Auburn has hosted a bevy of recruits in recent weeks, from official visitors in January to rising juniors in February.
One prospect, Markail Benton, has been a regular on those trips, but the four-star linebacker dispelled the idea that he’s leaning towards the Tigers.
“No, I would not say that. I just go to Auburn a lot because it’s right up the road,” said Benton, the No. 6 outside linebacker in the country. “Plus, I have a teammate (John Broussard) that goes there now.”
He continued: “(Broussard) likes it a lot and told me that it’s a great opportunity for me if I were to go there, too. He told me to pick whichever school I like the most, though.”
Benton, who resides minutes away from Auburn in Phenix City, is considered one of the program’s top linebacker targets in the 2017 recruiting cycle. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and first-year linebackers coach Travis Williams have led the Tigers’ recruiting efforts for the 6-foot-2, 227-pound prospect. After losing three linebackers to graduation, Auburn was only able to sign one at the position in 2016 to offset the losses.
But the Tigers’ need to bolster the position won’t be enough to sell Benton, who is also considering Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia and Florida State. Benton unofficially visited Alabama on Feb. 27 and came away impressed with how defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt runs his defense. He plans to visit Tuscaloosa again next week.
When asked if an in-state battle is brewing, Benton replied, “I wouldn’t say that, but I would say those two schools are at the top of my list right now in my top five along with Mississippi State, Florida State and Georgia.”
All rankings are from the 247Sports composite ranking unless otherwise noted/Interview conducted by SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner
Chuck Kingsbury covers Auburn football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter.