Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we update how the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game might’ve been more important that we thought.
Building an organic bond
Depending on how committed you are to the recruiting world, you might be aware of the University of Georgia connection at the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio last week. Nearly 10 Bulldogs participated in the game and a few key targets joined. They were the talk of the week, really. It became clear Georgia has a special class in 2017 and there is an uncommon bond seen in a public light with that group.
If you’re an Auburn fan, it’s easy to scoff at the concept. It’s a rival. There’s no desire to give credit, even if it’s due. But I bring that up to actually start a greater conversation about recruiting. In many regards it’s about signing the best players. It’s also about building a team. And a big part of that involves selecting players who are compatible with one another and have a want to play hard for each other (corny alert).
There’s a possibility — with the help of 20-20 hindsight — that Auburn is experiencing something quite similar to what Georgia recruits did at the U.S. Army Bowl, just on a smaller scale. The Alabama-Mississippi all-star game took place in December, and at the time, there were five Auburn commits in the game: Tadarian Moultry, KJ Britt, Malcolm Askew, Jordyn Peters and Noah Igbinoghene.
Since the game, Alec Jackson joined the participants in the all-star game who intend to enroll at Auburn. He said, in retrospect, that experience played a major part in his expedited commitment.
“K.J. Britt, he was always in my ear. He was saying, ‘You might as well come to Auburn.’ I was like, ehh. I already knew I was probably coming here anyway,” Jackson said after his official visit Sunday. “To visit other colleges is great. To have that experience to visit other places is great, because I’m probably never going to be able to do that again. But everything started to settle down for me and now I’m just ready to sit down and sign something.”
That Alabama-Mississippi game trend might not stop with Jackson.
Four other players from that Alabama team have been connected to Auburn: Thomas Johnston, Ryan Johnson, Henry Ruggs and Marlon Williams.
Ruggs is a long shot, though. He admitted the Auburn noise at that game certainly made him reconsider the Tigers. Williams hasn’t been offered; he was committed to USC during the game, so his situation is different. Johnston visited last weekend and he spent time with Britt and Askew.
He reflected on the in-state relationship with those players and the draw it may have on his decision.
“I mean, they share that family atmosphere. They prove what they preach. They said the opportunity is here and they want me to join them,” Johnston said. “Playing in that all-star game with KJ and Malcolm and all them, it was awesome. Auburn definitely has a good group of guys in this class.”
Johnson is the unknown.
He officially visited Stanford and is awaiting a qualifying update. Texas has picked up its recruitment on the Mobile (Ala.) defensive lineman. Auburn showed its immediate interest when the whole defensive staff and coach Gus Malzahn went for an in-home visit Monday. Johnson talked about the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game during game week but also reflected during the Under Armour All-America week.
He didn’t say much but laughed as he reminisced on a few of the commitments’ efforts to recruit him. Johnson admitted he will assess that relationship in his decision.
Gus Malzahn tracker
The non-recruiting readers want to know, Gus: WHO IS THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR?!?!
Malzahn doesn’t seem concerned. Maybe he has interviewed the people he wants. Maybe he’s not in a rush. Maybe he’s found a way to carve out an extra three hours in a day than the rest of us. But, amid the OC talk, Malzahn has placed a great deal of emphasis on recruiting. He joined the Auburn defensive staff on trips around Alabama on Monday to see Peters, Jackson and Johnson.
He made a similar excursion Tuesday. Malzahn visited Carlito Gonzalez with Travis Williams and Greg Brown. Gonzalez, one of Auburn’s longest commitments, isn’t going anywhere. He is all-in on the coaching change. The Tigers will love the safety’s upside. The trio also watched Tyler Taylor’s basketball game — the Oklahoma staff did, too.
Malzahn might be zeroing in on a candidate to run the offense. But he isn’t letting that hold back his recruiting efforts. Malzahn has been as busy as anyone the last two days on the recruiting trail.
Offer out to JUCO offensive lineman and what it means
Auburn sent out an offer to George Moore on Tuesday. The 6-foot-7, 308-pound offensive lineman from College of San Mateo (Calif.) will officially visit Auburn the last weekend of January. He is one of two offensive linemen remaining known to have offers. The belief is that the Tigers want one more offensive lineman to join Calvin Ashley, Nick Brahms and Austin Troxell.
On Sunday, two offensive linemen — Kai Leon-Herbert and Poutasi Poutasi — left on official visits. Herbert is a Michigan commit and holds an Auburn offer. Poutasi is uncommitted and yet to be offered by the Tigers. With the offer to Moore, it seems like Poutasi is a backup plan to the backup plan for now.
Jordan Tucker, who was in my latest Auburn class projection, committed to North Carolina after his official visit. He hasn’t received an Auburn offer yet, and it’s unclear whether that will eventually come. It appears the Tar Heels knocked that visit out of the park, though the commitment is surprising since Tucker expressed his desire to wait until National Signing Day. He also showed a desire to play in the SEC.
Either way, it seems like all eyes should be on Moore and Herbert. Offensive line coach Herb Hand will visit Herbert on Thursday. Herbert said himself how much Auburn moved up his list during his visit. A source close to Herbert said the Tigers are “as much a favorite as anyone” following the OV. He still has trips to Miami and Florida that could help give those in-state schools the edge.
Moore’s visit to Auburn will be one of the last contact period moves of the cycle. He de-committed from Washington State in December. He officially visited Arizona State last weekend. It’s not known whether his offer is immediately committable or if it’s contingent on Herbert’s decision. The picture might be clearer after Hand sees Herbert on Thursday.
New 5-star ranking recap
Not much else to say here, but check out the 247Sports final ranking. Auburn had two 5-star prospects out of the 32 in the nation.
To be clear: This is the 247Sports ranking, not the 247Sports composite ranking. I know that can be tricky. But this is just one indication of who the top football players in the country are and there’s no disputing the Tigers are picking up two of them in Tadarian Moultry and Calvin Ashley.
Moultry’s is well-deserved. He made one of the largest leaps of the class, jumping to No. 18. That makes him the No. 2 linebacker behind Ohio State commit Baron Browning.
Ashley held on to his 5-star status. He barely dropped from No. 23 to No. 25, but his Under Armour All-America Game standout showing saved his fifth star.
Miss an edition? Find the previous SEC Country Auburn Tigers recruiting notebook right here.