Auburn is currently ranked #79 nationally in the 2022 recruiting rankings and dead last in the SEC. The Tigers have only landed 3 commits thus far. That ties Auburn with Miami for fewest commitment among all Power 5 programs. Needless to say that Auburn message board posters and social media users are getting restless. After all, the number one concern with Bryan Harsin and his new staff was its ability to recruit in the cutthroat SEC. So far he’s done nothing in the 2022 cycle to dispel those concerns.
But that could soon be changing.
Starting tomorrow, a number of Auburn’s top targets are set to make their decisions. While nothing is ever set in stone in recruiting, I would be stunned if the Tigers don’t end up being the pick for quite a few of these players.
Here’s a rundown on who is expected to have a decision in the near future and where Auburn stands in those recruitments.
3-star TE Micah Riley-Ducker
Commit Date: Wednesday, July 7th @ 6:30 PM CT
The Tigers’ new staff has attempted a more national approach to their recruiting. So far, it’s not gone well. Both 4-star OLB Tyreese Fearbry and 3-star DL Kaleb Artis chose to stay closer to home committing to Penn State. Both admitted that distance from home played a major factor. But Auburn’s wider approach could soon yield fruit.
Tomorrow, Auburn’s top tight end target is set to make his decision. He’s down to Auburn, Illinois, Iowa, and Iowa State. For much of his recruitment, Iowa has been the assumed leader. That makes sense given how close it is to Riley-Ducker’s home in Bellevue, NE and their history of putting tight ends in the NFL. But that’s changed ever since Riley-Ducker took his official visits. Now Auburn and the Brett Bielema lead Illini are considered the frontrunners.
While there appears to be confidence both in Auburn and in Champaign, the buzz is noticeably stronger for the Tigers right now with a number of Iowa insiders flipping their picks from the Hawkeyes to the Tigers the past few days. When Riley-Ducker left the Plains he specifically noted that Auburn offered the best opportunity to compete for a national title. He also clicked with Auburn commit 4-star QB Holder Geriner who is recruiting him hard behind the scenes. I think those factors prove the difference and Harsin’s new staff scores their first major win on the national recruiting scene.
3-star CB Myles Pollard
Commit Date: Wednesday, July 7th
I have made it clear that I am a big time Myles Pollard fan. He reminds me a lot of Carlton Davis and I think he’d make an early impact at the next level. Yesterday, the Tennessee native tweeted that he’s down to a final 3 of Auburn, Michigan, and Oklahoma with a decision coming tomorrow.
There hasn’t been a ton of intel on Pollard’s recruitment especially from the Auburn side. From what I can tell though confidence has risen sharply in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines were on Pollard early and their new secondary coach Steve Clinkscale is close with Pollard from his previous time at Kentucky. His family also seems excited about the academic opportunities Michigan provides. I am keeping an eye on this one just because there hasn’t been anything positive or negative yet to come out from Auburn but I think one of my favorite prospects in this 2022 class is headed north.
4-star RB Omarion Hampton
Commit Date: Thursday, July 7th @ 1:00 PM CT
Carnell Williams swung for the fences this summer bringing two of the top backs in the country on campus for official visits. Hampton was one of those backs. Despite Auburn being one of the last teams to offer, they very quickly became a top contender. The nation’s 12th ranked back took an OV to the Plains the weekend of June 11th. He also took official visits to Penn State, North Carolina, and Ohio State.
However, despite Auburn’s strong push in a short period of time, overcoming the instate Tar Heels was always going to be a tall task. The NC native has a close relationship with that staff and has been in Chapel Hill numerous times over the past couple of years. Pair that with last year’s impressive rushing attack that put two backs in the NFL and it’s easy to see why he’s likely staying close to home.
4-star RB Damari Alston
Commit Date: Sunday, July 25th @ 7:17 PM CT
Auburn fans though might not have to wait long to feel better about the running back room. The nation’s 29th ranked back is set to make his decision later this month between Auburn, LSU, and Northwestern. The Atlanta native told AuburnUndercover’s Keith Niebuhr that he was favoring a different school but they filled up (likely UNC or Penn State) so he took a step back to reevaluate his options.
Despite a bunch of high confidence Crystal Ball picks coming in for LSU following Alston’s official visit there earlier this summer, it’s unlikely he has a spot in the Tigers class right now. LSU has 3 elite instate backs they are pursuing in 4-stars Tre’Vonte Citizen, Le’Veon Moss (Bama commit), and Trevor Etienne. That makes this an AU v Northwestern showdown. Assuming Auburn has a spot for Alson, that’s a battle I see the Tigers winning.
4-star DL Caden Story
Commit Date: Sunday, August 1st @ 11:00 AM CT
Auburn has long had Story near the top of their board and have made the Lanett standout a top priority for this cycle. That effort could soon pay off as the state’s 11th ranked player is set to make his decision on the first of August. He sports an impressive offer list but this battle actually appears to be shaping up to be a Harsin vs Malzahn fight.
Gus Malzahn and Travis Williams were recruiting Story hard when they were still employed at Auburn and that relationship has the Knights involved in this race. But I think the odds are slim Story leaves the state. His older brother plays for the Tide but Saban has yet to offer. That’s kept the door wide open for the Tigers who are hoping to add the stud to their class in August.
3-star LB Micah Pollard
Commit Date: TBD
The other player pictured in Story’s photo above is his cousin 3-star Micah Pollard. The two want to play together at the next level which is also a big reason both Auburn and UCF are considered front runners. Michigan was initially believed to be the favorite for Pollard but that changed following his official visit to the Plains. Now the Tigers appear to have the momentum and it seems likely he’ll join his cousin at Auburn. When he makes that decision though has not yet been announced but it wouldn’t surprise me if he decided to do it the same day as Story.
3-star K Alex McPherson
Commit Date: TBD
You don’t think about a kicker too much until he shanks a game winner or comes up just short on a 57 yard FG attempt. That’s when you REALLY wish your staff had the foresight of signing a stud.
Auburn’s new staff is working hard to continue the Tigers tradition of having reliable kickers. Sure there’s been blips but for the most part Auburn fans have not had to suffer through watching a kicker consistently leave points on the field. The top kicker in the 2022 class is Fort Payne standout Alex McPherson and he’s a prized target for a number of SEC programs.
His older brother Evan McPherson was just drafted out of Florida by the Cincinnati Bengals. That had many believing the Gators would be one of the top contenders but they have already elected to take a different kicker. McPherson also officially visited Georgia and Texas A&M. I think the Dawgs could make it interesting but at this point it would be a shock if he didn’t end up on the Plains. That decision should come very soon.
3-star WR Jay Fair
Commit Date: TBD
Auburn’s wide receiver room is looking a little light these days. While the portal is always an option (one that I think AU will use for the 2021 season) getting some more young talent on campus this cycle is a must. One of the top targets for Auburn’s new staff is a speedster out of Texas.
Jay Fair has one of the most impressive offer lists of any prospect you’ll find in the 2022 class. His size seems to have his stock lower on subscription sites but he more than makes up for that shortcoming with his explosiveness. Fair is one of the top big play threats in this class. He took official visits to Auburn, Florida, and TCU over the summer. That trio appear to be his finalists though the Gators are unlikely to be the choice as they seem to be pressing for other targets.
Can the Tigers lure the speedster out of Texas? I tend to think he stays local and picks the Horned Frogs but this race is close. The appeal of the SEC and opportunity to see the field early for the Tigers are big draws. This would be another nice win for Auburn’s new staff outside of the Tigers usual recruiting areas.
3-star OL Drew Bobo
Commit Date: TBD
Not many prospects in the 2022 class had a more productive month of June than Drew Bobo. The son of Auburn’s offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was consistently one of the top performers at any camp he attended. His performances earned him offers from both Auburn and Georgia. He’s a legitimate take for both programs.
But it’s not just those two to watch. Georgia Tech and Kentucky are both heavily involved. UK’s offensive line coach worked with Bobo at South Carolina and he’s close with Drew. The Yellow Jackets have been hard after Bobo for awhile now and those relationships are keeping them involved.
However, I think this will end up being an Auburn vs Georgia battle. The Dawgs were his childhood favorite but he’s reportedly a big fan of Bryan Harsin and has been impressed with what he’s seen on the Plains. I think he ends up picking the Tigers but any of these four programs could easily land his pledge. He wants to make a decision this month.
3-star DL Maxie Baudoin IV
Commit Date: TBD
This has been an odd recruitment to follow. Baudoin has an impressive offer list and a final five of Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, and USC but it sounds like he only made it to Auburn’s campus over the summer. He took an official visit to the Plains the very first weekend. That likely means the Tigers are the team to beat but also means he’s got four more official visits he could use this fall before making a decision. He’s previously stated he’d like to have a decision this month and if he sticks to this timeline, you have to like the Tigers’ chances.
There’s a lot of hand wringing right now surrounding Auburn’s recruiting and I definitely get it. The Tigers are not racing out the gates especially compared to other new staffs. Shane Beamer seems to be taking the complete opposite strategy of Harsin in Columbia and already has 15 commits in the 2022 class. Vanderbilt has 13 and Tennessee has 7. But those programs have landed very few blue chips and their average player rating trails Auburn’s 88.80.
Going further, if this month goes as well as expected, Auburn could jump up the rankings rather quickly. If the Tigers were to land Caden Story, Damari Alston, Micah Riley-Ducker, Micah Pollard, Drew Bobo, and Alex McPherson they’d move 30+ spots to inside the top 45. Add Jay Fair and Maxie Baudoin and they jump further to inside the top 30.
Auburn isn’t as involved with as many top prospects as I’d like but that shouldn’t be a huge surprise given the staff turnover. It will become concerning if that pattern continues in 2023 beyond. For 2022, the goal is simply to remain in striking distance by landing enough blue chip talent to end up in the top 25 and augment any holes with the transfer portal. Then in 2023 and beyond, return to signing top 10 classes. Right now the Tigers are still on that path. Let’s see if they can put together a big month on the trail and start to generate some excitement again for the Auburn faithful.