Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we update Devan Barrett’s commitment status, official visits across the country, Devon Hunter’s announcement, Joey Gatewood’s status and updated player rankings.
Securing the star running back
One of Auburn’s most coveted 2017 commitments will be on the road this weekend.
Devan Barrett is Auburn’s top-ranked running back in the 2017 class. He’s the No. 166 overall prospect (No. 11 RB) in the country. The Tigers pinpointed the 6-foot-1, 190-pound running back early in the cycle and haven’t let go. Barrett took his official visit on Dec. 9, but rumors have begun to swirl of a wavering commitment.
Murmurs of a Clemson and Tennessee push have run rampant. With a full January calendar to flirt with other schools, Barrett became the center of flip conversation.
Let’s put some of that to rest.
To begin, a source close to Barrett has denied Clemson’s serious involvement in the Barrett recruitment. Other schools have continued their constant efforts to flip Barrett. Tennessee is one of those programs, however. Indiana is another.
Barrett confirmed to SEC Country that he will spend his next two weekends on official visits to Tennessee and Indiana, respectively.
Auburn doesn’t have as much to worry about here as has been led on. Barrett has respected other suitors as they attempt to sway him. But as another source said about Barrett, “he’s super solid to Auburn.” A lot of that has been based upon the Tigers’ relentless efforts to keep him.
Tim Horton has made weekly visits to Tampa, Fla., to visit Barrett during contact periods. Horton and Herb Hand stopped by Thursday to see him. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will return with Horton and potentially other offensive staff members — maybe an OC? — on Tuesday when they see Barrett for his in-home visit with the head coach.
That in-home comes at a convenient time because it’s immediately following Barrett’s official visit to Tennessee. If Barrett particularly enjoys it, Auburn will be back in his ear less than 48 hours later to ensure it doesn’t lose the star running back in its class. The Tigers will have to follow a similar drill the following week to stave off Indiana, but that should be less of a concern.
One critical thing here is the offensive coordinator situation. Barrett was slightly caught off guard by the announcement last week. Uneasy isn’t the right word to describe it, but Barrett’s family has kept a steady eye on the OC search since it began. I won’t say it’s necessary, but it certainly would be a big deal if Malzahn can bring along an offensive coordinator for the Tuesday in-home visit.
Official visits elsewhere to watch
Barrett isn’t the only Auburn commit or target who will be entertaining another school this weekend. It’s that time of year. The Tigers will host their biggest official visit weekend of the contact period. Likewise, rivals are doing the same.
Here’s a quick look at the official visits of interest across the country.
- 4-star RB Devan Barrett to Tennessee
- 4-star DE Markaviest Bryant to LSU
- 4-star OL Kai-Leon Herbert to Miami
- 3-star JUCO OL George Moore to Oregon
- 4-star LB/FB Thomas Johnston to Ole Miss
- 4-star WR Henry Ruggs to Alabama
Oliver Martin is another target who could end up elsewhere this weekend. A few reports suggest Auburn might be the destination spots, but that contradicts what I’ve heard. If more Martin-related info comes, this notebook will be updated to reflect it.
OVs to the Plains reminder
No need to spend too much time on this. You can go back and read the full version from Thursday yourself. Here’s a quick reminder of the 12 known official visit attendees this weekend.
The commits: 5-star OL Calvin Ashley, 4-star OL Austin Troxell, 4-star LB Tadarian Moultry, 4-star RB Alaric Williams, 3-star WR Noah Igbinoghene, 3-star safety Jordyn Peters, 3-star safety Carlito Gonzalez and 3-star CB Traivon Leonard.
The targets: 4-star DL Jarez Parks, 4-star DL Ryan Johnson, 4-star LB Tyler Taylor and 3-star FB Chase Lasater.
Parks is a significant Alabama lean, but his surprise with Auburn’s pitch tells me the Tigers aren’t out of it. It’ll be a big weekend on campus — with a lot of guaranteed future Tigers on campus — so, if fellow commits can connect with Parks, maybe Auburn can make one of those signature late recruiting cycle pushes for a defensive lineman. That would be picturesque Rodney Garner, but a long shot at this point.
The Tigers are in great shape for the other three targets. Johnson is fresh off a Stanford visit, still waiting to qualify. If that doesn’t happen, it’s an Auburn-Alabama battle with Texas making late movement for Mobile (Ala.) lineman. Taylor wants to decide soon after his visit. Lasater is on the verge as well. Johnson could commit by the end of next week.
Be on alert throughout the weekend.
Devon Hunter’s announcement
The 4-star safety is announcing his commitment Friday night during a ceremony at halftime of his school’s basketball game. It’s a decision between Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Virginia Tech.
As a standout from Chesapeake (Va.), the in-state Hokies have been the favorite from start to finish. Auburn was once a secret leader for Hunter, though the loss of Wesley McGriff to Ole Miss placed the Tigers in third or maybe even fourth place. Gus Malzahn went to visit Hunter earlier in the week and all accounts suggest it was a positive meeting for both sides. Still, it seems unlikely.
In fact, if a team were to surprise Virginia Tech, I’m told Florida is the best bet. A source close to Hunter said the Florida official visit “blew everyone away.” Hunter has always been drawn to the SEC, hence the trio of conference schools plus the Hokies. The Gators also have the “DBU” pull working in their favor, but Virginia Tech has some impressive alumni of its own. I’m told that, as of Thursday afternoon, Hunter still hadn’t decided — though it was unclear which schools remained “in consideration.”
Hunter will no longer take his official visit to Auburn, which seemed logistically unlikely from the get-go.
Of the 3 possible scenarios — Hunter surprises with Auburn, Hunter surprises with Florida or Hunter picks Virginia Tech — the final one is clearly the most popular selection. The 247Sports crystal ball has 97 percent of the selections in the Hokies’ favor with 1 of 30 going to Florida.
I’m sticking with the home-state team with this one. Virginia Tech makes too much sense and always has been the perceived destination.
Coach visit tracker
I won’t delve too much into this because 1) I already briefed you on Barrett, which was a big one and 2) Not much majorly useful information has come from any of these visits other than they “went well.”
Here are the in-home visits Auburn made Thursday. If more meaningful information arises from any, those will be updated here or separately.
- Herb Hand and Tim Horton visited 4-star RB commit Devan Barrett
- Hand visited 4-star OL target Kai-Leon Herbert
- Tim Horton and Scott Fountain visited 5-star 2018 RB target Lorenzo Lingard (per Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports)
The latest on Joey Gatewood
The 2018 QB commit is stockpiling offers. Gatewood received his Texas offer Wednesday, and as I noted then, the only schools I could tell he lacked were Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and USC.
Georgia, check. Oregon, check.
He scored offers from both of those schools on Thursday. Ever since Rhett Lashlee’s departure, more and more schools have felt like a crack is open in Gatewood’s recruitment. It’s not untrue, but it’s not true either — yet.
Gatewood is giving Auburn its fair shot here with the offensive coordinator search. He won’t deny that Lashlee is the reason why he chose Auburn. But Gatewood also recognizes he chose the school for other reasons than just the coach. He is keeping a close watch on the search and the eventual hire.
To Gatewood’s credit, he is publicly proclaiming his commitment to Auburn despite all these offers and all this uncertainty. He plans to visit Auburn on Jan. 28 for junior day, so a new offensive coordinator and recruiting momentum to finish would make Gatewood’s return to the Plains all the sweeter.
Final 247Sports composite rankings
All of the recruiting services released their end-of-year rankings this week. Per usual, SEC Country uses the 247Sports composite rankings, which aggregates the lists from 247, Scout, Rivals and ESPN to organize a full-scale super ranking.
The last version of that was updated Thursday, and here’s a quick recap of Auburn’s commitments, excluding 3-star Anders Carlson and 2-star Bill Taylor, who are sharp at their specializations. The numbers in parentheses indicated those making big jumps or drops in the rankings.
- No. 27 Calvin Ashley
- No. 103 Tadarian Moultry (+14)
- No. 162 Nick Brahms
- No. 166 Devan Barrett
- No. 188 Austin Troxell (-55)
- No. 215 Malcolm Askew
- No. 224 Alaric Williams
- No. 289 Noah Igbinoghene (+68)
- No. 299 KJ Britt
- No. 364 Malik Willis (+124)
- No. 365 Carlito Gonzalez
- No. 409 Chandler Wooten
- No. 770 Alec Jackson
- No. 1,081 Traivon Leonard
- No. 1,138 Jordyn Peters
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