Nation’s No. 2 tight end recaps Auburn official visit
AUBURN, Ala. — Luke Ford made his first visit to Auburn since his summer trip that included a personal campus tour with Gus Malzahn. Just like the first one, Auburn knocked it out of the park, this time on an official visit with the entire Ford family.
“It was an amazing visit,” Ford said. “For one, Coach [Malzahn] is probably the coolest head coach I’ve talked to. He spends a lot of time with me. It means a lot to me, especially coming from a prestigious school like Auburn.”
Ford came into the weekend with a clear top group of Alabama and Georgia. Those are the two programs most often talked about in regards to the No. 2 tight end in the nation.
Auburn, thanks to the Iron Bowl environment, even managed to surprise Ford.
“Auburn definitely moved up after this,” he said. “That was the best game atmosphere I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to a lot of schools with like 100,000 fans, and this was louder than 100,000 fans, and it’s only like 87,000. It was the best game environment I’ve ever been in.”
Auburn has joined Alabama and Georgia in Ford’s top group. Below that is a secondary list that includes Florida State, Michigan and Texas. He plans to take official visits to Alabama and Georgia. Michigan and Florida State also could earn one.
In Ford’s mind, no school stands out over the others.
“I don’t know if I have an official leader,” Ford said. “I have pretty much a top 3 right now that are all right beside each other. It’s Auburn, Bama and Georgia. It’ll just have to be me looking at tight ends and seeing where I fit in. That’s just going to come down to my personal decision.”
The one thing he wants to monitor from all programs, especially Auburn: the use of the tight end.
He pointed out the Tigers haven’t utilized the tight ends much this season. Ford had that conversation with Auburn coaches throughout the weekend, and he’s had similar conversations with the Georgia and Alabama staffs.
In Auburn’s case, he sees it more as a personnel issue right now — and he could be the fix.
“I’ve seen the tight-end usage. It doesn’t really happen much because, with their depth chart, they don’t have a true tight end. They have blockers and then they have a developmental guy with [Ford’s player-host] John [Samuel Shenker] as a redshirt. They think he can be pretty good next year. They just don’t really have the depth,” Ford said. “That means a lot to me, especially playing in such a prestigious conference like the SEC West. For a freshman to do that, especially at the tight end position, that’d be crazy.”
Ford expects to make his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Auburn will make an in-home visit with Ford, and the Tigers’ staff told him they’d like to be the last ones to see him during the contact period.
Luke Ford’s fullback brother Noah will be a factor
There is a secondary factor to Ford’s recruiting process: His older brother Noah.
Noah Ford is a 20-year-old fullback who spent a season at Southern Illinois. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, college coaches recruiting Luke took notice of Noah early on. Gus Malzahn was the first to do so this summer, which stood out to Noah. Georgia has followed suit.
That summer visit made a major impression on Noah.
“They definitely had the best unofficial for me and their experience over the summer. I think they were definitely the most serious school when it comes to offering me a real spot as a walk-on when it comes to fullback,” Noah said. “When Luke kinda blew up, all these schools started coming talking to me because they saw my size and everything. Gus Malzahn walked up to me and said, ‘Oh my God. Where have you been?’ I was like, ‘Hey man, you’re talking to Luke. I’m right here, too.'”
Noah will be a factor in Luke’s decision.
While Auburn and Georgia have offered walk-on spots, Alabama hasn’t. Noah understands his decision is dependent on Luke, so he doesn’t want to speak for his brother, but he expects Auburn and Georgia to have a better shot because of the walk-on offer.
“I think it’s huge [for Auburn and Georgia] because, growing up, me and Luke have been very close together,” Noah said. “I’d love to play football with him. We played football in the backyard together. Us playing together is a huge factor.”
Having played just the 2016 season at Southern Illinois, Noah has three years of eligibility remaining.
Auburn views him as a Chandler Cox-type, which is fitting since he spent a lot of time with the Fords on that visit this summer.
“Our first person to host us was Chandler Cox. That dude is a beast,” Noah said. “If you ask him to run through a brick wall, he’ll do it for you. Getting to be around that kind of personality, and having the experience I have playing fullback in college at SIU, it makes me fall in love with it.”