Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we talk with Auburn No. 1 offensive target Justyn Ross about his growing presence on campus. Also, there is a 2019 defensive back with early interest in Auburn, who was the first to offer.
State’s No. 1 prospect sets date, talks passing game
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s most regular recruiting visitor returned last weekend.
Top wide receiver target Justyn Ross has been on the Plains more than anyone in the 2018 class. Ross attended multiple Auburn games last fall. Since National Signing Day, he has been on Auburn’s campus three times — a junior day, spring scrimmage and a softball game.
Perhaps No. 1 on the Tigers’ wish list, Ross has been to Auburn so much that there isn’t much left for him to learn. He’s moved from the educational stage of his Auburn recruitment to finding the right personality fit.
“It’s really just the same thing when I come up here now. It’s just a lot of fun hanging out with the coaches and everything,” Ross said. “Nothing really (left to see at Auburn). I’ve done seen everything now. It’s just about building up a relationship now.”
So far, Ross’ closest recruiting relationships are with Auburn wide receiver coach Kodi Burns and Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley. Those two in-state schools are the programs Ross said continue to recruit him harder than any other program, which confirms what many have believed for a while.
Ross isn’t in a rush, however.
As he waits for his mother to return from active duty overseas, Ross will keep doing his due diligence. He’ll eventually want to make a few more out-of-state trips — Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan and others — but he knows he has plenty of time to make a decision.
He’s set a flexible timeline for his decision.
“Right now, it’s National Signing Day,” Ross said. “But if I’m going to commit, I’ll go ahead and put it out there if I know.”
Many believe it to be an Auburn-Alabama battle.
That’s what all the tea leaves say, but Ross wants it known that several out-of-state suitors, including Clemson who he’ll visit this week, are as much in the running as everyone else. Auburn and Alabama are afforded the proximity to build relationships, which allows the state’s No. 1 prospect to make three visits in five weekends to Auburn.
That number will grow to four on Saturday when Ross returns for A-Day.
Ross has seen the new quarterback situation as recently as Saturday. He has been impressed, but that development will key his decision down the stretch.
“They look real good. I see that Coach (Chip) Lindsey is open to throwing it a lot, so it should be a fun year for them. It’s very important because as a receiver you’re going to want the ball. You’ve got to have somebody to give you the ball. It’s very important,” Ross said. “I want to see that they can throw the ball. We know they can run the ball. It’s basically about seeing them throw it.”
How much does that passing-game change make Auburn a factor than it would’ve a few years ago?
“It does put them in a better spot. If I was back then when they weren’t throwing the ball at all, they wouldn’t be where they are right now,” Ross said. “The thing about Auburn is they’re lacking a little at the receiver position, and they have a quarterback that came in and can sling it … I’ll watch all fall just to see what the quarterbacks are looking like at each school.”
Ross doesn’t have a set list. He wants to remain open until his mother comes back so he can consult her and take a few more visits.
With that said, there is a perception out there he’ll stay in-state. Much of that has to do with relationships. Aside from coaches, Ross has developed relationships with two former high school teammates since before his recruiting days — John Broussard at Auburn and Markail Benton at Alabama.
Benton and Ross are particularly close.
“Benton (recruits me harder). I’m with him every day,” Ross said. “It’s a little factor, but not much because, at the end of the day, I’m going to make the best decision for me.”
What helps separate Auburn?
“The people. I’d have to say the people. I’m getting a relationship with everyone around here. … Absolutely (important). It’s going to be my home for the next 3-4 years. It’s real important,” Ross said.
2019 DB from Georgia has early Auburn love
There is something special about that first offer.
At least that’s how 2019 defensive back Jalen Alexander from Grayson (Ga.) feels. He only has one so far, and because of that, that program will have a supreme advantage when the rest of the college scene comes to its senses.
That program, for Alexander, is Auburn.
“It feels great to get that first offer from a big school like Auburn. It just motivates me to grind harder and stay focused on my grind and get better,” Alexander said. “That means a lot to me because I know a lot of schools have been saying that Jalen is too skinny and we’ve got to wait. When Auburn pulled that trigger it really motivated me. Now I can really get back to the grind.”
Alexander made his second trip to the Plains on Saturday, but it’s been a while since his first. He visited the Tigers two seasons ago for an Auburn-Ole Miss game at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Travaris Robinson was defensive backs coach.
Since then, the 6-foot, 160-pound cornerback has picked up recruiting momentum, including the recent offer from Auburn. Alexander said he thinks South Carolina and Clemson are the next schools closest to pulling the trigger, but he has received interest from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and others as well.
The Tigers will have an edge even when those schools offer.
“I seen how they practice, how their coaches interact in practice. I seen how the coaches are so interactive with the kids and how they love them and love to protect them and feed them and stuff like that,” Alexander said. “What stands out to me is how much the coaches actually care for their players, how they treat them even when it doesn’t have anything to do with football. It’s how they treat them. They want to take care of them and protect them. It’s just family.”
Miss an edition? Find the previous SEC Country Auburn Tigers recruiting notebooks right here.