AUBURN, Ala. — Earlier in the week, I unveiled the final Auburn 2017 recruiting class projection.
There weren’t any de-commitments involved. That was the good news for Auburn. The Tigers hypothetically whiffed on some of their most valuable targets. They landed others. Much has changed since Week 1 of the college football season. More will change in the 20 days between now and National Signing Day.
For transparency’s sake, you can see the season-long projections for yourself. There are a few constants and many alterations.
In the latest edition, all 20 commitments already on board remained.
There have been questions about Calvin Ashley, some warranted, but that doesn’t seem like a serious enough concern at this time. Sure, the Auburn staff must tread carefully as Maryland and other suitors lurk amid a Tigers offensive coordinator change. But, as far as a projection goes, it’s only right to consider him in. If he were to go against his previous comments and de-commit, that would certainly outweigh the worst-case scenario outlined below. Ashley, even as a commit, should be considered priority No. 1 down the stretch.
Devan Barrett will take suitors, potentially taking an official visit to Clemson or Tennessee in January. There’s not enough reason at this time to remove him even for a worst-case scenario story, though Barrett’s loss would be monumental. He’s the feature back of the group. Alaric Williams’ grades situation is still unsolved, but it’s close. He is now only one point away from qualifying, and there is a relatively high level of optimism that the next score to come in will be enough.
Otherwise, here is the list of those 20 commits who — at this point at least — should be confidently considered inside the Auburn class:
- Jarrett Stidham
- Malik Willis
- Devan Barrett
- Alaric Williams
- Octavius Matthews
- Noah Igbinoghene
- Salvatore Cannella
- Nick Brahms
- Calvin Ashley
- Austin Troxell
- Alec Jackson
- KJ Britt
- Tadarian Moultry
- Chandler Wooten
- Malcolm Askew
- Jordyn Peters
- Carlito Gonzalez
- Traivon Leonard
- Anders Carlson
- Bill Taylor
The projection I laid out put Auburn at a 247Sports composite score of 259.82. What does that mean exactly? 247Sports has a class calculator that allows you to make mock signing classes, and the site scores it based on player rankings across the major recruiting services (it’s an excellent tool, but also a rabbit hole, so be careful). A score of 259.82 would’ve placed Auburn in 11th, 13th, 12th, 14th and 13th in the past five recruiting cycles.
That’s not terrible, but that isn’t going to cut it when your leash is as short as it’s ever been. All of Gus Malzahn’s previous seasons at Auburn have out-graded the one projected above. So that should add a glimmer of hope that the Tigers — through a whirlwind of negative energy despite a strong Sugar Bowl season — can pull of some last-minute moves on the recruiting trail as has been the case in previous years.
The final projection probably fits into a hybrid of worst-case and best-case scenario classes — leaning slightly more toward the worst-case, perhaps. That’s primarily due to the pessimism that surrounds the program right now, which is mostly an external issue. Internally, a clear sense of positivity remains with a talented roster returning.
It’s reasonable to assess the ceiling and the floor of each recruiting cycle and what it would mean. Keep in mind: this is based on the recruits that are contenders to land at Auburn (excluding a crazy Aubrey Solomon moment, or something of the sort).
Here are best-case and worst-case scenarios with explanations for why these outcomes makes sense. This is adding five recruits each to reach an even 25. The scholarship take could be higher or lower — give or take one or two — depending on attrition and other factors.
This Auburn class would finish with a score of 254.91. In the last three classes, that’s equivalent to 13th, 14th and 14th in the team rankings. Reminder: don’t think of a worst-case scenario as a terrible concept. Worst-case scenario simply means missing on some of the top targets at key positions and finding a way to maximize a class uniquely.
It’s also intended to give a gauge of the furthest Auburn can realistically plummet with a underperformance in the January recruiting cycle.
Here are the five that wouldn’t necessarily boost Auburn’s class rankings:
- Jordan Tucker
- Marlon Williams
- Chase Lasater
- Thomas Johnston
- Poutasi Poutasi
It appears Auburn has interest in landing more depth on the offensive line. The Tigers already have three strong pieces in place with Ashley, Brahms and Troxell. But Herb Hand has been as active on the recruiting trail as any other position coach. He went to see multiple prospects Thursday, including Tucker who is on this list.
If Auburn misses on some of its top remaining defensive targets, that’s OK in many respects. The Tigers are deep on the defensive line and at linebacker. An emphasis would need to be placed there in 2018, of course, but Auburn could certainly survive with a few misses at safety or on the defensive line in 2017.
That would leave room for Auburn to accept two offensive linemen — Tucker and Poutasi, in this case.
Auburn also appears somewhat eager to add an fullback or H-back to the class to add some depth behind Chandler Cox. Chase Lasater is a candidate there, but he still doesn’t have a visit. Auburn hosts Thomas Johnston on an official visit this weekend. It’s possible the Tigers will pitch Johnston a hybrid fullback-linebacker role. It’s unknown at this time how Johnston will respond to that. But if the Tigers miss on Tyler Taylor, Johnston might be next priority at linebacker. Let’s assume that’s the case here.
In which case, Auburn still needs a fullback and misses in other areas. In comes Lasater.
Williams is a wide receiver who made it into my projection. He’s a former USC commit who de-committed earlier in the week. Kodi Burns will visit Williams on Monday, but an offer hasn’t been extended yet. Williams said he would be interested in working in an official visit, but it would likely have to happen mid-week because of a full slate already planned with UCF, LSU and Tennessee.
This Auburn class would receive a composite score of 271.13. It would require some surprises, but that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from making recruiting splashes in the past during the Malzahn era. In the last three classes, that score would be equivalent to 9th, 11th and 12th.
That’s not substantially better, but it’s better. The list doesn’t include Henry Ruggs, who would give the class a significant boost. But he seems too distant from Auburn to realistically consider. The same goes for Solomon.
Here are the five that would give Auburn its best chance at a high-ranked class:
- Tyler Taylor
- Devon Hunter
- Markaviest Bryant
- Ryan Johnson
- Kai-Leon Herbert
Auburn wants to add a linebacker and Taylor seems to be the top priority. It’ll be a battle with Oklahoma and, after this weekend’s official visit, likely LSU. Taylor has been a name Auburn linebacker commits have mentioned since the start of the 2017 season as someone they’d like to join the class with them. Taylor would be a big win.
Hunter might turn out to be the one that got away. He said he came close to selecting the Tigers, but the Wesley McGriff departure scared him away briefly. Greg Brown went to visit Hunter on Thursday, so his final feelings toward Auburn are likely beginning to form as he approaches his Jan. 20 commitment date.
Bryant was the first player defensive coaches went to see during the December contact period. He also received an early visit Thursday in the January period. He is on his official visit to Georgia this weekend. I wouldn’t rule out a commitment, if Georgia decides it’s ready to take him immediately. If not, that could bode well for LSU and Auburn as he prepares for those official visits. If the Tigers can host an uncommitted Bryant on Jan. 28, they’ll like their chances.
Auburn will be satisfied if it only takes two defensive linemen in this class, simply because of the depth on the roster. But if the Tigers can add Bryant and Johnson to Jackson already committed, then it would be a home-run cycle for Rodney Garner, which is becoming routine for the Auburn defensive line coach. Johnson is on his Stanford official visit already. The Cardinal and Alabama pose the biggest threats.
Herbert will OV this weekend along with Jackson and Johnston. As mentioned in the worst-case version, Auburn is looking to add at least one more piece on the offensive line. Tucker and Poutasi are fine prospects, but at this time, neither holds an offer. Poutasi, especially with a visit pending, seems likely to receive one. Tucker might, too. But for now, Herbert is the top-known target who holds an offer. He’s a Michigan commit, but that seems somewhat unstable. Florida might have a better chance, but Herb Hand does have some magic.