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Auburn Football Recruiting: Big Cat Weekend Returns

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Auburn’s new coaching staff is bringing back one of Auburn’s most iconic and successful recruiting weekends.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Minnesota vs Auburn Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be honest. Despite Auburn’s nice little run last week, the Tigers are still off to a VERY slow start on the recruiting trail. Some of that should be expected. Auburn has a brand new coaching staff featuring a handful of coaches who have spent most of their careers west of the Mississippi. On top of that the first time they were able to meet with recruits in person was last month. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Auburn’s 2022 recruiting efforts are off to a slower start than fans are used to.

But even with that understanding you’d hope there would be a bit more buzz surrounding Auburn on the trail. At minimum it would be nice to see the Tigers being brought up as a contender for numerous top rated targets. Unfortunately, that has not been the case either.

Historically, Auburn has typically been a slow starter on the trail in terms of landing commitments. Usually things begin to pickup in the summer following Auburn’s biggest recruiting event: Big Cat Weekend.

Big Cat Weekend was dreamed up back in 2009 by Gene Chizik’s new coaching staff as a way to get a select group of the Tigers’ top recruiting targets on campus at the same time. What made the idea so unique was that it was not football focused. Instead, the goal was to create a laid back environment featuring many activities intended to help build strong relationships not only between the coaching staff and recruits but between fellow top recruits. The hope was that when these big time players got a chance to spend quality time on the Plains with each other doing non football related activities they’d get a feel for what it would be like day to day as teammates living in Auburn.

The event was incredibly successful and now every major program in the country has its own version. Alabama hosts a “Champions Cookout”, UGA puts on a scavenger hunt, and Clemson has an “All In Cookout”. It’s now become a must do event for most every major coaching staff in college football that wishes to recruit at an elite level.

Last year’s COVID restrictions cancelled the event for the first time since its inception in 2009. With Gus Malzahn gone (a member of that 2009 staff), there were concerns that the event would not return. There was not a peep about it happening earlier this spring or most of this summer but it appears new Auburn head football coach Bryan Harsin has been sold on its importance as he plans to bring it back on July 25th.

AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr was the first to break the news yesterday.

Like previous iterations, this event will be focused more on relationship building than football. The goal will be to get as many of the Tigers top targets from the 2022, 2023, and 2024 classes on campus. Over the coming weeks we should start to hear who is expected to attend. Auburn’s recruiting undoubtedly needs a kickstart and that is something Big Cat Weekend has historically provided.

I should also note that 4-star RB Damari Alston will also announce his commitment on July 25th. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the Tigers are planning to bring back Big Cat Weekend on that date as Alston is currently trending heavily to Auburn. Landing a commitment from a well liked blue chip recruit is the perfect way to kickoff what will be one of Auburn’s most important recruiting weekends of the 2022 cycle.

Micah Pollard Picks Michigan

In the not so good news department, 3-star LB Micah Pollard committed to Michigan over Auburn on Monday. A week or so ago Auburn felt good about where they stood in this recruitment. His cousin, 4-star DL Caden Story, claimed the pair were a package deal following a visit in June. Unfortunately, like most package deals, it does not appear that will be the case.

In hindsight, the idea that Auburn was in the driver’s seat seems kind of silly. Pollard is reportedly the nephew of former Wolverine great Braylon Edwards and his father Marcus Pollard was a teammate with Jim Harbaugh in the NFL. Those are some pretty strong family connections despite his cousin Story trending Auburn’s way.

I am not quite sure where Auburn will go from here. They offered 3-star LB Joshua Josephs on Monday but I believe he’s projected to play outside linebacker. The Tigers are still involved with 3-star EJ Lightsey and are undoubtedly continuing to pursue Florida commit 4-star Shemar James. They also hosted Alabama commit 4-star Robert Woodyard on an official visit this summer. Let’s see if they can get any of these guys on campus for Big Cat Weekend at the end of the month.

War Eagle!