Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Monday, and SEC Country catches up with Ohio State quarterback commit Emory Jones. Also, what does Gus Malzahn’s extension mean for recruiting?
5-star QB still committed to OSU despite Auburn visits
There’s an argument to be had surrounding this question: Who is Auburn’s top remaining target?
Some may say offensive lineman Trey Hill. Others may consider it to be defensive prospects such as Quay Walker or Andres Fox. It wouldn’t be crazy to refer to top receiver targets Justyn Ross or Anthony Schwartz by that distinction.
But, for the sake of this notebook, a strong case can be made for Ohio State quarterback commit Emory Jones. He has been committed to the Buckeyes since July 29, 2016, so Jones is the central figure of the 2018 class for Ohio State. The 5-star quarterback from Heard County (Ga.) is the No. 27-ranked player in the country by the 247Sports composite.
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Alabama and Auburn aren’t going away quietly. Jones has visited the Tigers and the Crimson Tide this season.
Should Ohio State be worried?
“I mean, I’m committed there. I am checking out other schools, though,” Jones told SEC Country on Friday night. “When I told them that I was 110 percent committed, I said that I wanted to continue visiting schools. Before I committed, I didn’t get the chance to do so. I think they didn’t really care at the time. When I actually started doing it though, they definitely got worried. But, I’m still committed. As of right now, that’s where I’m going.”
There is a sense of confidence in Auburn and Tuscalossa as it pertains to Jones.
One source told SEC Country they’d be surprised to see Jones end up in Columbus, Ohio. That’s the general feeling in the industry as Jones has entertained Alabama and Auburn this fall. Both programs are close to home, while Ohio State isn’t. It is more common to hear an opinion that Jones will flip than Jones will stick with the Buckeyes.
Jones hears some of that noise, even if he doesn’t totally understand it.
“I mean, I’m committed to Ohio State. I’ve been committed to them for like two years. I think I would have de-committed by now if I wasn’t going there,” Jones said. “I still talk to Coach [Urban] Meyer and the staff all of the time. So, I don’t know why people think that.”
That’s not going to stop Auburn and Alabama from making a push.
Alabama remains without a quarterback in the Class of 2018. Auburn has one in long-time commit Joey Gatewood, but the Tigers have been adamant about adding a second quarterback. Jones is, perhaps, the only reliable option remaining, which has created this battle between Ohio State, Auburn and Alabama.
While Jones says he’s still committed to Ohio State, which he is, he admits he’s still strongly considering Alabama and Auburn — the only two schools he’s considering besides Ohio State.
With Auburn, Jones spoke to Gus Malzahn at length after the “crazy” Iron Bowl.
“I don’t think it was the craziest environment I’ve been to. I think this year’s Ohio State-Penn State game was. That was the craziest game experience I’ve seen. But the Auburn game was definitely crazy,” Jones said. “He was just telling me that Auburn is close to home and that I need to get my mom back up there because she didn’t come with me to that game. He wants to talk to her more, and he wants me to be around the program some more. He just wants me to get comfortable with it.”
Jones remains unsure whether he’ll take any official visits in December.
There will likely be a point this month when he decided to change his mind or shut things down completely.
“I don’t have a set decision date or anything like that. It definitely has to be soon. I just have to make sure everything is good and make sure I’m comfortable with everything,” Jones said.
“When I make that decision on where I’m going, I’m sticking with it. I’m not going to look back.”
Recruiting effect of Gus Malzahn’s extension
One topic I’ve more-or-less avoided from a recruiting perspective this fall is the potential for Gus Malzahn to go to Arkansas.
The murmurs had been out there for months, but the entire idea seems so far-fetched to me. Sure, there were valid points as to why he’d consider it. It just never seemed like something, to me at least, that a competitive Power 5 coach would do regardless of assurances from the universities.
In conversations with recruits and parents, virtually nobody saw it as a realistic move. Now, Malzahn wasn’t likely to tell commits and targets he was leaving, but based on what families have told me, he was so convincing about his plan to stay that a switch didn’t seem realistic whatsoever.
Malzahn was out in full force Sunday. He went to see — as far as SEC Country knows — Asa Martin, Kameron Stutts and Jerome Carvin. That was indication No. 1 that Malzahn was in this for the long haul.
That’s why, when Malzahn was out on the road recruiting for Auburn on Sunday, a contract announcement from Auburn’s end felt imminent. It was, as first reported by 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello.
What does that mean for Auburn recruiting?
Well, multiple prospects — ones who ended up at Auburn and ones who didn’t — have said some variation related to how Malzahn is the coolest head coach or the best head coach recruiter. Malzahn has a glow about him when he’s recruiting young people. It has a lot to do with his connection to young athletes from his early days as a high school football coach.
On top of that, a 7-year contract signals a completely new vibe for Auburn recruiting.
As a program that has dealt with a cloud of uncertainty for two years, the Tigers can now build on the establishment created in the 2017 season. Malzahn spoke after the Iron Bowl about this team having the most quality depth of any of his Auburn teams so far. He thinks that’s something built over time, and the time has finally arrived for the Tigers.
With much more coaching stability guaranteed, it should be a major boost for Auburn recruiting in the years to come.
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