Many people will point to Auburn’s 2018 recruiting class and see the 247Sports composite’s No. 12 national ranking as a negative. Fans yearn for the top-10 benchmark, but that wasn’t met this cycle. But there are other key elements that do draw plenty of positives from the 2018 class.
- Auburn finished third among SEC programs behind Georgia and Alabama. That’s the best finish the Tigers have had within the SEC since Gus Malzahn took over.
- The Tigers’ 2018 composite score of 264.18 on 247Sports is better than the 2017 class score of 255.92 even though that class finished in the top 10. Sometimes the top-10 benchmark doesn’t do the quality of the class justice.
- Auburn signed more 4-star and 5-star prospects than all but four programs — Georgia, Ohio State, Texas and USC. Those were the top 4 teams in the overall rankings.
Those tidbits are meant to dissuade the thought that Auburn limped to the finish or built a subpar recruiting class. Sure, Auburn could’ve hit better at a few position groups — specifically tackle and cornerback. Yes, the Tigers had a chance to make a few splashes with top prospects on National Signing Day, and that didn’t happen.
But positives remain.
With that, let’s look at the SEC Country grades for Auburn’s 2018 class.
Grading Auburn’s 2018 offensive signing class
Auburn secured its quarterback situation early on in the cycle. In fact, Joey Gatewood committed to Auburn shortly after his sophomore year of high school. The Tigers flirted with Justin Fields, Emory Jones and Jarren Williams, but that was more about trying to hit a home run at the position. Ultimately, Auburn felt great riding with Gatewood.
The Tigers hauled in three running backs who all bring different skill sets. Asa Martin is the prototypical type of back who was one of the bigger recruiting wins when he committed to Auburn instead of Alabama. Shaun Shivers is a smaller, shiftier, track-type running back who will be used on special teams and in creative ways on offense. Harold Joiner will also be utilized creatively by Malzahn and Chip Lindsey.
As for Auburn’s wide receiver class, a strong argument can be made this one is better than the 2016 class. When it’s all said and done, this 2018 group has an opportunity to be much more productive. Shedrick Jackson, Matthew Hill, Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz bring a wide range of versatility to the group. Yes, Justyn Ross would’ve been a nice late prize, but it would’ve simply been a nice cherry on top.
Auburn snagged two interior offensive linemen in Jalil Irvin and Kam Stutts. Both will be fully capable of outplaying their recruiting ranking.
The Tigers didn’t take any offensive tackles or tight ends, and that’s the only reason this Auburn class can’t crack the A-minus threshold.
Offensive grade: B+
Grading Auburn’s 2018 defensive signing class
Auburn sought out defensive backs early in this class. The Tigers found Quindarious Monday and Jamien Sherwood and saw them as potential immediate-impact safeties in the 2018 season. Throw in potential safeties Kolbi Fuqua and Josh Marsh, and it makes for a home run group (especially with Monday and Sherwood enrolling early). Auburn missed on a few of its top cornerbacks — Jalyn Armour-Davis and Kyler McMichael — but ultimately landed 4-star Christian Tutt and an in-state prospect Roger McCreary, whom the staff likes a lot.
Travis Williams kept up his good work at linebacker. He entered the class looking for speedy, sideline-to-sideline linebackers more than thumpers since the Tigers already have guys such as KJ Britt on campus. Williams recruited Michael Harris and Zakoby McClain from start to finish, prioritized both, and landed signatures from both of them in the end.
The defensive line is never an area of worry, as long as Rodney Garner is around. He hit on a couple prospects during the early signing period — Daquan Newkirk and Kayode Oladele. Three more signed on National Signing Day in Coynis Miller, Richard Jibunor and Caleb Johnson. All five prospects can boast about one thing for certain: They have plenty of athleticism.
Aside from the few misses at cornerback, Auburn couldn’t have done much better on defense.
Defensive grade: A-
Grading Auburn’s 2018 overall signing class
If not for the cornerbacks and offensive tackles, this could be a legitimate A. Those hits in recruiting would’ve likely pushed Auburn into the top 10, which would be better for optics, at least. Even missing on guys such as Ross, Quay Walker and Malik Langham weren’t huge setbacks given all the high-caliber prospects Auburn did sign at those positions.
So there was a B-plus grade for offense and an A-minus grade for defense. Should the overall grade trend toward the offensive side or the defensive side? Well, let’s solve this problem with some special teams. Australian punter Arryn Siposs will soon become a fan favorite, even though he’s at a position many fans don’t think about immediately.
Siposs pushes the Tigers toward the greener side of the grade.