Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we look at Auburn’s chase for in-state running back target Asa Martin, as well as a late push for Georgia LB target Ernest Jones who has an interesting top choice.
Priority RB target explains how Auburn can catch up
Auburn’s top running back target is pretty clear.
The Tigers have several they’ll hope to lure in during the 2018 cycle, but 4-star prospect Asa Martin tops them all. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound running back from Decatur, Ala., isn’t just being recruited by Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton. In fact, it’s offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey who has taken on much of that recruitment, which shows Martin’s priority to Auburn.
When he received his Tigers’ offer in February, Martin-to-Auburn seemed like a safe bet. Even Martin thought that was the most likely scenario.
Then he visited Florida a few weeks ago. It was his second time in Gainesville. His first was when he played at IMG Academy as part of its team-wise bus tours. This return gave him a more personal look at the Gators.
They exceeded his expectations to the point he named Florida his outright leader.
“It was way more than I thought it was going to be,” Martin said. “It went really well. I got to spend a lot of time with the coaches. I got to spend time with the players. I just like the family atmosphere down there. … They just told me to come join the family. They tell me I’m their guy, so just whenever I’m ready, let them know.”
That news may be cause for concern for the Tigers.
Auburn’s home-state pull — Alabama hasn’t been recruiting Martin since Mel Tucker was there — seemed like the biggest advantage any program had. Martin conceded that, heading into the Florida visit, that probably was the case. But the relationships he was able to develop over the weekend with Florida coach Jim McElwain and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider changed the game.
Martin lists Auburn and Michigan in a two-way tie for second place and calls both programs “not too far” behind his leader.
Auburn remains in Martin’s good graces.
He spoke with Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton following his Florida visit. Asked if Auburn seemed like he was feeling the pressure, Martin smiled, laughed and said that the Tigers shouldn’t even if they do. Martin doesn’t plan on making his decision in the immediate future, and Auburn does have one key edge over Florida.
“Auburn has been the home-state,” Martin said. “It’s Alabama. It’s in-state. They want help getting the program back up. I wouldn’t say they’re worrying too much. It’s home-state Alabama, so anything can happen.”
Martin will return to Auburn for A-Day on April 8. He wants to make it to Michigan for a spring practice, if possible.
These visits will help Martin continue to gauge his comfort levels at other schools. But Martin isn’t in a rush to pick a program. The 4-star running back prospect referenced past decision he’s made that will influence how he handles his recruitment going forward. Martin previously chose to attend IMG Academy before returning to Decatur because of homesickness.
He doesn’t want to make any snap decisions this time around.
“They all just need to keep doing the same thing. It’s about me feeling comfortable. That’s a big part of that. I’ve got to be comfortable wherever I go,” Martin said. “I made a couple decisions I didn’t really like. I made them too fast, so I’ve got to be comfortable wherever I go.”
Under-the-radar LB from Georgia high on Auburn
Ernest Jones made his first visit to Auburn over the weekend. First impressions are everything, and the Tigers passed the test.
“It was good. I like it here. It feels like home a little bit. I’m going to go back home and decide where I want to go soon,” Jones said. “My interest, it’s high. I like it here. I like playing on a good defense. That’s what they have here.”
Jones is a 3-star outside linebacker from Waycross, Ga., who also has Duke, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Florida on his interest list. Since visiting Auburn, he’s been to Duke and South Carolina the last two days and will be at Florida on Wednesday.
This pile of visits isn’t coincidental. Jones is near a decision and wanted to make a big road trip to help narrow in on his options. Jones said he hopes to announce by the beginning of May so he can have it out of the way by the time his high school’s spring practice starts.
Right now, Jones has a somewhat surprising favorite — and he has a great reason for it.
“I’d say right now it’s probably Duke because of the medical program, and that’s what I’m leaning towards right now,” Jones said. “But Auburn is close.”
Duke also is the only program that consistently talks with Jones on a daily basis. Jones’ communication with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams rivals that. Jones said he talked with Williams “about every other day,” and the bond he has forged with Williams makes Auburn seem like a realistic option.
“Coach T-Will. He stands out,” Jones said. “You can tell he loves his players, and he’s going to make sure I’m good while I’m here and that I’ll get a good education while I’m here.”
He wants to return for A-Day on April 8 or at least Big Cat Weekend in the summer, though that date might fall after his desired decision date.
Jones will be an early enrollee.
The No. 46 outside linebacker in the nation would be a serviceable asset to Auburn’s linebacker group. In his first Auburn practice viewing period, he was impressed.
“That was very important. The defense has very good intensity. I like practicing fast and getting it on and getting it popping, so that’s what I like,” Jones said.
2017 RB signee still has academic work to do
It’s in the thick of the 2018 recruiting cycle so 2017 updates might be more of a team-side deal. With that said, Auburn’s assistant coach media day Tuesday shed some light on the status of Auburn 2017 signee Alaric Williams.
The running back from Gadsden, Ala., stayed in touch with SEC Country to give ACT updates during his recruitment, and he felt like he was near where he wanted to be.
On Tuesday, running backs coach Tim Horton confirmed that Williams “still has some academic things to work out,” but he remains hopeful the the 4-star running back will find his way to campus by the fall.
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