Recruiting insider: Auburn makes up ground on multiple top 2018 targets
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn hosted an impressive list of recruits Saturday, especially considering the Week 1 opponent (Georgia Southern) and several other high-profile matchups across the southeast. The Tigers put on an equally impressive showing on the field during its defensive-dominant 41-7 victory in the opener.
Most of the recruits who were expected to attend the game showed up. The only big-time 2018 prospect who couldn’t make it was 4-star wide receiver Seth Williams, but don’t read too much into that. He was planning to come with his coaches and teammates, but the trip ended up getting called off.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the recruiting side of the game Saturday:
4-star DT Coynis Miller
- Coynis Miller spent most of his time during the game with close friend — and newest Auburn commit — Asa Martin. He admitted his friendship with Martin will be a significant help for the Tigers’ chances.
- With that said, Miller said Florida still leads. The environment and the relationship with coaches blew him away on his initial visit.
- It’s not a big gap between Florida and Auburn, his No. 2, Miller said. He said at any moment the Tigers have the ability to jump up into the lead.
- Miller hasn’t planned all of his upcoming visits, but he expects to be at one of Auburn’s next two home games.
4-star DL Richard Jibunor
- Richard Jibunor said something pretty funny when he met reporters Saturday night. How was the visit? “I can’t wait,” he said. Can’t wait for what? He quickly caught himself and said “can’t wait to be back.” I’ll let you interpret that interaction for yourselves.
- He spent much of the pregame as a front-and-center recruit near warmups. Jibunor chatted with Rodney Garner and Garner’s entire family near the end zone. Jibunor’s smile is a contagious one, and it was in full effect Saturday night.
- Jibunor stayed overnight and will be on campus until Sunday evening. He is spending most of his time with starting left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. Jibunor joked with me at halftime that he was looking for reasons to make fun of Wanogho in his first game, but he was having trouble finding them.
- Don’t underestimate the power of Wanogho in this one. Even if Wanogho were to leave early in Jibunor’s career, he will play a vital role in Jibunor’s decision. The two go back to their childhood in Nigeria. They play pick-up soccer together whenever they get the chance. Jibunor spends almost all of his time on Auburn’s campus with Wanogho. The fact he’s the new starting left tackle shows Jibunor that the dream is possible at Auburn.
- Jibunor will still take that Florida visit on Sept. 16 when the Gators play Tennessee. He’ll also be in Atlanta Monday when Tennessee takes on Georgia Tech.
- Still, Jibunor made it seem like the Tigers are the clear team to beat. He even went so far as to say, “I think Auburn’s been in the lead for a long time.” My guess is Tennessee makes it a competitive No. 2 and Florida finished No. 3. Jibunor is Auburn’s to lose, and that’s a big deal.
4-star RB Asa Martin
- It was Martin’s first time back on campus since committing. “It feels even more like home now,” he said.
- Martin spent a lot of his time recruiting Coynis Miller, his close friend, and offensive lineman Trey Hill. He said Hill is a hard prospect to read and doesn’t say much, but that he gave him several positive vibes throughout the game.
- Martin plans on taking his five official visits, but he’s not sure when and where those will be.
- Alabama hasn’t given up on Martin, as you’d probably expect. He said he’s heard from the Crimson Tide regularly in the week since his commitment. But he gave a diplomatic response about his consideration of other schools: “I mean, I’m committed to Auburn.”
- Martin spoke glowingly of the Chip Lindsey offense. He said everything he was told he’d see is exactly what he saw. The running backs had a great showing despite Kamryn Pettway’s absence, and Martin took note that a freshman in Devan Barrett was able to see some playing time in the opener.
4-star WR Matthew Hill
- Like Martin, it was Hill’s first time back in Auburn since committing. Hill said he felt more comfortable than ever.
- He liked how the passing game looked in the opener, though he admitted it’ll be nice to see it open up even more once the Tigers work out some of the kinks. Hill expects multiple receivers to have big years in the 2017 season.
- Hill will likely take five official visits to the schools in his top 5: Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU and Florida. There’s nothing to worry about here for Auburn fans, though.
- He said he continues to recruit 5-star quarterback Justin Fields and that won’t stop until Fields commits. The two have a relationship. With that said, Hill said Fields is a tough one to read because he likes to joke around when he’s asked by other prospects about the schools he’s actually considering.
4-star OL Trey Hill
- Hill was one of the first prospects on the field before the game and one of the last ones to leave after it. It’s a huge deal for Auburn to get this guy on campus Week 1 instead of Georgia or Alabama-FSU.
- Why did he come to Auburn instead of other options? He’s been to Georgia a lot for games, and he hasn’t gotten to experience the Auburn game atmosphere as much. Hill raved about it.
- He spent a good bit of time before the game with both Gus Malzahn and Herb Hand. They’ve made it clear to him he’s the top offensive line option left in the Tigers’ arsenal. They want him badly.
- Hill doesn’t reveal much when he talks to reporters, but when asked where Auburn fits into the equation: “They’re up there.”
- He will take all five official visits, but Auburn won’t be one. That’s because he knows he can make that drive for a visit at any time. All he has confirmed so far is Southern Cal. He hasn’t decided on the other four OVs, but it’ll likely be long-distance locations.
3-star WR Shedrick Jackson
- This is just a quick injury update since I wrote plenty about Shedrick Jackson and George Pickens last week. Jackson was held out of his high school game this weekend with a nagging hamstring injury he suffered against Grayson last weekend. He said he expects to be back on the field this week.
3-star 2019 CB Jalen Alexander
- For starters, Alexander was proudly wearing his Grayson national championship ring from a year ago. Those things are pretty sweet. Grayson is a factory.
- Alexander is one of Auburn’s top defensive back targets in the 2019 class. Don’t look too much into his measurements (5-foot-11 and 165 pounds) right now because he has a good frame to build on. He reminds me a lot of Jalyn Armour-Davis in that regard.
- Of the programs who have offered — Auburn, South Carolina, Louisville, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and others — Auburn and South Carolina are standing out.
- He has a close relationship with Travis Williams and is starting to get to know Greg Brown on a much more personal level.
- Alexander doesn’t have a timetable set for his decision, but Auburn is in a great place for now.
- Ohio State and Clemson are the two schools he talks with regularly and wants to wait on offers from before he goes about his complete decision-making process.
- Josh Marsh, Shedrick Jackson and George Pickens spent some personal time with Gus Malzahn at midfield prior to the game.
- Derrick Brown’s younger brother, Kameron Brown, hung out on the sidelines before the game, including some 1-on-1 with Rodney Garner. Auburn hasn’t offered yet, but he’s starting to gain traction with Power 5 schools.
- 2020 prospects Dazalin Worsham and Quandarrius Robinson were in attendance. Auburn is in a good place for both. Worsham said LSU and FSU are also teams standing out. Robinson is a legit 6-foot-4 as an outside linebacker. He is going to be a top, top, top-tier prospect when it’s all said and done.