My most recent offensive 2018 class projection was released on Monday. Here are my predictions on defense.
There aren’t many changes to the newest version of the defensive class projection. One defensive lineman was added to the list of four defensive linemen who remained the same. The linebackers didn’t change, though there’s a strong chance Auburn could shoot to add a third down the line.
In the secondary, the only changes were someone who already committed and a cornerback alteration.
Combined with the offensive projection from Monday, I’ve provided a 23-person class — 12 on defense and 11 on offense. The prospects involved would give the Tigers 257.03 points in the 247Sports composite team rankings, which puts them around the No. 10 mark.
All of this is subject to change, but as it stands, this is what I’d project Auburn to add on defense.
Defensive line (5)
Caleb Johnson, Coynis Miller, Richard Jibunor, Daquan Newkirk, Andres Fox
Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner has a best-case scenario outlook on defensive line recruiting. His wish list is laid out. I don’t expect him to reach the six he wants, but I expect him to land five.
In the above list, there are three whom I’d describe as a “high level of confidence” — Newkirk, who is already on board, Miller and Jibunor, who aren’t on board yet, but I think it will happen. Miller’s wait might be longer than expected. Once Jibunor can take some visits at the end of the month, his decision likely will be finalized.
The new name included is Johnson, who has flown under the radar by recruiting services despite having serious interest from Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and LSU. I don’t have much intel on Johnson yet, but his addition to the list had more to do with him fitting the profile of a prospect Garner hinted Auburn was close to landing. Expect more information on Johnson by the end of the week.
Fox rounds out the list, fitting into Garner’s strongside end he’d like in the class. There was a time when Fox-to-Auburn seemed like a guarantee, but that has dropped off as Alabama, LSU and Stanford have climbed into contention. If he doesn’t have a decision in the next two weeks, this one could last a while.
If Fox weren’t to make it into the class, Kayode Oladele would be the most likely backup option to point to for now.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Auburn ended up taking three at linebacker. That’s the number linebackers coach Travis Williams said he’d like to hit every recruiting cycle, if possible. But the Tigers aren’t going to take a linebacker just to take one, so their sights will be set on four to five specific guys and likely won’t deviate from that group.
Those prospects include commit Michael Harris, Zakoby McClain, JJ Peterson, Alabama commit Quay Walker and Channing Tindall.
As it stands, I would project Peterson to Alabama and Tindall to South Carolina. Auburn is probably the No. 2 on both of their respective lists, but the Tigers will most likely stay in second place. Walker seems like a wild card. He’ll shop around and keep an eye on Florida State, Georgia and Auburn, but I won’t make that prediction now.
McClain has been a little bit inconsistent with his unofficial visit confirmations. He has said a few times he would visit Auburn and then changed plans. Those trip changes included visits to West Virginia and LSU.
Still, I’ve long believed McClain would land in Auburn’s class, and that hasn’t changed despite a rocky couple of weeks.
There aren’t many surprises at this position.
Monday, Sherwood and Fuqua already are committed. Auburn had one major need in the 2018 recruiting class, and that was at safety. The Tigers secured three of their top targets at the position with Sherwood, Monday and Fuqua, who are all tall, rangy safeties and are also athletic enough to play on offense if asked.
Marsh lands here because of uncertainty where to place him on the list. He could be considered a linebacker, which would round out the three-per-class quota mentioned by Coach Williams, but Marsh looks more like a safety or star position. He’s lanky and fast, and he loves to hit in the open field.
I really don’t expect anything to change here throughout the rest of the class. Monday likely will entertain interest from Clemson and Georgia, but I don’t expect it to matter. This is an A-plus cycle for Auburn at safety.
Where tight end causes some head-scratching on offense, cornerback does the same on defense.
There is no question who Auburn’s top cornerback targets were in the 2018 cycle: Jalyn Armour-Davis and Kyler McMichael committed to other programs. Armour-Davis seems relatively solid on his Alabama commitment, as does McMichael with his Clemson commitment.
McMichael is the more persuadable of the two, but it will require a successful 2017 football season for Auburn.
The Tigers will have to find something in the class at cornerback. The most likely candidate is Turner, who camped at Auburn and stayed overnight for the cookout. Turner left calling Auburn his leader and said a decision probably wouldn’t dip into the football season.
The timetable might change, but, ultimately, expect Turner to be with the Tigers.