Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we give the latest on Auburn’s top running back target Asa Martin, who likely will have a big decision between Auburn and Florida this summer.
DECATUR, Ala. — Florida’s lead for Asa Martin isn’t set in stone.
Florida continues to lead for the Austin (Ala.) running back, but Auburn has closed the gap. After a long wait before extending an offer, the Tigers have started to prioritize Martin on their running back board. The 6-foot, 195-pound prospect felt the love on his most recent visit to the Plains, which made the race between Auburn and Florida that much closer.
“The gap is a little closer now, but nothing has changed with the order,” Martin said. “The Auburn visit went really well. I got everything I needed out of it. … I got a good talk with coach [Gus] Malzahn, and we just talked about staying in-state and building a legacy here. It went real good.”
Regarding that conversation, it brings up an interesting point about in-state running backs. Since 2010, the No. 1 running back in Alabama has signed with either Auburn or Alabama.
In 2018, that’s Martin.
He’s the state’s top running back and rarely does a person in that role leave the Yellowhammer State. New Alabama offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has reached out to Martin a few times about getting to Tuscaloosa for a visit, but Martin hasn’t been able to make the trip. Even if he did, Martin said he doesn’t think the visit to Alabama would alter his recruitment.
That puts the onus on Auburn to maintain the state’s reputation of keeping its best running back in-state. So far, the Tigers are doing a good job to gain some momentum.
“I wouldn’t say I was close [to committing to Florida a few weeks ago], but I was thinking a little bit. I didn’t get that feeling, but it feels like home,” Martin said. “Then when I was at A-Day, you know, it was a tough decision. Because A-Day was like: ‘Wow. How can you say no to this?’ But it’s the same way with Florida. How can you say no?”
Martin said Tuesday that his decision plans have been fluid.
There were times that he thought he’d get it out of the way soon, but now Martin is expected to announce his final decision sometime shortly before his senior season at Austin. That will give him time to visit a few other programs — Texas (offered Monday), Nebraska and Texas A&M, if possible.
Do any of those programs have a chance to give Auburn and Florida a push?
“You know, I’ve got to visit schools I haven’t seen before,” Martin said. “I won’t really know until I visit. If the visit goes as well as they’re thinking, then maybe.”
With that said, when Martin commits at the end of summer, I’d be surprised if it was any more than an Auburn-Florida decision.
Motherly influence on Auburn, Florida
Florida held a few advantages over Auburn.
He is closer with Gators running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider than any other coach in the country. During his junior season at IMG Academy, Martin got a better feel for the Florida campus, and it’s always been one of his favorites. And, even though it was just by 2 days, Florida offered Martin before Auburn did.
But probably the biggest reason: his mother.
Martin’s mother hasn’t pushed him one way or another, but until Auburn’s spring game, Florida had been in regular communication with her. Auburn hadn’t.
That has changed drastically in the last week.
“My mom and coach [Chip] Lindsey are starting to build a relationship now. They’re starting to text. That’s one of the things I was missing. She didn’t really have a relationship. She hadn’t talked to them really. Now they have that going,” Martin said. “They’re just talking to her about the program, just them as people. My mom, she has always had that with Florida coaches. That’s one thing she didn’t have with Auburn.”
Auburn and Florida have both vouched since offering that Martin is the top priority at running back.
At times, he didn’t know what to believe. But, with the newly initiated contact between Auburn coaches and his mom, Martin thinks Florida and Auburn are on a level playing field in terms of prioritization.
“That’s one of the things my mom wanted to see,” Martin said. “At first, they weren’t really in contact with her. They were only really in contact with me. She was like, ‘They might not really want you as much as they say they do.’ So now they’re really showing that a lot more.”
Auburn offers big-time DT from Birmingham area
When Auburn missed out on Texas Tech transfer Breiden Fehoko, it stood to reason that Auburn might look for more defensive tackles in the 2018 recruiting class.
It didn’t take the Tigers long to make that move. They sent an offer to St. Clair County (Ala.) defensive tackle Jalen Cunningham. An Auburn source has said in the past the Tigers evaluated Cunningham more as an offensive guard than a defensive tackle, but the Tuesday offer appears to be a reverse course from that.
On Monday, Cunningham released a top 5, which included Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Oregon and Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide are seen as the heavy favorites to land Cunningham.
It’s unknown whether the Auburn offer will alter Cunningham’s top group. Conveniently, Chris Kirschner and I — who have been on the road all week — will be back in the Birmingham area later in the week to talk with Cunningham, so there will be more updates on whether the offer changed anything.
Cunningham’s most recent visit to the Plains came for Auburn’s March junior day.
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