With the 2016 recruiting cycle at a close, Auburn has quickly shifted its focus to addressing a few key positions in 2017.
Despite signing a fourth consecutive top-10 class under Gus Malzahn, the Tigers will need to address several positions.
Auburn has already landed three verbal commitments so far in five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley, four-star athlete Alaric Williams and three-star safety Carlito Gonzalez. Given the program’s standing with several other recruits, Malzahn and his coaching staff could build on their success from February.
Here are some questions about key Tigers topics in our weekly Auburn recruiting mailbag.
Is Joey Gatewood going to hurt us from signing other quarterbacks this year?
Four-star quarterback Joey Gatewood is certainly going to anchor the 2018 class, but I don’t foresee Auburn having any issues signing a quarterback in 2017. The issue is who is left available in this year’s recruiting cycle. Targets Jake Bentley and N’Kosi Perry have already made their commitments and Auburn’s list of viable quarterbacks is shrinking. At this point, four-star quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Lowell Narcisse appear to be the program’s top remaining targets. It’ll be tough for Auburn to pull Narcisse away from LSU, a school the dual-threat passer has gravitated towards as of late. Mond is already committed to Baylor, but that won’t keep the Tigers from pressing him.
Who do you think is going to commit next?
I would guess three-star linebacker Chandler Wooten, four-star linebacker Tadarian Moultry and four-star athlete Malcolm Askew are on deck. Wooten told SEC Country he’ll be making his decision ‘within the next month,’ and he’ll likely decide between Tennessee and Auburn. Moultry, too, is nearing a decision. I think the Tigers are the team to beat, but Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama are serious contenders. However, I do think the Bulldogs will fight it out. As for Askew, he seems to be the sure-fire next prospect to sign. He told SEC Country the gap between Auburn and other programs is only widening and he even hinted at announcing his decision soon.
What’s our biggest need next year? Offensive line?
You can’t point to just one position group. Auburn needs help everywhere, even at defensive line. However, if I had to choose two positions, it would be linebacker and offensive line. The Tigers signed just one linebacker in 2016, three-star prospect Tre Threat, and have since made the position a priority. Auburn is in good standing with several marquee prospects and will aim to sign four or five in 2017. On the flip side, new position coach Herb Hand has done an excellent job with a few offensive linemen. The Tigers are in the hunt for four-star prospects Kendall Randolph and Austin Troxell and have already picked up a commitment from five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley.
Which kids from 2016 are going to see the field early?
I could certainly see Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, John Franklin III, Malik Miller and Paul James (when healthy) getting reps early in the season. Davidson has shown elite quickness during spring practice and he could see ample playing time come Week 1. Brown, a former five-star defensive tackle, has plug-in potential. Given Auburn’s quarterback situation, Franklin III could emerge as the starter. Miller, an early enrollee, has played particularly well at a position that needs depth after Peyton Barber left for the NFL, and James is slowly being nursed back to health. A junior college transfer, I expect James to perform early.