The questions turned slightly more somber this week, as was expected after a Week 2 loss at Clemson.
On the bright side, the Auburn Tigers only lost to the defending national champon Clemson Tigers by 8 points in a night game on the road. It was ugly, but it’s reparable. The Clemson game might’ve had adverse effects on your sleeping patterns, but in the recruiting world at least, it did little to damage the relationships and momentum Auburn has a chance to build in the rest of the class.
Thanks to those of you who sent in questions this week. If you’d like your questions to be published next week, tweet @benjaminwolk or direct message me.
@sherrod4au: How did the lack of offensive performance Saturday affect the big-time recruits? I’m sure we are way off Fields radar now.
That last sentence describes the collective recruiting reaction I’ve seen in my Twitter DMs since Auburn’s loss on Saturday. It’s a natural fan instinct, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t fret just yet.
As for Fields specifically, sure, he might not land with the Tigers. I think they were playing from behind regardless of on-field results. But I also don’t think recruits look at game-to-game results as much as fans do. Big-picture things? Absolutely. Recruits want to win championships and compete against the best teams in the country.
But recruits are often looking for how their specific position group was used. Offensive linemen might see Saturday’s result as an opportunity to see the field quickly. Running backs might recognize the possibility of injury and how the Tigers seemed to need a second-half playmaker at the position.
Wide receivers might look and question their value some. Is the offense designed to make me succeed? But it’s also a first-year quarterback and first-year offensive coordinator. That’s not what a lot of fans want to hear right now, but it is the truth. And a lot of recruits see it that way.
Take Tommy Bush, for instance. He pointed out Auburn’s struggles in the game against Clemson. But he also offered the Tigers the benefit of the doubt. For now at least, don’t sweat the recruiting angles. There is plenty of time to work that out.
@Ellitor_AU: Not counting Zakoby McClain for the moment, who’s next on Auburn’s linebacker shopping list after Quay Walker, JJ Peterson and Channing Tindall?
This probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but I’ll give it anyway: You hit the high points.
McClain, as has been documented, needs a little more time to make a decision. His inconsistency with following up on visits might have programs like LSU and Auburn looking in other directions for the meantime. But don’t rule out McClain landing at either place down the road.
Walker is a flip candidate with Florida State and Georgia is firmly in the mix, as well. JJ Peterson (Alabama) and Channing Tindall (South Carolina) are thought to be leans in other directions, so it makes sense that your question is kind of: What happens if Auburn happens to miss on all these guys?
I’m not sure they’d be forced to do anything. Auburn is building a deep, elite linebacker group. Just take a look at the linebackers the Tigers have brought in the last four years (ranked by position).
- No. 2 Tre’ Williams
- No. 3 Tadarian Moultry
- No. 8 Jeff Holland
- No. 10 Montavious Atkinson
- No. 12 Darrell Williams
- No. 13 Richard McBryde
- No. 15 KJ Britt
- No. 21 Deshaun Davis
- No. 21 Chandler Wooten
- No. 27 Tre Threat
- No. 138 Robert Muschamp
That’s all of them. Every linebacker the Tigers have taken since the Class of 2014. Obviously, including Muschamp as the outlier, every Auburn linebacker commit has been ranked No. 27 or better at their position in their given recruiting class. In the 2018 class, Michael Harris is ranked No. 11 at his position, so he fits in the middle of this trend.
Because of Harris’ presence, Auburn is likely to look more at outside linebacker than inside linebacker in the rest of this class.
Here are the relevant options in the top 30.
- No. 1 JJ Peterson
- No. 2 Adam Anderson
- No. 5 Channing Tindall
- No. 7 Otis Reese
- No. 11 Quay Walker
- No. 16 Zakoby McClain
- No. 2o David Reese
- No. 29 Quin Williams
Obviously you already had Peterson, Tindall, Walker and McClain checked off the list. So the other four on the list — Anderson, Otis Reese, David Reese and Williams — are the ones to watch closely, assuming we’re sticking by the Tigers’ trend to bring in exclusively elite linebacker talent, as projected by 247Sports composite rankings.
The Reeses’ are long shots. Otis is committed to Michigan. He visited an Auburn practice this spring, so there is mutual interest there, but the same can be said for Georgia and likely a few other programs. David is committed to Florida and hasn’t shown signs of interest in Auburn. With that said, David’s relationship with Richard Jibunor is a big reason why he visited Gainesville. Maybe Auburn could work to get David to so the same.
That leaves Anderson and Williams.
Anderson is a lot like Peterson, Tindall and Walker in that he might be leaning elsewhere, for now, but Auburn is in the mix of the top two or three schools in consideration. He made his last visit of the summer contact period, and it’ll be interesting to see when he makes it back for a game. This decision could be drawn out, so Auburn will remain in the mix until Anderson commits.
Williams has been in communication with Auburn throughout the recruiting class, but not as much lately. He’s a name to track just in case.
John Morgan (Facebook): Why is it so hard to find a tight end?
I’ll keep it simple: You’ve got to throw to them.
There isn’t much more to it than that. Salvatore Cannella is just a tight end. Jalen Harris is used in blocking scheme and rarely targeted in the passing game.
Gus Malzahn said tight ends were the priority route a few times against Clemson, but the routes didn’t materialize. It’ll need to start clicking if the Tigers are going to have a chance with Luke Ford, Tyneil Hopper, Michael Parker and Nic McTear.
Mike Waters (Facebook): When is Auburn going to get that standout running back?
Devan Barrett has the potential to be that guy once he packs on a little more weight. Asa Martin has shown early in the 2017 season that he’s one of the most prolific high school running backs in the nation. Those are really the two guys to look at right now.
It’s possible Auburn lands an official visit from No. 3 running back James Cook, which could be a game- changer. Aside from that, don’t expect Auburn to make many moves at running back in the 2018 class, aside from staying in touch with a guy like Dameon Pierce.
Otherwise, here’s a list of the top 2019 running backs Auburn has offered so far.
- No. 3 Trey Sanders (Alabama commit)
- No. 4 Devyn Ford
- No. 7 Jerrion Ealy
- No. 9 John Emery Jr.
- No. 16 Daniel Carter