2nd and Coach Williams has made sure to stay in contact with Pope almost daily.
“I’ve been talking a lot with Coach Williams,” Pope said. “He’s recruiting me very hard. I talked to him again (Monday). We talk almost every day.”
I could see this becoming an Auburn vs Tennessee battle if the Volunteers’ new coaching staff decides to make a push.
Pope was incredibly productive this past fall recording over 1,200 yards receiving and catching 12 touchdowns. Hardin County, understandably, worked hard to get the ball in his hands, featuring Pope often in the ground game. He’s got outstanding hands and flashes the ability to be a very good route runner at the next level.
3-star Jay Fair | 5’10” | 170 lbs | Rockwall, TX
Fair is another stock up prospect in this 2022 class. Since January 1st, Georgia, Notre Dame, Florida, USC, Auburn, and others have all offered the speedster out of Texas. Instate TCU and Texas A&M might be the current leaders but Auburn is very much involved. I think you will see Fair’s rating move up quickly this off-season on every recruiting site.
There aren’t many prospects faster than Fair in this class. His 40 time is reportedly 4.4 and it translates to the field. Fair consistently dusts DBs for big plays down the field. He’s also a threat on special teams. He’s a perfect fit for the H or slot WR in Bryan Harsin’s offense.
Antonio Williams | 6’0” | 180 lbs | Irmo, SC
Things have gotten busy for Williams quickly on the recruiting trail. Auburn, Michigan, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Notre Dame have all offered in recent days. South Carolina had been considered the favorite but that might change given the big time offers recently. Mike Bobo just spent a year coaching in South Carolina and Williams was offered by the Gamecocks back in November so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a major role in this recruitment.
I am a big fan of Williams’s tape. He’s got that subtle ability to dodge contact while still keeping his top speed. At 6’0” 180 lbs, he won’t physically dominate a defender but he’s got the athleticism to get consistent separation with his routes and the wiggle to make men miss in the open field. I expect him to be a 4-star prospect before this cycle ends.
Wyatt Sullivan | 6’4” | 198 lbs | Robert F Munroe Day School | Dacula, GA
This is another one of those names to file away for later in the cycle. Sullivan plays on Auburn commit Holden Geriner’s 7v7 team TightAction. He’s fairly new to football and an injury kept him out of all but one game last fall so he doesn’t have much film. But it’s hard to ignore a kid with his size and athleticism. If he puts together a big season on the field this fall he’s someone who could blow up late in the 2022 class. Sullivan is another one of those prospects where the inability to camp is a big low to his chances of earning D1 offers.
Tournament cut short because of a storm here’s a few routes from today @RFM_Athletics @TightAction @harrison2121 @RussellEllingt4 pic.twitter.com/vYSwp0ZCJc— wyatt sullivan (@wavysulli) February 7, 2021