Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. In this edition, we explain why 5-star wide receiver Justyn Ross thinks Auburn has the best depth chart.
Auburn fits both categories for 5-star WR Justyn Ross
Justyn Ross recently released a top 5 that includes Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Florida.
The 5-star wide receiver from Central High School (Phenix City, Ala.) says the first three on that list are recruiting him harder than the other two schools, though he’s not willing to eliminate Florida State or Florida. Ross will say, however, that his ultimate decision — which likely remains a National Signing Day choice — seemingly will come down to Auburn, Alabama or Clemson.
“Probably. Because of the communication between them and the relationship I have with those schools. It’s just going to be me completely falling in love with this program and calling it home,” Ross said. “It’s subject to change. Another school could come in and just show me something different that I like.”
Ross hasn’t revealed much about what he will be looking for as he makes his decision. But he did give SEC Country one snippet and his primary deciding factors will be: the quarterback situation and the wide receiver depth chart.
As for the quarterback room, he included Florida State in his group of programs that has strong quarterback depth. He said four of his top 5 are set in that category.
“I think all of them have great quarterback situations. You have [Jarrett] Stidham at Auburn, Tua [Tagovailoa] and Jalen [Hurts] at Alabama. Clemson has a good quarterback coming in with Trevor [Lawrence]. Florida State has [Deondre] Francois,” Ross said. “All of them have good quarterbacks.”
And then, of course, there is the Justin Fields waiting game. Among Ross’ top group, Fields could choose Florida State, Auburn or Florida. It’s unknown how much that will affect the Ross decision, but Fields is certainly an intriguing quarterback piece for any wide receiver.
As for Auburn’s quarterback group, Ross initially mentioned only Stidham. But what if Stidham were to leave early after a successful 2017 season?
Ross already has thought about it, and he likes the future.
“They have a good quarterback situation with Malik [Willis] there. He throws a good ball, so I think they have a good quarterback situation even if Stidham leaves,” Ross said.
That doesn’t even include Joey Gatewood, a 2018 Auburn quarterback commit with whom Ross has formed a close friendship.
The final element Ross will monitor: wide receiver depth.
Ross said he likes the ability to come in and compete right away at all five of his schools. But he also recognizes certain rosters will allow him a greater chance to play right away. There is one program that stands well above the rest in that category.
“Auburn, because I think that’s where they are lacking right now,” Ross said. “It does help them a lot because as a receiver you always want to just come in and be able to compete for a spot right away.”
Auburn dates to watch
From a distance, it has been a lackluster summer of recruiting for Auburn.
There are a few reasons for that. Most importantly, perhaps, one of the Tigers’ biggest selling points for the 2018 recruiting class is proof the 2017 Auburn football team has a much higher ceiling than t2016 season. Another reason is that, well, the lack of commitments is somewhat by design as the Tigers look to close the summer on a high note.
There are several important recruiting dates left this summer, including some that aren’t set yet, so there will be dates added to this list. Below are the dates to watch going forward, for now.
- July 12-13: 5-star quarterback target Justin Fields will make an overnight stay at Auburn for the first time. It’s likely he’s closing in on a decision, and the Tigers are definitely in this race. This two-day visit will be vital to landing Fields’ commitment.
- July 14: Auburn will host its annual QB Camp, which will provide an opportunity for 2019 and 2020 quarterback prospects to visit Auburn and work with offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. The camp coincides with Auburn’s appearance at SEC Media Days, so it could be a busy day for Gus Malzahn if he hopes to work with potential future quarterback targets.
- July 21: Auburn will host its second position camp of the summer for offensive linemen, defensive linemen and skill players. At the last one of these, Shedrick Jackson wowed the coaches. A few weeks later, the Auburn legacy committed to the Tigers.
- July 22: The Tigers will host their annual summer picnic, which is another way — much like Big Cat Weekend — for top recruits and their families to get on campus and interact with coaches, players and fellow targets in a different way from most visits. It’s not certain yet who will be in attendance, but I’d expect at least one commitment from that event to spark some late-summer momentum.
- Aug. 5: Juanyeh Thomas said this is the tentative date he plans to commit. The Niceville, Fla., defensive back likely won’t visit again between now and then, but I expect Auburn to be his choice when he eventually makes it.