It’s that time of week when the readers give great recruiting questions, and I return the favor with mediocre answers.
For those that would like to contribute (you know you do), here are the ways you can reach me to submit a question:
The more creative — or commentary-based — the question is, the more likely it is to get into the mailbag. Since it’s a bye week, and I’m out on the recruiting trail right now, this will be shorter than the previous versions, which you can check out here and here.
Let the interrogation begin with a question regarding Tuesday notebook subject JaTarvious Whitlow, an under-the-radar prospect on Auburn’s board.
Q: I really don’t know don’t know where I’d put him on the field, or even what side of the ball, but even with the lesser competition he has something D1 coaches want. Where do you think he would play and why don’t other teams offer him?
—Lyle C., Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Well, for starters, I almost 100 percent agree with your pre-question commentary on Whitlow.
For those that didn’t read (go click the link above and come back), Whitlow is on the verge of breaking into the top 10 for touchdowns accounted for in Alabama state history. He is a quarterback on his high school team, but with his 4.43 speed, mature self-confidence and special ability to evade tacklers he could really play any skill position on the offense — running back, wide receiver, maybe even quarterback in Auburn’s offense (with some instruction).
I know many people in today’s game like the specialization of athletes to a particular sport. I personally value dual-sport high school athletes much higher because I think it’s a testament to their multi-purpose athletic ability. Whitlow isn’t just a good basketball player; he’s a great one. Add a few inches and the top Division I basketball programs might even be calling him.
Despite playing 2A ball in Alabama, Whitlow should be put in the same category as top-classification guys. I think by the end of his recruitment, he will be.
If he were to go to Auburn, he’d probably play safety. But I think offensive staff members would be wise to see if there would be holes for him to play early on the offensive side. He’s a gifted player with the ball in his hands, and he’s dangerous if you give him even the smallest bits of space.
As for other teams, the offers will come as the recruiting process unfolds — that’s my personal believe. Tulane added his sixth offer on Tuesday afternoon, but the Power 5 teams will join the parade soon enough. As his head coach told me, if his LaFayette High School team makes it to the state championship in Jordan-Hare Stadium, there will be plenty of college coaches there that will learn immediately.
The fact that Auburn already has him hooked a little will play to the Tigers advantage should they choose to try to reel him in.
Q: As a fan, I look at our 2017 class and want to know how it’s going to wrap up. But I also look at a bunch of other SEC teams and see the great classes they already have in 2018 too. Shouldn’t we already be doing that too?
—Zach T., Mobile (Ala.)
The 2017 class is far from over. But, yes, the work on the 2018 class is well underway.
Many of the game attendees this season have been those from the junior class. Auburn was sort of in a weird spot to start the season where a lot of recruits — from the 2017 and 2018 classes — were waiting to see what the Tigers were all about. How would they look to start the year? How would they progress? Would Gus Malzahn’s job security be stable?
To some extent, those questions have been answered.
For other programs that you’re referring to, some of those questions weren’t there. Alabama is Alabama. Tennessee has been on the come-up for a while, and the Vols have finally shown up on the field. Georgia won’t be judged on the field in Year 1 of Kirby Smart and recruits like the first-year head coach.
Auburn was more in a position where it had to prove itself. And the Tigers are certainly starting to do so. While it’s a small class, Auburn should like what it has from the two commitments in 2018 so far.
Joey Gatewood is exactly what Auburn wants in a quarterback. He’s a dual-threat that can do multiple things on the football field. A quarterback is always a solid base to a class. After that, there’s Daquan Newkirk, who Auburn fans will like because of his loyalty. Grade issues kept him from signing with Auburn’s 2016 class like he intended. Newkirk is still committed to Auburn, but that will have to wait until after two years at JUCO.
Now that the Tigers are starting to show they are contenders on the field — with maybe the two best losses in the country — recruits that want to get the decision out of the way might start leaning that way. But don’t let the success of the other programs worry you. Auburn will take its time making sure it gets the guys it wants.