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.
It’s early but it’s hard to ignore the buzz surrounding Auburn’s new cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge. The national champion winning safety is quickly emerging as one of Auburn’s ace recruiters on this new staff and is reportedly behind the scenes impressing players and coaches alike with his passion and intensity.
Now whether or not that leads to a big time 2022 cornerback class is yet to be seen. I personally think it won’t be until 2023 that we see Etheridge start to win some higher profile battles but he’s swinging for the fences early this cycle. If he can sign one of those elite prospects that would be a really positive sign for his future as a recruiter on the Plains.
Here’s a look at some of Auburn’s top early targets at cornerback in the 2022 class.
4-star Trequon Fegans | 6’2” | 181 lbs | Oxford, AL
This has been a strange recruitment to date. Fegans is the top ranked cornerback in the state and a top 100 player per 247 Composite but doesn’t appear to be a top target for either instate programs at the moment. Instead, UGA looks to be in the driver’s seat with Miami and South Carolina both also heavily involved. It will be interesting to see if either Auburn or Alabama make a strong push in the coming months.
A big corner with good speed, Fegans excels as a press corner in man coverage. As a running back and returner you can see his combination of speed and athleticism. In coverage, his length makes him tough to handle in 1 on 1 situations. Could also slide back to safety at the next level.
4-star Marquis Groves-Killebrew | 6’0” | 180 lbs | Snellville, GA
Auburn has not flipped a player committed to Georgia since Kirby Smart was hired in 2016. The last flip came in 2014 when Rodney Garner snatched 4-star DT Dontavius Russell away from Tracy Rocker and the Dawgs. So color me skeptical that Auburn has any chance getting Groves-Killebrew, one of the leaders of UGA’s 2022 class, to flip but Zac Etheridge is shooting his shot. He’s reportedly in consistent communication with the long time Dawgs commit. We will see if it matters come signing day.
One of the more fluid athletes in this class, Groves-Killebrew has some big time hops and isn’t afraid of contact. Lacks elite top end speed but is more than quick enough to be a problem in coverage for opposing offenses. Personally, I think he might be a better fit at the nickel at the next level where teams can utilize his athleticism in a number of different ways.
4-star Earl Little Jr. | 6’0” | 175 lbs | Fort Lauderdale, FL
The son of former Miami DB and nine year NFL vet Earl Little, Little Jr is one of the top cornerback prospects in the country. Like most elite DBs from south Florida his top three is comprised of Alabama, LSU and Miami but Etheridge is trying to get AU into that group as well. Little Jr is reportedly very high on the Tigers board. Getting him on campus this summer would be big for Auburn’s chances.
Little is an incredibly physical defensive back who plays all over the field for powerhouse American Heritage. He lines up sometimes as a true cornerback on the outside while other times he’ll slide inside to nickel. Little does a great job playing through the catch, showing a knack for jarring balls free after a wide receiver gets his hands on it. Versatility would allow him to see the field early at the next level.
4-star Toriano Pride | 5’11” | 172 lbs | Saint Louis, MO
There’s some serious talent in the Show Me State this year and Pride is one of its top prospects. He was considered the top performer at the NFA 7-on-7 East Regional, allowing only a single completion all day long. He’s very quickly shot to the top of the board for pretty much every major program in the country including Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State. Etheridge has some work to do to catch up to those other programs but it sounds like the two have hit it off with Pride telling AuburnSports’s Jeffery Lee that he talks to Zac twice a week and it’s clear he’s a priority to the Tigers.
Don’t be surprised if Pride is the top ranked cornerback when this cycle ends. He’s one of the smoothest players in this class with elite burst and top end speed. He’s not the biggest kid especially compared to someone like Fegans but he’s got enough athleticism to make up for it in jump ball situations. A solid tackler and elite cover man, Pride is a 5-star prospect in my fake expert eyes.
4-star Marquez Dortch | 6’0” | 175 lbs | Lucedale, MS
Auburn’s new coaching staff appears to be making the state of Mississippi a continued focal point of their recruiting strategy. The Tigers added two Magnolia State natives on National Signing Day in the 2021 class and are looking to add some more in 2022. Dortch was Lane Kiffin’s first commitment in the 2022 class but looks far from solid. He tweeted Tuesday that his recruitment is still open. Auburn is believed to be one of the top teams pushing for a flip. Don’t be surprised if he’s one of the first kids on Auburn’s campus when the NCAA reopens in person recruiting.
My recruitment is still open‼️— Marquez Dortch (@DortchMarquez) March 2, 2021
Dortch could play on either side of the ball. In fact, Ole Miss want him at wide receiver and it’s easy to see why. He’s electric with the ball in his hands. However, his NFL upside might be on defense where his combination length, quickness, and speed make him a tough matchup on the outside. He’s got those quick hips DB coaches always wanna see on corner prospects and great top end speed to recover when beaten.
3-star Marcus Allen | 6’2” | 165 lbs | Marietta, GA
Allen included Auburn in his top 10 that he tweeted out in early February. The Tigers offered in late January and have very quickly become a major factor in his recruitment. The Yellow Jackets might be the early team to watch though as his brother plays there. UNC is also pushing hard for the Georgia native though they are selling him on playing safety at the next level.
Thankful to all of the coaches that have given me an opportunity to play at their school. TOP10‼️ pic.twitter.com/JZlP3IMtEg— Marcus X Allen (@MarcusXAllen7) February 5, 2021
I like Allen’s tape a lot. He’s a slim 6’2” athlete with great quickness and enough speed to not get beat deep. He plays against some of the best HS competition in America so he’ll step on campus ready to compete for playing time. A smooth runner who excels in man coverage, I think Allen’s a likely blue chip prospect by the end of this cycle.
3-star Andre Stewart | 6’0” | 169 lbs | Snellville, GA
Stewart initially committed to Auburn following his freshman season back in 2019. At the time, Marcus Woodson was Auburn’s cornerbacks coach. Following Woodson’s departure to Florida State in 2020, Stewart elected to stay committed. A 3rd DB coaching change to go along with a full staff turnover though was enough for the 3-star prospect to finally back off his commitment. However, Auburn is still very much in the race. The Tigers’ new staff is apparently just as high on Stewart as the previous one and are working to get him back in the fold. Boston College, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Oregon are reportedly all coming hard after the Georgia native too. It would not be a surprise though if Stewart ended up back in Auburn’s class.
January 9, 2021
One thing is for sure, Andre Stewart is not afraid of contact. One of the more physical corners in this class, Stewart is solid in run support and is an excellent zone defender. A little thin at 170 lbs, Stewart has a long frame and does a great job playing the ball in the air. I think the biggest question right now is top end speed but he’s clearly a legitimate SEC caliber CB prospect.
3-star Dainsus Miller | 5’11” | 160 lbs | Fairburn, GA
Miller is listed as a safety on a number of subscription sites but Auburn reportedly likes him at cornerback. There isn’t a ton of news out there on his recruitment but he holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, and plenty of other big time programs so he’ll likely be in the SEC next fall. It will be interesting to see if Auburn emerges as a top contender in the coming weeks.
Miller’s not the biggest kid on this list but he’s got great speed and athletic ability. He’s a versatile defender who could honestly play corner, nickel or safety at the next level. I love his ball skills and consistent ability to win jump ball situations despite lacking elite length. Easy to see why so many SEC programs after him.
3-star Jarell Stinson | 5’10” | 160 lbs | Opelika, AL
It’s not every day your team lands a commitment without a head coach but that’s what happened when Stinson announced his intentions to be an Auburn Tiger just a day after Gus Malzahn was let go. Granted, he did so believing that Auburn’s whole defensive staff would be retained like he was reportedly told by one of Auburn’s former defensive assistants. That didn’t happen and while Stinson is still publicly committed to the Tigers, Florida is making a serious push. Auburn’s former DB coach Wesley McGriff is now in Gainesville and that relationship gives the Gators an in with the Alabama native. Also don’t sleep on Tennessee or UCF. There are more former Auburn coach connections at those programs. Zac Etheridge though is working hard to keep Stinson in the fold.
CØMMITTED WAR EAGLE pic.twitter.com/Jh5I70jsrr— Jarell Stinson ⚡️ (@JarellStin) December 14, 2020
Stinson is one of the fastest players in the state of Alabama this cycle. That speed makes it hard for any wide receiver to get by him even if they earn some separation initially. He’s at his best coming down hill which is why it wouldn’t surprise me to see Stinson slide inside to nickel or back to safety at the next level.
3-star Ryland Gandy | 6’0” | 170 lbs | Buford, GA
Auburn offered Gandy Tuesday during the basketball game and while judging a teenage athlete’s feelings about something from their social media is both creepy and a bad idea, I get the distinct impression that he was fired up to land the offer. He’s been receiving plenty of interest from schools outside the SEC like Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State, and West Virginia but I imagine the Tigers offer has a chance to shake things up. He plays both ways for Georgia 6A powerhouse Buford but will most likely play on the defensive side of the ball at the next level.
AGTG BLESSED TO RECEIVE AN OFFER FROM AUBURN UNIVERSITY #WarEagle @DASHGwinnett @LeePerformance @Mansell247 @SWiltfong247 @ChadSimmons_ @Coach_Davis22 @ZacEtheridge4 @CoachRaw_ pic.twitter.com/1SwzXWVjdn— Ryland Gandy (@iamrdg10) March 3, 2021
A wiry athlete at 6’0” 170 lbs, Gandy plays with great awareness and energy. He’s got the length to match up to bigger wideouts in 1 on 1 situations and enough speed to stay stuck to their inside hip. Will need to get stronger to contribute at the next level but oozes athletic potential. Don’t be surprised if some other big name SEC schools start sniffing around soon.