We’re back with another recruiting mailbag.
With loss to Georgia, it’s officially time to begin turning your full attention to recruiting season. Sure, there’s still an Iron Bowl to play for and some bowl-season bragging rights, but — don’t kid yourself — it’s time to start thinking 2017 recruiting class. Auburn still has 10 or so spots to fill in this class, so there is a lot of work left to be done, which means you have a lot of free recruiting reading left to do on SEC Country.
The mailbag comes to you every two weeks, though it might pick up to a weekly thing as Signing Day approaches. We’ll pay it by ear. Once again, got some great questions and some not-so-great questions. I won’t tell you which type I publish. You can decide that for yourself.
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Q: We have had top 10 recruiting teams for years, yet can’t manage to stay in the top 10. Why is that? Teams should be able to live up to the hype.
—Justin S., Auburn (Ala.)
Just a quick fact check of the initial statement, here’s the Auburn national class rankings from 2010 to 2016: 6th, 5th, 11th, 10th, 6th, 8th, 9th. That’s an average of 7.85, which is a bonafide top-10 average. I used that timeframe because recruits from 2010 were on track to be seniors when Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee arrived in 2013.
But the national average doesn’t do the real recruiting story justice. Let’s look at the conference rankings. Here are the list of just SEC teams ahead of Auburn, in that same timeframe:
- 2010 — Florida, Alabama
- 2011 — Alabama
- 2012 — Alabama, Florida, Georgia
- 2013 — Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
- 2014 — Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M
- 2015 — Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU
- 2016 — Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia
Now there’s a lot of information to dissect in that seven-year span, but the most important should be that Auburn hasn’t even been the top-ranked recruiting class in its own division. That’s the price you pay for being the in-state, in-conference, in-division foe of Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
But even more interesting, to me at least, is that — since 2013, the best Auburn has been in the SEC West is third. Even that only happened once. In fact, from 2010 to 2012, the Tigers were theoretically only playing behind the talent level of Alabama within the division, which somewhat helps interpret the run to the top of the SEC in 2013 before a quick downturn. The Tigers have been the fourth-best or fifth-best just in the SEC West on multiple occasions.
That’s why recruiting is a double-edged sword. Recruit well, but don’t have anything to show for it? People will say you’re not developing talent. Put it into perspective and realize your peers are out-performing you? People will say you’re not a good enough recruiter to bring in top-end talent. Coaches are in an unenviable position, in that regard.
To roundabout answer the question, you could make a semi-bogus argument that Auburn is actually doing better than you should expect them to do based on recruiting expectations. The Tigers are rarely finishing below third in the SEC West, yet they’re often below that threshold when it comes to recruiting rankings.
Q: Any new on Alaric Williams? I heard he was having academic issues?
—Colby M., Gadsden (Ala.)
This will be a fluid process, depending on how Williams finishes out his last two semesters. I have no reason to believe there will be any issues. Williams is a bright young man, who like many high school students, lagged out to slow start during freshman and sophomore years.
He’s working to get the grades he needs to qualify, but he has said that shouldn’t be an issue as long as he remains on the track he’s been on. He’s still waiting to get his ACT scores, but Williams fully expects to meet those requirements.
I wouldn’t expect this to become an issue, but if it does, that probably won’t be known until — at the earliest — the start of next semester.
Q: Do you think we get a wide receiver in this class? We need big, tall receivers.
—Matthew D., Odenville (Ala.)
Without question. It’s just a matter of who and how many.
The wide receiver count for the 2017 class remains as zero, but the options are beginning to grow — and dominoes are soon to fall.
Brandon Martin remains the only wide receiver to ever be a part of the 2017 class. He committed and de-committed in a one-week stretch over the summer. Martin’s season at Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. is complete, and he’s now beginning the official visit portion of his decision-making process. He OVed to Arkansas already and will official to Louisville, as well. Auburn and LSU are also major factors.
Noah Igbinoghene is a 3-star receiver from the state of Alabama who picked up his Auburn offer while he attended the Vanderbilt game. This offer changed the entire complexion of Igbinoghene’s recruitment. Once looking at Duke and Notre Dame, Auburn has made itself a serious contender for the wide receiver despite the late attention.
There are still people on Auburn’s end that feel the Tigers have a chance with Jeremiah Holloman, but certainly seems to be trending elsewhere. Tarik Black officially visited Auburn earlier in the season, and he’s a potential land, but that would fall into the surprise category, too. Auburn doesn’t have a major need at the position — only losing Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens, among contributors — but the Tigers like two add roughly three per class.
Martin and Igbinoghene, both 6-foot-plus guys, fall into your “big, tall receivers request” and are probably the best bets at this point. More names will emerge once the Holloman and Black decision come, or if their intentions are clear enough that Auburn can put its focus on other prospects.
Q: I know I’ve seen a lot about them, but what do you really think of the Auburn will be getting in Moultry, Britt and Wooten?
—Todd C., Athens (Ala.)
If you’re an Auburn fan, you should stand up out of your chair, couch, desk, bed, or wherever you’re reading this and give Travis Williams and Kevin Steele a standing ovation.
These two have been on board for less than a year now, and they’ve made a killing recruiting linebackers. Steele specialize in linebackers, and Williams — the former Tigers linebacker — has shown his uncanny ability to communicate with and inspire linebacker recruits. Steele and Williams, both high-character guys, have also found some off-the-field gems.
Tadarian Moultry, KJ Britt and Chandler Wooten are all high-class football players and high-class young men. It might sound cliché, but it’s fact.
As for on-field talent, Auburn is right up there will Alabama and Georgia. What the Crimson Tide has been able to do in terms of scoring top-rated linebackers is unprecedented. Three of the top five are all headed to Alabama. But the Tigers are getting some of the best options available among the players from Auburn typical recruiting hotbed — Alabama and Georgia.
Moultry is the No. 5 overall player in the state of Alabama, and that’s an underestimate. Britt is the No. 36 overall linebacker in the nation, which is a disaster. Throw some respect on his name. Wooten is a 3-star, somehow. I feel like there is no better position group for someone to play with a so-called chip on their shoulder than linebacker.
Auburn is getting at least three that will very much have that.
Q: Could Bama beat the Browns?
—Andrew C., Charlotte (N.C.)
Butttttttt, if you gave Nick Saban a month to prepare, he might just be crazy enough to make it close.