Still outside the top 10 in recruiting classes, Auburn hopes its 2017 group features some underrated prospects.
While the team ranking could rise into the top 10 with a few additions, Auburn has had a knack for finding the hidden gems in the past. When you’re battling Alabama for in-state products, you don’t have much other choice. That’s not to say the Tigers don’t land elite blue-chippers — they do.
For a team that isn’t perennially in the top 5 in recruiting, Auburn has won two SEC championships since 2010. That means the Tigers are often outperforming many of their peers from the recruiting front to the football field.
The 2017 class is no different. Even among 4-star and 5-star prospects, some players have major upsides. Plenty of players are expected to outperform their stock, but here’s a breakdown of the three most underrated Auburn recruits now:
Carlito Gonzalez, 3-star safety (Stone Mountain, Ga.)
The things this guy does on a football field, in a pretty high classification in Georgia, makes you wonder why he’s only a 3-star prospect.
Take his most recent stat line, for example: 11 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass breakup. Solid, very solid. But nothing out of the ordinary for Gonzalez. For the season, Gonzalez is a stat-line filler: 53 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 3 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. Oh, yeah, he’s also scored 2 non-offensive touchdowns: a 73-yard fumble return and a 95-yard field-goal block return. You have to rub your eyes after reading all that (or take a couple deep breaths if you’re saying it out loud).
There are no measurement concerns. He’s close to 6-foot-1 and close to 200 pounds. He figures to build on that frame through Auburn’s strength and conditioning program. Still, somehow, he’s not even a top-300 player in the country despite playing for Stephenson High, which has a rich history in Georgia. Gonzalez helped move Stephenson into the second round of the state playoffs with a win last Friday.
Even with the lower ranking, Auburn hasn’t shied away from Gonzalez. The Tigers know the prize they’re getting, even though he was only offered by one other SEC school: South Carolina. Gonzalez received his Auburn offer under the old secondary regime led by Travaris Robinson, but Wesley McGriff maintained and boosted that relationship after taking the job.
Here is Gonzalez’s 95-yard touchdown return:
Chandler Wooten, 3-star LB (Kennesaw, Ga.)
There’s no need to ask me why Chandler Wooten is underrated. Urban Meyer and Kirby Smart can answer that just fine.
Ohio State and Georgia have offered the 3-star outside linebacker during his fall semester. For some perspective, that’s the No. 2 and No. 3 recruiting classes, respectively. In other words, the best of the best decided late in the game that Wooten is likely the best of the best, and they’d be wise to show him they’re interested. They did, but it was too little, too late.
Auburn, on the other hand, was right on time. The Tigers offered in February, right around the time Florida, Michigan State and South Carolina came on board. In all, Wooten holds 29 offers from pretty much anyone you can name. Now, you can trust the rankings or the college football coaches. I tend to side with the college football coaches.
But it’s not just FBS head men who want Wooten as a linebacker. The Under Armour All-America Game dipped into 3-star territory to grab Wooten for the postseason recruiting showcase. And it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. On the season, Wooten has triple-digit tackles, 13 TFLs, a blocked kick and a forced fumble for North Cobb High School. At 6-3, 225 pounds — and super long arms — Wooten fits into the more popular modern category of speedy edge rushers.
He’ll be an early enrollee, too, which as you’ve seen with Marlon Davidson, gives freshmen a much higher chance of getting on the field immediately. Wooten is the lowest ranked of the three committed linebackers. All three are talented enough to be factors early in their career, but as the lone 3-star, Wooten might have the biggest surprise factor.
Jordyn Peters, 3-star safety (Muscle Shoals, Ala.)
As far as bragging rights go, 3-star safety Jordyn Peters helped knock 4-star linebacker KJ Britt out of the Alabama state playoffs. That’s not the sole reason Peters falls into the underrated bunch, but it doesn’t hurt.
Peters is another Auburn prospect with a do-it-all stat line: 75 tackles, 12 pass breakups, 2 blocked punts, an interception and a forced fumble. He’s also seen other special teams and offensive duties when called upon. Coming into the season, Peters had never blocked a punt. Now he’s done it twice, which says a lot about Peters’ personality. Once he’s tasted blood, he’ll back for more.
He, like Gonzalez, has major upside on the backside of Auburn’s defense. Peters is a 6-2, 190-pound safety with wingspan for days. He’s lanky and rangy, and he’s a football magnet. Those are all characteristics that have Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff drooling. Peters might not have the same top-end potential as Gonzalez — then again, he might — but the reason Peters falls into the underrated category is because of just how low ranked he is.
Peters is the No. 1,411 prospect in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite ranking, which combines all the major recruiting service rankings. 247Sports itself has him as the 535th-ranked prospect, so that shows just how much further down he is on the other recruiting-site boards.
Here’s another case of trusting coaches over rankings. When programs like Auburn, Michigan, Ole Miss and Louisville offer, it’s generally safe to assume that barely cracking the top 1,500 is a slight underestimation.
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