Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Tuesday, and SEC Country spoke with Auburn’s top two remaining wide receiver targets. Also, expect a decision from a key Auburn target Tuesday evening.
South Florida WR names new leader in recruitment
Before coming to the Iron Bowl — all the way from Plantation, Fla. — Anthony Schwartz played in a Friday night game that went to triple overtime. He was a big part of that game, scoring 2 receiving touchdowns and a kick return touchdown to pull out the 1-point win and advance. The late finish made for a quick turnaround from South Florida to east Alabama.
Schwartz is glad he did it.
“The 10-hour drive was worth it. That was one of the greatest games I’ve seen. After playing a great game, then experiencing a great [Auburn] game, it’s just great,” Schwartz said after his first Iron Bowl.
Then, the longtime Florida lean (perceived, at least) made a bold claim.
“I would say Auburn’s my leader,” Schwartz said.
As Florida has endured a coaching change, Auburn has taken advantage of its late-season hot streak.
It’s not a glaring lead Auburn has over Florida, but it is a lead. Schwartz’s conversation with SEC Country came prior to the Gators confirming Dan Mullen as its new coach, so that detail is sure to have some kind of effect on Schwartz.
But as of last weekend, his primary concern had to do with Florida’s willingness under the new staff to let him play football and run track, which he has an opportunity to do at an Olympic level.
“It affects me mainly because I was so used to the old staff, and Coach [McElwain] was already letting me do both. Now, I don’t know if the next coach is going to let me do both,” he said. “It’s a little bit of both [Florida hurting itself and Auburn helping itself]. I’ve always liked Auburn. Now with the coaching change, it’s the way it is.”
It’s worth noting Schwartz, when speaking with GatorCountry.com, didn’t give the Mullen hire a 5-star review. That could work in Auburn’s favor.
As for a timeline, Schwartz has pushed things up a tad from his initial signing day preference. It’s now a December or January decision. He wants to finish up his American Heritage (Fla.) season and then wrap up his recruitment. January seems more likely since that’s when Schwartz anticipates he’ll take his official visit to Auburn.
The interesting thing to track with all wide receivers — Schwartz and Justyn Ross — is how the spots fill up. My sources suggest both would be takes regardless, but numbers are crunched already, and it’s only going to get worse.
But Auburn likes the versatility Schwartz adds to the committed receiver group.
“What they’re saying to me is, all their receivers committed, they don’t really play my position of wide receiver,” he said.
Top WR calls Iron Bowl ‘best Auburn game’ he’s attended
Few prospects have been at Auburn more the last two years than Justyn Ross. He’s one of the most familiar faces on the Plains for college football Saturdays. Ross knows the Jordan-Hare environment as well or better than any other prospect in the Class of 2018.
Even the laid-back Ross left the stadium Saturday in awe of the performance and atmosphere.
“Oh, it was great,” he said. “It was probably the best Auburn game I’ve been to.”
That’s saying something for someone who has been to so many, but it’s also an indication of the progression the Tigers have made over the last two seasons.
Auburn has always been considered a serious contender for Ross because of the proximity to his home in Phenix City. But he’s grown quite fond of Clemson on his unofficial visits to the program, as well as his official visit there earlier this month. Clemson’s wide-open passing game that gets multiple wide receivers involved has been the major draw for Ross.
As he’s watched Auburn’s season, Ross has seen some serious development in that regard on the Plains.
“I believe they can pass. Auburn, they’ve been rolling this year,” Ross said. “I don’t want to say they don’t trust their receivers, but they don’t have that big, deep-threat receiver. They can get stuff up under the defense, but I don’t think they can go over the top as much.”
Hence his patience because — in addition to Seth Williams — Ross feels like he can be that option for Auburn.
While others, myself included, have labeled Clemson as Ross’ destination, Ross has suggested all along that his three main schools can all get involved. He’s already taken an official visit to Clemson. Ross confirmed over the weekend that he’ll only take two more official visits, to Auburn and Alabama.
So, in Ross’ mind, nothing has changed. He doesn’t have a leader, and the two in-state schools still have a shot.
“I don’t know for sure. I can’t tell you [who is leading] because I don’t know. But Auburn, they’re in it,” he said.
It’s still a National Signing Day decision for Ross.
Does that create an issue when it comes to spots left in the class? My sources are telling me no. While the Tigers feel great about the three they already have, and it’s possible Schwartz jumps in the class sooner than expected, Auburn would be willing to take a fifth receiver on National Signing Day as long as that wide receiver is Ross.
I’m assuming all three programs have Ross in the must-take category come signing day — regardless of how the rest of their classes shake out.
Decision day for 4-star Auburn LB target
As I wrote Monday afternoon, who do I think will be the next to commit? Four-star prospect Zakoby McClain.
The Valdosta (Ga.) linebacker hasn’t had the easiest recruitment to follow, but it appears it will wrap up with simplicity. He was on the outside looking in of Auburn’s linebacker recruiting board behind guys such as Quay Walker, JJ Peterson, and Channing Tindall. With Auburn out of it for Peterson, the Tigers see Walker and Tindall as 50-50 shots at best. That’s how McClain made it back into the picture after a couple missed visits.
He plans to make his decision this evening around 7 p.m. ET between Auburn, LSU and West Virginia. McClain will release a video of some kind — he put the final touches on it Monday.
If Auburn were to land McClain, the Tigers would crack the top 10 of the recruiting rankings for the first time this cycle. That’s what I expect will happen.
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