Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn beat writer Benjamin Wolk. Today, we set the stage for Auburn’s final official visit weekend, which includes four prospects who could realistically end up in the Class of 2017.
Don’t shed tears now. It isn’t over yet.
The 2017 recruiting cycle has one official visit weekend visit left before National Signing Day. The Tigers stand at 19 commitments after the latest Octavius Matthews news from Thursday. That means Auburn has room to add six more to the class. If it’s going to fill all six, the Tigers will have to make some unexpected moves because there aren’t six known, notable targets outside of the official visitors this weekend, Ryan Johnson and Tyler Taylor.
That’s not to say they aren’t there. It just means Gus Malzahn — as he did with the OC search — didn’t allow much concrete information to leave his Auburn confines. The main expected additions come from the list of official visitors and the other two aforementioned defensive targets.
There will be a 4-person official visitor group this weekend. Three of those are uncommitted prospects. One is committed to Louisville. Could Auburn end up with all four in the class? It’s not out of the question, but it’s not probable.
Here’s a look at the latest on those official visits.
Undecided prospects on an official visit
—4-star DE/LB Markaviest Bryant (Crisp Co. High School/Cordele, Ga.)
National ranking: No. 4 WDE and No. 181 overall
Also considering: Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas
The skinny: Bryant has been Auburn’s top option at Buck defensive end for quite some time. “Big Cat” is quite familiar with Auburn and its campus. He lives two hours away, has taken a handful of unofficial visits and is cousins with Auburn graduate Montravius Adams. Georgia has been the perceived favorite to land Bryant for a while because of the in-state pull. Bryant officially visited Athens to start the month. LSU’s push has been late, but massive. He went to Baton Rouge a week ago, which led a source close to Bryant to say people should get ready to “expect a surprise.”
Auburn has the last official visit, however, and that matters. It’s expected several staffs will make face-to-face contact with Bryant following his OV to the Plains, but Auburn will be included in that too. According to people close to Bryant, the Tigers have been one of the favorites since the end of summer — even at times Bryant was leaving them out of his top 6 in the fall.
This will likely be a National Signing Day decision. The fact he hasn’t publicly announced a decision is a good sign for the last suitor. That’s Auburn.
—3-star OL Matthew Tanner (Eastern Arizona College/Jacksonville, Fla.)
National ranking: No. 4 OG and No. 142 overall (JUCO rankings)
Also considering: Mississippi State, Georgia State and UAB
The skinny: Auburn’s evaluation of un-offered, uncommitted offensive lineman has been months in the making. Essentially, since Jordan Agasiva eliminated the Tigers, Auburn has been in search of the right candidate to be the fourth O-lineman in the class. Kai-Leon Herbert flipped to Miami instead of Auburn, so there needed to be a new plan in place. New offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and O-line coach Herb Hand visited Tanner early in the week. They offered him the next day.
The late offer puts Auburn in a conversation with Mississippi State, Georgia State and UAB, but there is no question who the favorite is. Tanner said he will “most likely” be a Tiger by the end of his official visit, giving it a “99 percent” chance. I’m more of a words guy than a numbers guy, but that seems quite favorable for Auburn.
With spots to fill in the 2017 class, I wouldn’t completely rule out another offensive lineman add in the class — even though, subjectively, I think it’s unnecessary. With that said, expect Tanner to be the fourth.
—3-star TE John Samuel Shenker (Colquitt Co. High School/Moultrie, Ga.)
National ranking: No. 95 TE and No. 1,870 overall
Also considering: Wake Forest, Western Kentucky and FAU
The skinny: In the first few days as OC, Chip Lindsey set the tone from an offensive personnel standpoint. His first offer went to tight end John Samuel Shenker from southeast Georgia who previously communicated with the Auburn staff, but Lindsey’s relationship and immediate offer were a whole new form of communication.
For some context: Lindsey has a close relationship with Shenker’s high school head coach Rush Propst. Lindsey was once Propst’s offensive coordinator at Hoover High School. That explains why Auburn would, somewhat randomly, chase the 95th-ranked tight end in the country in favor of the No. 4 fullback for the H-back spot. Lindsey has a trust factor there, and there is an offensive familiarity.
On top of that, Shenker is conveniently a former Auburn baseball commit who de-committed to pursue a football career. Well, here it is. At the same school. That all adds up to a commitment, which like Tanner, will likely come by Sunday.
Louisville commit on an official visits
—3-star TE Kemari Averett (Grady High School/Atlanta, Ga.)
National ranking: No. 25 TE and No. 624 overall
Committed since: June 3, 2016
The skinny: Here’s the newest member to the list of attendees — one that wasn’t sure he’d make it to Auburn.
Averett has been committed to Louisville since the summer. I’ve been told any wavering on his commitment has been stabilized for the time being, but an official visit on the last weekend of the recruiting cycle is, well, an official visit on the last weekend of the recruiting cycle. It’s going to raise some eyebrows, no matter what.
It also shows Auburn’s desire to load up on tight ends. Salvatore Cannella is already in the class. Shenker is a likely candidate to be in it by the end of the weekend. It isn’t a guarantee Auburn would want to take all three, but bringing Shenker and Averett in the final weekend can be perceived as an evaluation opportunity or a desire to secure depth at tight end and H-back, which was desperately lacked in 2016.
Averett’s cousin Corey Reed is a Louisville wide receiver commit who happened to be Auburn early enrollee Malik Willis’ top receiver at Roswell High (Ga.).
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