Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Wednesday, and SEC Country caught up with a defensive lineman from Mississippi who made some glowing comments about Gus Malzahn. Also, Auburn offered an in-state safety, and it was only a matter of time.
Mississippi pass rusher: ‘I definitely love Coach Malzahn’
Perhaps the easiest way to understand Derick Hall‘s interest in Auburn is how he reacts when you ask him the simplest question about the Tigers.
That fundamental question: What’s your interest?
“Oh man, Auburn,” Hall said to SEC Country.
Several Power 5 programs are captivated by the 6-foot-5, 210-pound outside linebacker prospect from Gulfport, Miss. Hall holds offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida State, Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, among others.
When he talks about Auburn, however, he drops the obligatory “oh man” before explaining further why the Tigers are so intriguing.
It starts with the man at the top.
“I’ve been there, it’s a great place, great people. I definitely love coach [Gus] Malzahn,” Hall said. “I’ve sat down and talked to coach for hours with my family. He’s just a great high-character guy. He’s all about the kids.”
Most programs view Hall as a pass-rushing outside linebacker type. Physically, Hall matches up nicely with what Auburn wants from its Buck position. According to Hall, that’s what Tigers coaches mentioned to him when they talked about position fit.
Hall likes the sound of that. He plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at his high school. The thought of chasing after SEC quarterbacks appeals to him.
“It’s definitely rushing,” Hall said. “At my school, we play a 3-4, so I’m actually a true outside linebacker. So I’m covering all of that. I’m very good at rushing and making sure tackles in the open field.”
Hall recently trimmed his schools in consideration to eight: Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida State, Tennessee, Louisville, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Within the next two months he’d like to cut it down to the programs recruiting him the hardest throughout the spring.
So far, that list consists of Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Those three programs contact him on a daily basis and should be considered front-runners because of that added attention.
Hall plans to make a final decision this summer. When he does, Auburn will be one of the hats on the table, so to speak.
His conversation with Malzahn during his visit last month will be a big reason why. Hall wants to major in mechanical or chemical engineering, so his college degree is important to him. As it pertains to the academic side of things, one story Malzahn told him about Cam Newton made a lasting impression.
“He’d definitely want me to get that degree. He was talking about Cam Newton and when he went to Carolina [Panthers], he didn’t want to come back. Malzahn made him come back and get his degree,” Hall said. “Being able to come back and finish your degree is major. That’s something that I would want to get. If I go there, I know he’d make sure I’d get my degree.”
Hall is the No. 15-ranked outside linebacker in the Class of 2019 and the No. 216 overall prospect nationally.
Auburn (finally) offers safety prospect in its backyard
Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., has been a hotbed for football talent the last few years.
In the 2016 class, cornerback John Broussard (Auburn) and athlete Jamal Couch (Mississippi State) landed at SEC schools. Alabama landed linebacker Markail Benton in the 2017 class. The state’s No. 1 prospect, Justyn Ross, spurned the in-state schools for Clemson in the Class of 2018.
Central’s presence in the 2019 class will be no different.
Auburn’s most recent offer, in fact, went to a Central safety Ray Thornton.
Thornton has been on the radar of several college programs, including Auburn. Aside from Auburn, he has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Duke and South Florida — with several other programs scouting him. Auburn offered him Wednesday after hosting him on countless visits the last two years.
Central High prospects — whether they’re being recruited by Auburn or not — have been regular attendees of Tigers games, practices and recruiting events the last few years. The most recent example came the week before spring break when a handful of players from the team joined their high school coach for an Auburn spring practice.
Thornton was a part of that group.
He’s still waiting to hear about offers from other programs. Alabama, Florida, Clemson and Tennessee are the ones he hears from most. With Auburn’s most recent offer, expect it to be a busy spring for the 6-2, 200-pound safety who lives 30 minutes from the Plains.
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