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.
Offensive tackles. Those wondrous, mystical giants who stand tall at either end of your offensive line, keeping that 5-star QB of yours safe. These majestic beasts are incredible athletes who can be cornerstones of your offense, allowing the full playbook to be open with confidence.
Or at least that’s what legend says...
For Auburn fans, offensive tackle recruiting hasn’t really been a thing. Sure, I’d write articles about them, maybe even get your hopes up about a couple, only for Auburn to end each recruiting cycle empty handed. Instead, under Gus Malzahn, Auburn relied heavily on the transfer portal and former defensive lineman with surprisingly ok success. But as good friend of the site Justin Ferguson pointed out a few weeks ago (subscribe to AuburnObserver), the Tigers have been steadily falling WAY behind the rest of the SEC contenders.
2020 Offensive Line Blue Chip Ratio:— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) January 4, 2021
I want to be guarded with my takes considering the burns we’ve all suffered over the years at this position, but I do truly believe a new day is dawning on the Plains. 2021 signee Colby Smith, rated a 4-star by 247, might possibly be a harbinger of what is to come. Actual highly rated offensive tackle recruits from the prep ranks.
Please Will Friend, save us. You are our only hope.
The younger brother of former 5-star Alabama signee Pierce Quick, Riley has emerged as a priority target for the Tigers. Given the family connection to Tuscaloosa, if an Alabama offer comes you have to wonder if there’s anyway he turns it down. It hasn’t yet come and as a result the Tigers have become a major factor. Something important to note is that Quick is also a highly rated baseball prospect. While Gus Malzahn had not offered Quick, Butch Thompson had already and Will Friend quickly did the same upon being hired. He’d have the opportunity to play both sports on the Plains.
Quick is a lean, athletic tackle prospect with high upside. He’s an outstanding athlete, capable of getting to the 2nd level and opening the way for big plays on the ground. Baseball keeps his weight low but he will need to get stronger to anchor better against SEC defensive lineman. Otherwise, Quick has the potential to be an elite tackle at the next level.
Pritchett is one of four SEC caliber offensive tackle prospects within an hour drive of Auburn. None of these prospects were offered under Malzahn’s regime (Drew Bobo is forgivable). All but one (Drew Bobo) were offered within weeks of Harsin’s hire.
Will Friend has clicked early with Pritchett and the Tigers appear to be a top contender in this race. Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, USC and Penn State have all offered in recent months too. No timetable yet on a decision.
In my fake expert opinion, Pritchett is a top 100 player in this class. Possessing an ideal frame at 6’6” 280 lbs, Pritchett is a tremendous athlete who brings the pain when he makes contact. Love that he doesn’t catch with his body in pass pro but instead uses that length to get his paws on the would be rusher and neutralize the threat. As a run blocker, he flashes plus grip strength and consistently gets movement at the point of the attack.
Williams was a priority target for the previous staff who offered him in December of 2019. Chad Morris was hitting the Lone Star State hard for the Tigers and having some success. Will that continue under the current regime? That’s yet to be seen but Auburn did make Williams’s top 11 earlier this month.
There is no junior tape available for Williams but you can see his talent in his sophomore highlights. He’s a big kid but he carries the weight well. Williams is a good athlete who could play inside or outside at the next level. Will need to work on pad level but that’s a common point of development for high school prospects especially big kids like Williams. He’s a stud prospect who has a chance to be an early impact player at the next level.
Auburn offered Fitzpatrick in September last year when Malzahn was still running the show. I am unsure where things stand with the new staff but he checks a lot of the boxes we are seeing with new offers under Bryan Harsin and Will Friend. His offer list features a number of SEC, Big 10 and Pac 12 programs. We will see in the coming weeks if Auburn will be a factor.
Possessing a long, lanky frame, Fitzpatrick would likely need two years of strength and conditioning to be strong enough to battle in the trenches in the SEC. However, he’s a perfect offensive tackle prospect. A great athlete with quick feet, Fitzpatrick consistently shows ability to get out in space and make blocks. Does a great job keeping feet moving at contact. Doesn’t have an overly powerful punch but that will likely improve with more strength. A very intriguing prospect I could very easily see developing into a Power 5 starter.
Auburn offered Firestone this week joining Florida State, Kansas State, Louisville, NC State, Penn State, and others. The Wolfpack appear to be the early contender but we will see if that changes now that Auburn is involved.
After watching Firestone’s tape it was easy to see why Auburn made the move. He’s another long, lean athlete with quick feet but flashes the ability to deliver a nice punch. Will need to get stronger in his lower half to be effective against SEC defenders but he’s got the skillset to be a multi year starter at the next level. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a 4-star by end of cycle.
Like Elijah Pritchett, Harris wasn’t hearing much from the previous staff and also like Pritchett that changed quickly upon Bryan Harsin’s arrival. Now Harris has emerged as a top target for the Tigers and appears to be near the top of Will Friend’s board. The Opelika native doesn’t appear to be close to making any decisions but Auburn is likely sitting in the driver’s seat. Florida State and South Carolina might be the early challengers.
I am very high on Harris. Despite weighing 275 lbs, he’s still a bit lean and would likely need a redshirt year to be ready to contribute. But he’s got a devastating punch and plays with the physical edge you love to see from the big fellas up front. Incredibly athletic, Harris will need to improve on his footwork in pass pro but the obvious skills are there to be a very good pass protector. I think you will see Harris’s stock rise in the coming months.
The son of Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, Drew Bobo doesn’t yet have an offer from the Tigers but that seems ok with him. He told AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr that he doesn’t want his dad to give him one. He wants Auburn’s offensive line coach Will Friend to give him the offer if he feels he’s good enough.
“I don’t want my dad to offer me, but if the position coach would want to, I’m fine with that.”
If that offer doesn’t come, keep a very close eye on the Kentucky Wildcats. Their new offensive line coach, Eric Wolford, was previously at South Carolina and very quickly re-offered Bobo once Wolford got to Lexington.
Bobo is listed as an offensive tackle but it would not surprise me to see him slide inside at the next level. He’s an incredibly physical blocker who knows how to finish. He does a good job rolling his hips at contact and has nice feet that makes him effective as a puller. Versatile prospect who could provide depth at tackle or guard for the Tigers.
Tae Woody’s recruitment has blown up in the last few weeks. Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and USC have all offered in the past two weeks. Interestingly, Woody prefers the defensive side of the ball where the Dawgs are reportedly recruiting him. Auburn wants him at offensive tackle so it will be interesting to see how big a role that plays in his recruitment.
Woody is an intriguing eval. He’s an outstanding athlete who can do a lot of different things but I am not quite sure where he’s best suited to play at the next level. Is he an offensive tackle? An offensive guard? A defensive tackle? I think I maybe lean OG or DT at this point but he’s someone that I think would really benefit from some camp settings. I really like his athleticism and intensity. Will be a fascinating player to follow this cycle.
Most of the offers Will Friend has given out have been to a certain archetype. 6’5”-6’7” kids that weigh in the 250-270 range. Auburn is clearly targeting athletic offensive tackles that will need to put on weight instead of the old staff’s preference of large human beings that have to slim down.
But I said most offers because Percy Lewis is a gigantic outlier in every sense of the world. The JUCO standout at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College was offered not long after Friend was named offensive line coach. Not much has come out on his recruitment since but given the quickness of his offer, I have to think he’s someone Auburn fans need to keep an eye on this cycle.
If you only watch highlights of one prospect on this list, I encourage it to be Lewis’s. There’s something wondrous watching a giant punch dudes. Lewis is a gigantic human being but carries that size surprisingly well. He’s not fleet of foot but he moves well for his size. His punch is devastating and when he better learns how to use leverage, he could be a nightmare in the run game. Have questions about feet for pass pro at next level but his reach might be able to off set it.
Mains hasn’t yet been offered by Auburn but he’s someone I am keeping a close eye on. Michigan State, South Carolina, and Mississippi State have all offered recently. The Georgia native is getting a lot of attention from the Big 10 with both Sparty and Northwestern making him a priority early this cycle. I imagine an Auburn offer would shake things up.
Part of the reason I have Mains on my radar is he checks a lot of the boxes this new staff seems to prioritize at offensive tackle. He’s a long, lean athlete who finishes aggressively. I love how well he uses his hands in pass pro, effectively parrying moves from the rusher. As a run blocker, he flashes the ability to get movement at point of contact but will need to get stronger, specifically in his lower half, to be effective at the next level. However, don’t be surprised if more Power 5 programs come calling as they get ahold of his tape. Very good looking prospect.