Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we detail Carlito Gonzalez’s long, loyal route to National Signing Day. We also give quick updates on Joey Gatewood and the highlights from Monday.
Staying loyal through endless change
AUBURN, Ala. — Since 2015, there hasn’t been much continuity for defensive backs. The first defensive coordinator Carlito Gonzalez committed to in August 2015, Will Muschamp, split to become the head coach at South Carolina after a season. Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson went with him. Gonzalez’s next secondary coach, Wesley McGriff, was in and out after one year on the Plains, as well.
All parties have been exchanged with valuable replacements Kevin Steele and Greg Brown, but that’s a lot of change for a teenager.
Gonzalez stayed true to his commitment through all of it. That’s his nature.
“I’ve always been loyal since I’ve been young. Even when my friends got me in trouble, they wouldn’t even lie to my dad. I would be the one to lie to my dad,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just loyalty, and it pays off in the end.”
It hasn’t been easy, he admits, especially during the most recent switch.
Gonzalez always liked Muschamp and Robinson, but they came along so early in his process that it seemed easier to move past when that duo darted for Columbia. McGriff was the night-light through the remaining darkness in Gonzalez’s recruitment. McGriff reassured Gonzalez that Auburn was a no-brainer for him. That move stung.
But it only took one meeting with Brown to convince him that Gus Malzahn will continue to hire the right position coaches for him.
“He’s a very nice person, very down-to-earth guy. He coached Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins. When I found that out I was like, ‘Wow,’ because those are two players I look up to, and they’re both safeties,” Gonzalez said. “He’s just a very down-to-earth person, and he’s cool all the time. I feel like it’s going to be great.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound safety is one of Auburn’s most diamond-in-the-rough gems in the 2017 class. He looks built to step on an SEC football field already. His hard-hitting highlight tape shows Gonzalez will bring a head-chasing mentality to the league for years.
But there’s a key step between now and all that: National Signing Day. At times, Gonzalez felt like it never would arrive. Now it’s a little more than a week away.
Nobody is more loyal than Gonzalez. But no one is more ready for the process to finally finish. What a ride it was.
“It’s been a couple of years, and I’m very excited everything is closing with all the coaching changes. Coach Steele and coach Brown, they’ve got the knowledge, and when I come in, I’m just going to learn so much. I’m just blessed to be here,” Gonzalez said. “I thank God, the Man above and my parents for the opportunity. We’re just a couple of days away.”
Monday highlights + intel
Here’s a quick rundown of what was happening recruiting-wise at SEC Country as Auburn started the final full week of the 2017 recruiting cycle.
Lauren Shute and Justin Ferguson have stepped into recruiting roles during the offseason. Both of them have provided some high-quality content the last few days. Lauren broke down the three defensive backs who visited last weekend and how they’re handling the transition from secondary coach Wesley McGriff to Greg Brown. Justin gave some insight into how Kevin Steele, Rodney Garner and Travis Williams plan to use longtime commit Tadarian Moultry, who officially visited last weekend.
If you missed it Monday, check out this intel recap. It outlines all of the latest updates on Auburn’s top recruiting targets, good news and bad news included. Mentioned in the article: Ryan Johnson, Tyler Taylor, Markaviest Bryant, Thomas Johnston, Kai-Leon Herbert, Devan Barrett, Jordyn Peters, Chase Lasater, Noah Igbinoghene and Calvin Ashley.
Auburn extended an offer to a new tight end target: John Samuel Shenker, a former Tigers baseball commit. He grew up an Auburn fan and officially will visit this weekend. To my knowledge, Shenker was the first player to receive an offer from new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Check out what he had to say about how Auburn plans to use him and what the Tigers’ chances of landing him are.
The new OC and … his future pupil?
Speaking of Lindsey, he’ll take an important recruiting trip, and it has nothing to do with the Class of 2017. As Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports first reported, Lindsey will head to Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday to visit 2018 quarterback commit Joey Gatewood, who was a Rhett Lashlee commit, through and through.
Gatewood has said and done all the right things to make Auburn feel comfortable despite a handful of major Power 5 programs — Georgia, Oregon, Texas, to name a few — extending offers. With that said, Lindsey’s first meeting will be critical for Gatewood to feel like Auburn is still home, as he’s suggesting it is publicly.
There’s no reason to think, at this point, that Auburn should be worried, but it’s certainly something to gauge.