Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today we update Gus Malzahn’s journey around the state making in-home visits with top targets.
It’s a busy, busy staff
Auburn’s staff is a man down now. Rhett Lashlee left for Geno Auriemma town. Gus Malzahn hasn’t filled the offensive coordinator spot, and it isn’t clear who has been interviewed or when a decision will be made. That’s not stopping the staff from making some important rounds on Monday following a four-person official visit weekend.
Malzahn made (at least) a three-stop trip around Alabama with the entire defensive staff: Kevin Steele, Rodney Garner, Travis Williams and Greg Brown.
The first visit was to Montgomery to see Alec Jackson, who was fresh off his official visit to the Plains. Jackson still was considering an official visit to Ole Miss. After the staff’s proven effort and priority Monday, Jackson decided to close his recruitment. No trip to Ole Miss, no trip to Florida. Wise move by Malzahn & Co. to seal the deal Monday.
— Alec Jackson (@_TheFuture7) January 16, 2017
Auburn’s defensive group traveled to Muscle Shoals to see safety commit Jordyn Peters. Steele and Brown visited Peters last week, which was Brown’s first introduction to his future pupil. That visit helped put to rest any outstanding concerns Peters had during the coaching change. He officially will visit Auburn this weekend with a large group of commits and a few key targets. Peters said earlier this month that a Virginia Tech official was likely. The only weekend remaining is the final one. I’d expect Auburn to secure a finalized commitment this weekend.
Home visit from Auburn's Defensive Coaches and head coach was time well spent and appreciated! pic.twitter.com/MHO24EgVeP
— Natalie T. Burt (@NatB0107) January 17, 2017
The final group-wide visit, to my knowledge, was to Mobile to visit uncommitted 4-star DL Ryan Johnson. He recently returned from his official visit to Stanford, which he gave a two thumbs up. Johnson still is working to qualify at Stanford. If that happens soon, that poses a potential threat. Otherwise, Alabama is the team to beat, and the Crimson Tide might have other preferences. Johnson and Jackson would make a strong in-state combo on the defensive line in this class. The staff’s urgency to go see those two specifically on the first day following a big weekend is telling. Johnson officially visits this weekend. Texas coaches also visited Johnson.
Other notable visits:
- Brown went to see Traivon Leonard on Saturday. That’s all four DB commits met and accounted for. Malcolm Askew is already on campus, of course. But the other three seem satisfied with the hire.
- Chase Lasater hosted Scott Fountain in his home on Monday. Lasater officially will visit this weekend. Lasater hasn’t been offered, but Auburn needs a fullback. The Tigers also are chasing Thomas Johnston, who officially visited last weekend and will commit on Jan. 26.
Quick updates on all 3 running back commits
Small or big, there are some noteworthy items on all three Auburn running back commits: Devan Barrett, Alaric Williams and Octavius Matthews.
Barrett is the feature back of the class, and Tim Horton has shown that priority throughout Barrett’s recruitment. The No. 12 running back in the country took his official visit to Auburn on Dec. 9 along with a few other Tigers commitments. With an open January, he now has been linked to a few other schools — national champion Clemson being the big one. Tennessee also has been named in the Barrett conversation. For now, no official visits have been set in stone, though trips to all three are possible. Still, Auburn should feel at ease with the top running back in its class.
Williams officially visited Nebraska in September. That’s more of a security blanket if things go awry at Auburn. It will be tough for that to happen from a football standpoint. With Williams, it’s more of a grades concern. He told SEC Country that he’s 1 point from the test score he needs to qualify, which is a step in the right direction. If he sorts that out, he’s an Auburn Tiger.
Matthews posted a few cryptic messages on Twitter during the weekend. I don’t want to read too much into them — or even publish them — they simply hinted at making business decisions and wading through difficult life choices. Matthews cleared all of that up Monday and said point-blank that he has no intention of de-committing. He has some academic hurdles, hence the pushed-back enrollment. But, again, that’s something that can be taken care of with a successful spring semester at Itawamba Community College.
Rankings watch: New 5-star prospect?
I’ve said plenty in my In Plains Sight notebooks how I feel about recruiting star rankings — imperfect barometer but generally depict the true story.
With that said, many fans like it when Auburn signs a 5-star prospect instead of a 3-star prospect, and why wouldn’t you? SEC Country uses the 247Sports Composite rankings, which aggregates the rankings from all the top recruiting services (247, Scout, Rivals, ESPN, etc.). 247Sports will release an updated version of its rankings Tuesday — the last 2017 ranking, I believe.
The rankings release will include a 5-star countdown show. From 32nd to 1st, all of the 5-star prospects will be announced Tuesday morning. Auburn fans should stay interested. There is a high possibility linebacker commit Tadarian Moultry improves his stock from a 4-star prospect to a 5-star prospect. Many scouts have projected Moultry as the top one or two linebackers in the 2017 class.
It’s also worth noting Calvin Ashley has a chance of dropping from 5-star status. He has all the tools and proof to be a 5-star player, in my opinion, but there are only 32 spots. He’s at No. 23 now. Ashley has stayed out of the spotlight since moving from Orlando to Washington D.C., which has raised some questions about results and competition level. Even if he drops, Ashley is still an SEC starter-caliber player.
The defensive line connection
As the defensive staff made its rounds Monday, I posted a follow-up story from Alec Jackson’s official visit last weekend.
Jackson expressed his lifelong love for Auburn. Johnson shares a similar affection for the Tigers, but his options are still open. It shows how important the defensive line tandem is to Auburn, however. The entire defensive coaching staff and the head coach took the first day after the official visit weekend — during an OC search — to officially visit Jackson and Johnson.
The Alabama-Mississippi all-star game. Jackson’s comments after his official visit. Johnson’s priority by the Auburn staff. Many of the dots are starting to connect. Will it be enough?
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