Next week, life gets real again on the recruiting trail. For the first time in 15 months, prospects will once again be allowed to visit their top programs and meet with the coaching staff in person. Many top 2022 prospects already have all their official visits scheduled. It’s going to be nuts with July and August likely setting records for number of commitments.
But while the 2022 class will be the focal point next month, Auburn fans should really be monitoring the 2023 class. It’s an unfortunate truth given the way the recruiting calendar works these days that Auburn’s new coaching staff is really behind on most of the top 2022 players. Most kids sign in December these days but many end up committing and shutting down their recruitments in the spring and summer. Sure there are some late flips but for the most part much of the 2022 class work is done by kickoff of the season.
That means Bryan Harsin’s staff has a limited number of weeks to make up ground on top prospects and convince them to come to the Plains. The return of visits will help especially since many prospects put their recruitments on hold in anticipation of visits again. But it’s still an uphill climb.
The 2023 class, however, will be this staff’s first opportunity to be on a level playing field recruiting wise. What’s going on in Tallahassee, FL is a great example of the impact the new recruiting calendar has on new coaching staffs. Mike Norvell signed an ok but nothing close to an elite class in 2021. However, he’s on pace to land a top 10 this cycle now that his staff has had a full year to build relationships.
So while I will obviously be keeping track of what happens next week in regards to Auburn’s 2022 recruiting, the real story is going to be what the Tigers can do to make progress on 2023. That’s the class that needs to be top 10 again. These upcoming months will be crucial in Auburn’s ability to position themselves as top contenders for big time prospects next cycle.
The 2023 class in the state of Alabama is as loaded as any as I can remember and it will be critical for Bryan Harsin to hold his own. The Tide will get theirs but you can’t let them shut you out or sweep the top 10. It will be the first real data point in regards to Harsin and this staff’s ability to recruit elite talent.
With that in mind, here are 23 names Auburn fans should know in the 2023 class heading into this summer.
4-star QB Eli Holstein | 6’3” | 212 lbs | Zachary, LA
When it comes to quarterback prospects from the state of Louisiana in the 2023 class most of the focus is on Cooper Manning’s son 5-star Arch Manning who has been putting up video game numbers since his freshman season. But he’s not the only elite signal callers coming out of the boot next recruiting cycle.
Holstein transferred to Zachary High School last fall to get out from behind 5-star LSU commit Walker Howard and get a chance to showcase what he can do. The move worked as Holstein exploded last fall leading Zachary to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs behind a 62% completion percentage, 1,600 yards passing, 10 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, and 37 carries for 190 yards and 7 touchdowns. He turned heads at the Elite 11 event in Indianapolis when he posted the highest SPARQ score (118.50) so far this cycle.
Big testing numbers put up by an athletic group of quarterbacks at today's Indianapolis #Elite11 regional - here are the unofficial Top 10 ratings pic.twitter.com/PJMut2j80j— Elite11 (@Elite11) May 2, 2021
I think it’s safe to say he’s one of, if not the top target on Auburn’s QB board for 2023. He’ll be on campus next month. Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M are likely to be top contenders in his recruitment.
5-star RB Richard Young | 6’0” | 190 lbs | Lehigh Acres, FL
The nation’s top running back is unquestionably a top priority for Auburn’s new staff. Young has visited the Plains twice before, including earlier this year with his teammate and Auburn 2021 signee Tar’Varish Dawson. However, unsurprisingly the competition for Young will be fierce. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and literally everyone else are all coming hard after the talented back. Let’s see if the Tigers can get him back on campus this summer.
4-star RB Justice Haynes | 5’10” | 185 lbs | Roswell, GA
Despite being the son of former UGA standout Verron Haynes, Justice is adamant his recruitment is wide open and anyone has a chance including the Tigers. The Dawgs though will likely be tough to beat though Alabama appears to be emerging as a top contender. Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Stanford are factors as well. He’s not yet scheduled a date to visit Auburn this summer.
4-star WR Cayden Lee | 6’0” | 180 lbs | Powder Springs, GA
Auburn’s previous staff offered Lee last February but the nation’s 14th ranked wide receiver remains a top priority for the Tigers after the coaching change. Lee’s one of the smoothest wideouts in the class already excelling as a route runner. At 6’0” 180 lbs he has the versatility to play all over the field at the next level. He plays on Cam Newton’s 7v7 team and I imagine the Tigers will work hard to get him on campus this summer.
4-star WR Karmello English | 5’11” | 175 lbs | Phenix City, AL
Ah another elite WR prospect at Central. What could go wrong?
The Phenix City native has been one of the fastest rising prospects this off-season after dazzling at the Under Armour Camp in Atlanta. He landed offers over from Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M over a 7 day period. Auburn’s new wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams is leading this recruitment. Can he break the Central WR curse?
4-star OT Payton Kirkland | 6’7” | 325 lbs | Orlando, FL
Don’t know if you have heard or not but Auburn could use some offensive tackle help. Maybe a 6’7” 325 behemoth?
The Florida native is one of the most coveted prospects in the 2023 class and his offer list proves it. He’s planning to journey all over the country this summer including a stop on the Plains. His recruitment seems pretty open right now so let’s see if the Tigers can make a push.
4-star OG Madden Sanker | 6’4” | 275 lbs | Douglasville, GA
Sanker’s recruitment took off in April starting with offers from Duke and Auburn. His most recent came from Oregon. On top of being an excellent offensive line prospect Sanker is also a star wrestler, always a coveted skillset by offensive and defensive line coaches. He’s expected to visit Auburn’s campus on June 7th. This is someone Auburn fans should pay close attention to next cycle.
4-star OT Johnny Williams IV | 6’6” | 286 lbs | Macon, GA
Surprisingly, Williams’s offer list is quite small. Only Arizona State, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia have reportedly offered the nation’s 11th ranked offensive tackle. That’s unlikely to last as the big man has been showing out at recruiting camps this fall. Once more SEC programs get a chance to see him in person, I think you are going to his recruitment blow up. Don’t be surprised if Auburn is one of those teams that jumps into the race.
OT Vysen Lang | 6’5” | 330 lbs | Pike Road, AL
Lang does not yet hold an offer from Auburn. I suspect that changes this summer. The big man out of Pike Road is scheduled to camp with the Tigers on June 16th. It would not shock me if he left campus with an offer. Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky have already pulled the trigger.
Smooth will be in Auburn June 16 #WDE #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/qc5dkufrR8— SM00TH (@VysenL) May 2, 2021
OL Luke Brown | 6’5” | 300 lbs | Paris, TN
Auburn offered the fast rising junior out of Tennessee earlier this month. The Tigers have made recruiting the Volunteer State a bigger priority under the staff with numerous offers out to 2022 studs in the state. That trend looks likely to continue to 2023. Brown told 247Sports that he really wants to get to the Plains this summer due to his close relationship with new Auburn offensive line coach Will Friend.
5-star DT Peter Woods | 6’4” | 260 lbs | Alabaster, AL
2023 has a chance to be a special class in the state of Alabama. The crown jewel of that group is the nation’s #2 ranked player Peter Woods. Woods has been an impact player for Thompson since his freshman campaign. He missed much of last fall with a leg injury but returned late in the season to help lead Warriors to a 2nd straight state title.
Thompson has not been kind to Auburn in the past. It’s pumped out numerous elite prospects all of which have landed at Alabama. Part of making a coaching change though is to shake things up. Can Auburn’s new staff finally break through and snag a big time player from that powerhouse? Woods would be a hell of a way to do it. Alabama though is the clear team to beat. Woods will visit Auburn in June.
Top 1️⃣1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/qE15mnT2Bk— Peter Woods (@35Pwoo) March 20, 2021
5-star DT James Smith | 6’3” | 270 lbs | Montgomery, AL
Woods isn’t the only 5-star defensive tackle or top 10 player in the state of Alabama in next year’s class. Smith is the nation’s 6th best player in the 2023 cycle per 247 Composite and a top Auburn target. New AU defensive line coach Nick Eason is working hard to put the Tigers in position to land the stud. Like Thompson though, Carver has not been kind to Auburn in the past. The Tigers have lost a number of big time battles to the Tide for elite defensive players from that program. Can Auburn’s new staff flip the script? Personally, I think Auburn has a better shot with Smith than Woods. He’ll be on campus sometime this summer.
4-star DE Kelby Collins | 6’5” | 250 lbs | Gardendale, AL
Collins is coming off a big time junior season where he recorded 85 tackles, 15 TFL, 4 sacks and a forced fumble. That production has him ranked #46 in the country by 247 Composite and the target of most every big time program in the country. But this is likely to be another instate showdown. He will likely be on campus next month. Alabama appears to be the early leader.
4-star DE Keldrick Faulk | 6’4” | 235 lbs | Highland Home, AL
In any other year, Faulk is likely competing for the number 1 player in the state designation. But this is not a normal year and despite being ranked #66 overall he’s #7 in the state of Alabama.
2023 is seriously loaded ya’ll.
Faulk is an intriguing prospect playing at a program not known for pumping out elite talent. Depending on how Faulk develops, he could grow into an interior lineman or stay out on the edge. He’s someone I expect Auburn pursues heavily next cycle.
4-star DE Tomarrion Parker | 6’4” | 235 lbs | Phenix City, AL
Parker is one of my favorite pass rushers in the 2023 class and another elite prospect out of Central. He registered double digit sacks last fall and would likely project to play the rush end spot in Auburn’s new defensive scheme.
Auburn appears to be a top contender alongside Clemson, UNC, and Texas A&M. I like where the Tigers sit but it’s early. Let’s see how things shake out after visits this summer.
3-star DE Yhonzae Pierre | 6’4” | 220 lbs | Eufala, AL
With offers from Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and really anyone else with a pulse, it’s highly unlikely Pierre will be a 3-star come signing day in 2023. The Eufala standout had a big time sophomore season and has quickly emerged as one of the top defensive line targets in the state of Alabama. He’s reportedly being recruited by Bert Watts which likely means the Tigers like him at OLB. I expect him to be on Auburn’s campus sometime this summer.
3-star OLB Denzel Moore | 6’2” | 225 lbs | Suwanee, GA
Moore was briefly committed to Indiana this spring announcing his pledge in March but backed off it this week. He will be in Auburn next week as part of his busy month of June. Keep an eye on Florida State in this race. The Seminoles will likely be a top contender.
Locked In pic.twitter.com/xunRRgDLPA— Denzel Moore✞ (@DenzelM2023) May 26, 2021
3-star OLB Jaquavious Russaw | 6’3” | 230 lbs | Troy, AL
Carver is going to have one of the scarier defensive fronts in the state of Alabama this fall. With James Smith in the middle and Russaw on the outside, a lot of opposing offensive lines are gonna have some miserable nights.
Russaw is transferring to Carver following a breakout season at Charles Henderson. He reportedly grew up an Auburn fan and will be on campus sometime this summer. Programs like LSU, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M are heavily involved but I like where Auburn sits early in this race.
5-star CB Tony Mitchell | 6’2” | 180 lbs | Alabaster, AL
Auburn has never signed a 5-star defensive back in the modern recruiting era. They will have 3 shots at it this cycle as the Yellowhammer State has THREE defensive backs ranked in the top 30.
Mitchell is the highest rated of the bunch and an absolute stud. A one time Tennessee commit, Mitchell is likely now an Alabama lean but Auburn isn’t going away quietly. He will be on campus the same time as teammate 5-star Peter Woods later next month.
Getting highly rated kids from Thompson has proven impossible for Auburn thus far. Can Bryan Harsin end the drought?
5-star CB AJ Harris | 6’2” | 180 lbs | Phenix City, AL
Of the three 5-star DBs in Alabama next class, I think Auburn has the best shot with Harris though there’s plenty of work to be done. Harris is originally from Georgia and the Dawgs are considered the team to beat at the moment. However, the Glenwood standout attended Auburn’s A-Day game last month and plans to be on campus this summer. Zac Etheridge has made Harris a top priority for next year’s class. Let’s see if the national champion can get it done for the Tigers.
5-star CB Jahlil Hurley | 6’2” | 170 lbs | Florence, AL
Hurley is the #29 player in the country per 247 Composite yet he’s #5 in the state of Alabama. This is an incredibly loaded defensive class.
There hasn’t been a ton of info on Hurley’s recruitment thus far outside of the fact that Auburn’s new staff re-offered him pretty quickly. I would imagine he’s likely to make it to the Plains sometime this summer. Unsurprisingly, the Crimson Tide are expected to be a top contender but keep an eye on LSU and Florida as well. Their reputations for putting corners into the league have them firmly in the race. Hopefully, Hurley has been paying attention to which other SEC program has started pumping corners into the NFL.
4-star CB Ethan Nation | 6’0” | 170 lbs | Roswell, GA
Harris wasn’t the only highly ranked 2023 recruit to make it to A-Day. Nation, a good friend of Harris’s, was in town as well and came away impressed with the environment at Jordan-Hare.
While he hasn’t set a firm date yet, Nation did tell 247Sports that he expected to take an unofficial visit to the Plains this summer. I don’t think he and Harris are a package deal but it sure wouldn’t hurt a program’s chances with one if they could land the other.
Here is @ethannation5 interviewing @Aj_harris04 about the Auburn spring game @JLeeAURivals pic.twitter.com/ZnKQnbXKTO— Mike Singer (@Rivals_Singer) April 26, 2021
4-star S Sylvester Smith | 5’11” | 195 lbs | Munford, AL
The Tigers offered Smith in April joining the likes of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Penn State. Smith’s recruitment seems to be fairly open at this time though two former Auburn DB coaches in Marcus Woodson at Florida State and Wesley McGriff at Florida are coming hard after the Alabama native. Auburn will likely work hard to get Smith on campus this summer.