Mr. Postman is here.
It has been a busy week for Auburn on the recruiting front. The Tigers snagged a 2018 commitment last Wednesday, in the form of running back Shaun Shivers. They scored another major pickup Monday, when 4-star linebacker KJ Britt joined the 2017 class. The five-game win streak has added plenty of momentum to the recruiting side of things.
Likewise, it was a busy week for my recruiting mailbag inbox. Remember, if you read this and really want to contribute to the next edition, you can reach me in the following spots to submit a question:
With that, let’s begin this issue of the Auburn recruiting mailbag. We go to Jeremiah from Cullman, Ala., who has a question related to Auburn most recent commitment.
Q: What’s your view on Auburn’s linebacker class, as it stands?
—Jeremiah N., Cullman (Ala.)
Travis Williams is an absolute gem for Gus Malzahn.
The former Auburn linebacker entered his first season as coach with low expectations for his position group. Of all the spots on the roster, linebacker was the one area where there were some unknowns. Tre’ Williams, Darrell Williams, Deshaun Davis and others have ended that conversation, and they really did that as early as the Clemson game.
But that’s not why Travis Williams deserves his most credit. Williams should get that for his recruiting efforts.
Without question, Auburn’s strength in the 2017 class — for now, at least — is its linebackers.
The Tigers added another jewel Monday with Britt’s commitment through a slick Bleacher Report video. Britt is a class act, and one heck of a football player. Britt’s addition means a lot, but it means even more because of what the Tigers already have at the position in the class.
Tadarian Moultry has skyrocketed up charts, and some even believe he could crack a 5-star rating when it’s all said and done. Moultry and Britt have a strong bond with one another — they always said they’d be a package deal — and they’re the No. 1 and No. 2 inside linebackers in the state of Alabama for this class. Big move by Williams to land both.
The third member is Chandler Wooten, who should feel disrespected to be a 3-star prospect. It doesn’t bother Wooten, though. He’ll play in the Under Armour All-America Game in January. Wooten has picked up recent offers from Georgia and Ohio State, so that should show you how other big-time programs perceive Auburn’s commit.
It’s hard to have a better linebacker class than Alabama, but Auburn might have a strong argument for No. 2, even if the recruiting rankings don’t explicitly say that. Kudos to Travis Williams in Year 1.
Q: Is Shaun Shivers just a backup plan at running back for 2018? He seems like he might be too small for the SEC.
—James P., Florence (Ala.)
Look, I get it. You scan his basic measurements, and it’s hard not to notice the 5-foot-7 frame. At only 160 pounds, it’s hard to envision someone of Shivers’ stature competing at a high level in the SEC. But there are some special players that come in small packages. Shivers might be one of them.
The guy is known for his speed. And the hype isn’t unwarranted. The dude runs a 10.47-second 100-meter dash. In the 200, his better event, Shivers ran a 21.11. That caught the attention of fellow 2018 commit Joey Gatewood, who spent about two minutes marveling over Shivers’ 200-meter ability.
The immediate thought, when you see a player like Shivers: Trindon Holliday.
The former LSU running back, slot receiver and return specialist did wonders for small speedsters everywhere. Shivers fits into a similar mold and will likely get a chance to show some of that explosion in the return game. But that’s not all Shivers can offer.
His high school coach said that many of Shivers’ best plays come when he runs between the guards and the center. He has a shiftiness in small space and a downfield vision that allows him to bust of big runs. So, to answer your question: No, I don’t think he’s a backup plan.
That’s not to say Auburn won’t look elsewhere at running back. The Tigers have three commits in the 2017 class, and they have a history of bringing in multiple guys to do a variety of things. Auburn will look at guys like 5-star Lorenzo Lingard, Harold Joiner and Tae Provens.
But Shivers is someone the Tigers wanted to land early, and did.
Q: What kind of chance does Auburn have with LaBryan Ray? From what I hear, it’s not good. He’s Bama bound. Aside from that, how is the D-line recruiting going?
—Lane S., Vestavia Hills (Ala.)
I’ll sandwich the pessimistic news in the middle of the mailbag. Crazier things have happened, but Ray isn’t going to Auburn. My Alabama colleague Chris Kirschner is about as convinced as one can be that Ray will end up with the Crimson Tide.
I’m not has certain that he’ll go with Auburn, but I am pretty solidly sure that it’s not going to be Auburn. When we spoke a few weeks ago, he talked about what he likes about Auburn. He spoke about his relationship with coach Rodney Garner and his affection for the Jordan-Hare atmosphere.
But when it came time to talk about official visit, the Tigers didn’t make the cut — or so it appears. That’s not a great sign for Auburn, and if you believe in 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, you’ll notice it’s all Alabama.
So what does Auburn do?
Well, we’ve talked about this a lot in these parts. There are zero players committed at the position right now, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise for a couple reasons: 1) Auburn is stacked at the position on the current roster and few players are graduating and 2) Rodney Garner is a known closer on the recruiting trail.
I don’t expect the Tigers to add more than two at the position this fall, though it could jump to three if it’s the right three. This will likely get kicked off once the Auburn season starts to dwindle. Look at a guy like Derrick Brown. Garner always makes a late impression, which might be a reason to not completely rule out an elite-level prospect.
It’ll all start with Ryan Johnson from Mobile (Ala.), however. The 4-star defensive end like Auburn, and the Tigers like their chances. It’ll be a process that extends in to the new year.
Q: Tray Bishop has been at Georgia a lot lately. Should I worry?
—Sanders T., Gadsden (Ala.)
Auburn’s lone quarterback commitment, for the time being, in the 2017 class has been showing love elsewhere. Bishop, the 4-star athlete from Terrell County (Ga.), has been committed to Auburn since the summer. But he’s been in Athens for Georgia games more than Auburn for Auburn games this fall.
That’s, understandably, something to fret over.
Bishop hasn’t come out and said anything that would make you think he’s leaning Georgia. In fact, when the Tigers landed Britt on Monday, Bishop said he was thrilled to add the linebacker to his “family” when he was reached for comment. It’s one thing to say you like the addition. It’s another thing to refer your recruiting classmates as your family, if you’re considering going elsewhere.
I can never and will never blame recruits for exploring their options. Recruiting is a crazy business, and these kids are making nearly-impossible decisions that have everlasting effects on their futures. Bishop will likely continue to check out other places — Florida, Georgia and others.
But there’s no reason, right now, to believe he’ll play his college ball anywhere other than Auburn.
Q: What was it like talking with Charles Barkley at the Bruce Pearl golf outing?
—Joey F., Lawrenceville (Ga.)
For the final, non-recruiting question of the day takes us back to last week.
The marketing brilliance of Bruce Pearl brought Charles Barkley to Auburn for two reasons. One, Bo Jackson announced on the Jordan-Hare big screen that Barkley was getting his own statue outside Auburn arena. The second was to help fundraise for the annual Bruce Pearl golf tournament to help the basketball program.
At that event, a few media members got to catch up with Barkley about whatever it was Barkley wanted to talk about. Always a fun quote, he was having a lot of fun hanging out on the golf course before he flew out to Cleveland for the start of the NBA season.
But you don’t care what I have to say, when Charles Barkley is saying things. So let me just give you the three most memorable quotes from the chat.
On his statue: “I just hope it’s skinny. Don’t make it life-size. I hope they use a skinny picture, because there’s a bunch of fat pictures in my life. But I hope they find a skinny picture.”
On the current Auburn basketball team: “I think sometimes what people don’t understand is there’s a reason somebody got fired. The team wasn’t any good. So it takes time. Everybody thinks you can just come in and we’re going to start winning. No, we still got the s——y players the other coach (who) got fired had. So he’s finally got some players.”
On how he plans to vote: “It’s like last week, the big controversy — well, it wasn’t a big controversy to me — I said I’ve always voted Democratic, and I’m probably going to do it this time, but I’m having a real hard time voting for Hillary Clinton. There’s something about her that makes me uncomfortable, but I can’t vote for the other bozo. But I’m having a hard time because my vote — it’s a big deal to vote, but she makes me uncomfortable. Some people, like, went crazy.”