File it under “Wonders, their never ceasingness, Exhibit A17”: Auburn football polished off its 2018 recruiting class with a solid-enough National Signing Day a week ago, and unsurprisingly most of the chatter surrounding Tigers athletics since then has focused on … the Auburn basketball team.
But don’t mistake the lack of DeAngelo Bentonesque Signing Day shocks for a lack of quality in the Tigers’ finalized class. Auburn fans taking a casual glance at the team rankings might be alarmed by 247Sports’ composite team rankings placing the Tigers outside its top 10 for the team first time since Gene Chizik’s final class in 2012, but in terms of both per-recruit rating and accumulated class points in the 247Sports system, Gus Malzahn and Co. improved on their 2017 haul. Dramatic leaps forward from Texas, Penn State and Miami were the primary reason for the rankings drop — and within the SEC, the Tigers actually bettered their ranking, going from fourth to third.
Concerns regarding Auburn’s offensive line class are legitimate. But if J.B. Grimes can solve that problem with future recruits, a transfer or two, and good old-fashioned coachin’ ’em up, the 2018 class should be good enough to keep Auburn in SEC contention. Beyond that, it also contains a number of signees that promise excitement for years to come, both in strict football terms and “watching this Auburn player play thrills me for reasons I can’t fully explain” terms.
It’s easy to see why the casual Auburn recruiting fan should like this class. But there’s also no shortage of reasons to love it. Here’s some of them:
Arryn Siposs. First of all: His name is Aaron, but spelled “Arryn.” Second: It’s about time Auburn got its hands on its own Brad Wing or Tom Hackett. But third: Siposs isn’t a clone of Wing, or Hackett, or any other member of the Australian punting wave that’s hit college football. A professional Aussie rules player with five years of pro football experience, Siposs is … well … a football player:
Remember when Wing drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting on his way into the end zone on an LSU fake? If Siposs ends his Auburn career without a similar moment — well, minus the nullified score — it’ll be a disappointment. And if he ends it without significantly improving Auburn’s net punting from the moment he steps on campus, it’ll be a major disappointment.
Running back Cerberus. Yes, there’s Asa Martin, the state of Alabama’s 2017 Mr. Football, a top-10 running back and top-250 prospect overall, and a late riser with an Alabama offer who might be even better than his rankings. The last top-250 Mr. Football tailback Auburn signed was Kerryon Johnson — to whom Malzahn has openly compared Martin — and it’s fair to say Johnson worked out all right.
But if Martin provided the perfect start to the Tigers tailback class in December, Harold Joiner and Shaun Shivers provided the perfect finish. Joiner boasts even better ratings than Martin but at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds won’t be limited to the backfield, with time at H-back, tight end and even receiver possibly in his future. Shivers, meanwhile, is another 4-star despite being listed at 5-foot-7 and 174 pounds. You can imagine the quicks necessary for that to be the case. You’d imagine correctly:
Between the three of them — between Martin’s power and vision, Joiner’s size and athleticism, and Shivers’ speed and agility — it’s difficult imagining Malzahn to ask something of his running backs they can’t collectively deliver.
Anthony Schwartz. Did you know Auburn signed the nation’s No. 1 recruit? True, Schwartz was the nation’s No. 1 sprint recruit according to FloTrack as opposed to the nation’s No. 1 football recruit according to 247Sports, but that should nonetheless tell you something about the ridiculous speed possessed by the 100-meter world youth record holder.
Of course, do you really need to be told anything else about Schwartz’s speed once you know he’s run a faster 100 meters than any other person under the age of 18 who’s ever lived*? Watch this clip of him running 10.39 against some of the nation’s best and consider: Schwartz can go faster:
Auburn fans will have to wait to see precisely how well Schwartz’s speed translates to tormenting SEC defensive backfields. But if you’re going to wait to see something college football-related, the answer to “how can Auburn use the fastest recruit in history?” is just about the most tantalizing something possible.
Matthew Hill’s specs. How long have those of us of a certain nearsighted persuasion been waiting for Auburn to sign a top-100 overall prospect who not only wears glasses but makes them a major part of his social media profile?
— Matthew DaShawn Hill (@Matt_D_Hill) February 9, 2018
Let’s go with “Now that you mention it, our whole lives.” (Also worth mentioning: between Hill, Schwartz, the nephew of Bo Jackson and a 4-star, top-200 wideout pulled from none other than Paul W. Bryant High School, Auburn has assembled easily its most interesting receiving class in years — and that’s before we even start discussing how very, very good they are.)
The usual defensive line suspects. Ho hum, another recruiting class, another blue-chip wrecking ball for Rodney Garner to develop into the next Gabe Wright/Montravius Adams/Dontavius Russell/etc. This year’s model is named Coynis Miller, who “at 305 pounds has the ability to windmill dunk on the basketball court.”
Joey Gatewood. By now, even emphatically casual Auburn recruiting fans are aware of the heir apparent to Cam Newton’s power-running-big-armed-dual-threat throne. But for the record: If you want to argue that Gatewood won’t make the transition to succeed as an every-down quarterback in the SEC, that’s not the argument yours truly would make, but that can be your opinion. If you want to argue Gatewood won’t be a must-watch athlete for any snap he spends on the field…
— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) January 4, 2018
— Overtime (@overtime) December 7, 2017
… well, now you’re just being silly.
Any class that boasted Gatewood would be one to mark down to fill future highlight reels. One with Gatewood, with Miller, with the skill talent Auburn added to its running back and receiving corps, with even a punter who promises to become an overnight fan favorite — that’s a class that’s worth loving regardless of what the team rankings say.
*Well…maybe “ever been officially timed” might be more accurate.