Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Thursday, and SEC Country updates another Grayson (Ga.) prospect interested in Auburn. Also, there are some tackles who will visit the Plains soon. Lastly, there’s a big-time defensive lineman on campus.
There’s another target from Grayson, Ga., to watch
Auburn always has been present in Ronald Thompkins’ recruitment even when communication was minimal.
The Grayson, Ga., running back picked up an offer from the Tigers during his sophomore season. He can’t remember exactly, but Auburn was either the second or third offer he received. Since then, plenty has happened in Thompkins’ world. He picked up 20-plus offers. He committed to and de-committed from Florida State.
In that time, his communication with Auburn was on and off.
That changed recently.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound athlete has been in contact with running backs coach Tim Horton more regularly of late. He took a visit last week to discuss all of it with Horton and head coach Gus Malzahn.
“They just want me to build that relationship that we lost. They reaffirmed that offer. I talked with Coach Horton. I also had a chance to talk to Malzahn,” Thompkins told SEC Country. “Auburn always had me listed as an athlete. Now they’re talking to me and like me as a running back, and that’s really when communication picked back up.”
Auburn is in a chase with Mississippi State, LSU and Penn State.
The Tigers have some ground to make up because of the newfound contact. Thompkins says, on a scale of one to 10, he listed his Auburn interest at about a “five or six.” That’s slightly behind the other three, but he also acknowledged he has rising interest in the Tigers. A few more visits to the Plains likely will send that number up significantly.
If Auburn has an edge, it’s related to its proximity and its brand of football.
“It’s close to home. It’s two hours away. It’s an SEC school. They run the ball. That’s what they like to do,” Thompkins said.
Thompkins said he hopes to have a college decision just prior to the start of his senior season. If that doesn’t happen, he’d like to take a couple of visits to college games and commit a few games into the 2018 season. The latter gives Auburn an opportunity to sell Thompkins at a fall home game, so that’s likely the Tigers’ best chance to make up lost ground.
The other helping factor? Owen Pappoe and Jakai Clark.
Auburn’s two Grayson High School commits didn’t hesitate to express their opinions when they heard their teammate had a newly developed interest in the Tigers.
“They found out I was coming here, and they were very excited,” Thompkins said. “They’re trying to get me now. They’re going to be on me until I commit.”
Update on two tackles who will visit Auburn soon
Auburn’s search for elite tackles continues.
If there’s one position group the Tigers have had struggles with recently, it’s exterior offensive linemen. Auburn’s struggles there have been well-documented, given the tackle-free Class of 2018. The 2019 class hasn’t provided any tackle additions yet, but the Tigers are gaining traction with several elite players.
Wanya Morris, Xavier Truss, Adrian Medley and others have been mentioned regularly in these notebooks.
Let’s add two more key names to the discussion: Darius Thomas and Warren McClendon.
Thomas, the 4-star from Arkansas, has been at Auburn previously. He last visited the Plains with his father for the Nov. 18 game against Louisiana-Monroe. Thomas spoke highly of Auburn at the time, hinting the Tigers would be a factor in his recruitment until the end.
Thomas confirmed that with recent comments about his official visits. He already has set up trips to Memphis, Georgia and Ole Miss. Thomas said he will set up an official visit with Auburn shortly.
McClendon doesn’t have as much familiarity with the Tigers, but he said he plans to change that soon.
McClendon told SEC Country he’ll make a multi-day visit to Auburn next week in the days after Big Cat Weekend. The Brunswick, Ga., tackle will be on the Plains on June 5-6. He has a close relationship with Auburn commit Jaylin Simpson and his teammate Jashawn Sheffield because of the proximity of their hometowns.
Mississippi DE on campus for multiple days
The battle for prospects in Mississippi is more competitive than ever.
Mississippi’s recruiting presence has seen a major uptick in the 2019 class. It has resulted in Ole Miss and Mississippi State — both typically fare well with in-state talent — fighting off the elite of the elite programs, including Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, LSU and others.
Auburn has offered 15 players from Mississippi, which is more than the reported offers from Alabama.
One of the biggest stars on that Mississippi list is defensive end Jaren Handy.
Handy called Auburn his No. 1 school after his first Auburn visit. He has backed off that some, telling SEC Country he didn’t want to name leaders after every school visit. But the Tigers are still at or near the top of his interest list.
That relationship likely will take a step forward in the coming days as Handy is back for a multiday visit. He plans to stay at Auburn through the Big Cat Weekend festivities, but that didn’t stop Handy from arriving on campus a few days early. Handy made it to Auburn on Thursday with several of his family members. He will enjoy some one-on-one time with coaches — specifically area recruiter Marcus Woodson and position coach Rodney Garner — during his visit.
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