Just before Auburn ushered in a new wave of signees in February, it was tasked with replacing three prominent coaches.
The departures of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, secondary coach Travaris Robinson and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes brought on an unexpected coaching turnover in the midst of the most critical time of the recruiting cycle.
Now, with a full staff in place, SEC Country examined each coach’s replacement and the effect they’ll have on the Tigers’ recruiting efforts in 2017.
Auburn was seemingly an afterthought for Nate McBride, the top-rated inside linebacker in the country, in the weeks leading up to signing day.
That was before Travis Williams was elevated to linebackers coach on Jan. 9. The former defensive analyst was in McBride’s hometown of Vidalia, Ga., less than three weeks after his promotion.
Now, the Tigers are rising with the four-star prospect.
“I mean, they weren’t in my top five before Coach Williams came because I had just got from Alabama (last spring) and went to Auburn the next day and all I got to see was the stadium and practice, which was good because they played with a high intensity the whole time,” McBride told SEC Country following his visit on the Plains last Saturday.
Williams’ arrival on the trail could signal the birth of yet another successful recruiter on Auburn’s coaching staff. The former Auburn linebacker-turned-coach has shown enough early promise to suggest he could be one of the top recruiters in the SEC this year.
Among 2017 prospects, Williams has garnered respect and admiration. McBride, among others, points to Williams’ previous success on the Plains and in the NFL as indicators of his coaching abilities.
The 33-year-old coach recorded 123 tackles, four interceptions and forced five fumbles during his time at Auburn from 2001-05. He played one season in the NFL in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons before returning to Auburn in 2009 as a graduate assistant. He later served as the linebackers coach for Northern Iowa in 2012 before heading to the high school ranks in 2013.
The clout Williams carries has already resonated with several Auburn targets.
“I believe he’s going to be my best fit,” said KJ Britt, a three-star linebacker from Oxford, Ala. “I think he’s going to get me to the next level.”
“He said I’m one of the greatest pass-rushers he’s ever seen,” Tadarrius Patterson told SEC Country following his unofficial visit two weeks ago.
“(Williams) kept telling me, ‘We need you, we want you,” said McBride.
Notable Williams’ targets in 2017:
Nate McBride, four-star inside linebacker, Vidalia, Ga.
Markail Benton, four-star outside linebacker, Phenix City, Ala.
Will Ignont, four-star inside linebacker, Bradenton, Fla.
Tadarian Moultry, four-star linebacker, Birmingham, Ala.
Chandler Wooten, three-star inside linebacker, Kennesaw, Ga.
Anthony Hines, four-star inside linebacker, Plano, Texas
After signing just one linebacker in the 2016 class, Auburn will look to build depth at the position in 2017. Williams is serving as the lead recruiter for several top targets.
The program will likely aim to take four to five linebackers this year, and it is already in good shape with the likes of three-star linebacker Chandler Wooten, who recently declared Auburn his leader, four-star linebacker Markail Benton and four-star linebacker Tadarian Moultry, who told SEC Country the Tigers have a slight lead over the Crimson Tide.
Also working in Williams’ favor is his established presence in the state of Georgia, where he served as the defensive coordinator for Creekside High School (Fairburn, Ga.) in 2013. His prior connections could enhance Auburn’s already-strong presence in the state, where defensive line coach Rodney Garner has made his mark.
With a full calendar year ahead of him, Williams appears to be on the right path. Surrounded by already-established recruiters such as Garner, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and offensive line coach Herb Hand, the former linebacker could make his mark as early as this year.
All rankings are according to the 247Sports Composite