Auburn’s sprint to National Signing Day begins now.
The contact period has begun, which means the Tigers will host several top targets on official visits and will make trips to see several prospects. It all kicks off this weekend when Auburn hosts 14 prospects on official visits. The Tigers signed 15 during the early signing period and have another six committed, but unsigned. Expect at least five of those committed but unsigned targets to sign on National Signing Day.
That means there are only roughly five spots to fill in the 2018 class. Here are the top targets Auburn will go after, in no particular order, and where things stand with each.
Harold Joiner, 4-star RB (Birmingham, Ala.)
Auburn already has two running backs signed in the Class of 2018. Now the time has come to decide whether it will take a third. The Tigers have a few options to join Asa Martin and Shaun Shivers, but Harold Joiner likely sits atop that list.
The 4-star running back is the highest-ranked uncommitted running back in the nation. Joiner ranks as the No. 6 running back nationally, according to the 247Sports composite. His recruitment has been all over the place in recent weeks because of a communication mishap with LSU that eliminated those Tigers from the equation.
Joiner will be the first of two running backs — Kavosiey Smoke is the other — who will take official visits to the Plains in January. He’ll be at Auburn for an official visit from Friday to Sunday.
Dylan Wonnum, 4-star OT (Tucker, Ga.)
Dylan Wonnum will be the first of three elite offensive tackles who plan to visit Auburn in January.
Wonnum’s visit will take place this weekend from Friday to Sunday. He has plenty of experience on the Plains. Wonnum has been a regular visitor to Auburn throughout his junior and senior years. His most recent stay came for the Iron Bowl.
It’s not a coincidence Michael Harris and Jalil Irvin, despite already signing, will take their official visits the same weekend as Wonnum. Harris plays on the same high school team as Wonnum. Irvin grew up with Wonnum in the Stone Mountain, Ga., area. Those two Auburn signees will be called upon to assist the coaching staff in persuading Wonnum.
South Carolina is the biggest threat to Auburn here. Wonnum’s older brother plays for the Gamecocks.
Richard Gouraige, 4-star OT (Tampa, Fla.)
Richard Gouraige showed signs of a wavering a Florida commitment at the Iron Bowl. The Gators hadn’t hired Dan Mullen at that point, so Gouraige didn’t have much information to form a decision on. He now has that information, and it looks more and more like Gouraige won’t stick with Florida.
There are two schools to keep an eye on: Auburn and Clemson.
Gouraige will take an official visit to Clemson this weekend. When he made his Florida commitment, Clemson was the other program in the mix for the 4-star offensive tackle. Gouraige will take his official visit to Auburn next weekend on Jan. 19.
Those two official visits will likely be what determines Gouraige’s ultimate decision. One element of the conversation is undeniable. Auburn is in much more desperate need of immediate impact offensive tackles, and that could be the difference maker.
William Barnes, 4-star OT (Apopka, Fla.)
William Barnes fills out the trio of desired offensive tackles.
Barnes will use the last official visit weekend to make a trip to Auburn on Feb. 2. He hasn’t been to Auburn much in the last year. In fact, he didn’t visit Auburn the entire 2017 calendar year. But Auburn’s need for an offensive tackle and Herb Hand’s persistence led to earning the Tigers the visit. Since they’ll have the last official visit, nothing can be ruled out.
For now, North Carolina is probably the team to beat. That’s where Barnes will take his visit this weekend. He’ll also take an official visit to Ole Miss the following weekend. It’s possible Florida or Florida State work their way in for an official visit as well, but those haven’t been set in stone yet.
Barnes would be a nice top-100 piece to add to the class.
Justyn Ross, 4-star WR (Phenix City, Ala.)
The time has finally come for Justyn Ross to make a decision.
Alabama’s top-ranked prospect has always known it would be a National Signing Day decision. For that reason, he hasn’t been the center of attention so far in the 2018 class. That’s about to change with Auburn, Alabama and Clemson all pushing mightily for his commitment.
Ross hasn’t ever come out and labeled any program as his leader. Clemson has been the perceived team to beat for a few months, but the top prospect in Alabama rarely leaves the state. The national champion Crimson Tide will make their push despite his area recruiter Derrick Ansley leaving for the Oakland Raiders.
Meanwhile, Auburn will try to put a bow tie on one of the more impressive wide receiver recruiting hauls in recent memory.
Quay Walker, 4-star LB (Cordele, Ga.)
Can Auburn pull off the flip of the Alabama commit?
Well, the Tigers coaching staff won’t be the only one trying to make that happen. Georgia, Florida and Tennessee will be in the mix, too. Walker’s recruitment will be one of the Southeast’s most interesting to follow leading up to National Signing Day.
Recruits don’t flip from Alabama often, especially when the team just won a national championship. But there are a few external factors at play in this one. Both of his primary recruiters at Alabama — Jeremy Pruitt and Ansley — have taken new jobs elsewhere.
In Auburn’s case, the Tigers will try to use the pull of his relationships with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and linebackers coach Travis Williams. They’ll also hope his high school teammate relationship with Markaviest “Big Kat” Bryant pays dividends.
Matt Alaimo, 3-star TE (Montvale, N.J.)
Matt Alaimo is the tight end target who entered the picture after Auburn missed on Georgia signee Luke Ford. Alaimo will take his official visit to the Plains this weekend, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him leave as an Auburn commit.
The Tigers are clearly in search of a pass-catching tight end. Alaimo fits that need. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end was once committed to Pittsburgh, but he de-committed just before the early signing period. It’s not a coincidence Auburn swooped in during that early signing period to offer.
One program that could keep Auburn from landing his commitment this weekend is Texas A&M.
The Aggies have also offered recently since Jimbo Fisher took over as coach. It’s possible Alaimo wants to take an official visit there before making his final decision. But if Auburn coaches are convincing enough, he’ll be a Tigers commit by the end of the weekend.
Joe Foucha, 3-star DB (New Orleans, La.)
Joe Foucha has called Auburn his leader even when it didn’t seem like the Tigers were in the market for more defensive backs. LSU will also make a push, if spots allow, in January, so keep an eye on the in-state school as well.
Auburn will look at a few defensive backs options in January and February. Foucha will certainly be a part of that conversation.
He has an official visit set up to the Plains on Jan. 19. As Auburn narrows in on other safety-corner hybrid types, Foucha will be one to watch as well. He attended Auburn for the Iron Bowl, and his reaction following that game made it clear he’d love to suit up for the Tigers in the future.
His official visit later this month will say a lot about Auburn’s defensive back plans.