AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football’s National Signing Day was largely uneventful. The Tigers added one new player in 3-star defensive end Caleb Johnson but didn’t land any of the coveted 4-star targets who announced Wednesday.
Auburn’s underwhelming finish wasn’t a concern for Gus Malzahn, though. He took an optimistic approach to how Wednesday went for the Tigers.
“I think our priority was to keep our commitments,” Malzahn said. “We did that. We knew we had a big-time class even before that.”
Auburn went 8-for-8 in signing commitments Wednesday. While flips happened all across the SEC, Auburn’s pledges stayed true and sent in their letters of intent without any drama.
Auburn didn’t have a single 2018 player de-commitment over the last year. He admitted it was tougher to do that in the 2018 cycle — the first with the early signing period and the December to February free-for-all on the recruiting trail.
“There wasn’t as many players out there,” Malzahn said. “I think everybody in the country zeroed in on a lot of players. That’s really what made it different. For us, we had our guys committed for a long period of time. It was more about us making sure we held onto our commitments and kept coming after them. Our guys did that.”
The lack of flips away from the Plains has been a welcome trend for Malzahn and his staff.
“For the second year in a row we had no de-commitments,” Malzahn said. “I would bet there’s very few teams around the country that can say that. That’s really big and that’s a tribute to the kids we’re recruiting, the relationships that we’re building are long-term, and I think that’s definitely a tribute to our staff.”
Still, the Tigers left Wednesday without landing one of several blue-chip targets. Top in-state player Justyn Ross signed with Clemson. Fellow wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase decided to stay home with LSU. Defensive 4-stars Malik Langham and Caleb Tannor went to SEC East schools.
Without a late 4-star addition, Auburn will finish outside of the top 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings for the first time since 2012.
But the Tigers signed 16 different 4-star prospects — the most for the program since 2014. Auburn’s final composite team score on 247Sports of 264.18 is greater than the one it had in 2017 (255.92), when it finished No. 9 nationally.
It’s also the first time under Malzahn in which Auburn will finish a recruiting cycle inside the top three in the SEC. Auburn trails Georgia and Alabama but surpassed LSU in this class.
“Very excited about the class,” Malzahn said. “All these guys are fitting the mold of what we’re looking for, as far as character. Big-picture, this whole class, we really wanted to focus on speed, too, as we feel like we did that.”