Auburn will look to make three additions to the 2017 class Wednesday.
Tarik Black, Salvatore Cannella and CJ Avery all have their decision dates set. At one point this season, all three prospects got on Auburn’s campus for an official visit. They’ve all put Auburn in their respective top 3s. All three are early enrollees.
The chances of landing all three isn’t high. In fact, there’s probably a higher likelihood that the Tigers whiff on the entire trio. Nothing is a guarantee in recruiting. Monty Rice probably proved that best Monday when he selected LSU despite a 100 percent Crystal Ball projection to Georgia.
Check out all the latest Auburn recruiting intel on all three with predictions.
4-star WR Tarik Black, Cheshire Academy (Conn.)
Intel: Black took his official visit to Auburn on Sept. 10. Since then, he took an official visit to Alabama. Black also took his official visit to Michigan — the perceived favorite — for the season-opener on Sept. 3.
The Wolverines have been the projected favorite from the get-go, and Black hasn’t quieted those murmurs based on some of his public Michigan love. Alabama also was considered a front-runner at this point, but it is believed the Crimson Tide might not be pushing for the 6-foot-4 receiver as heavily as Auburn and Michigan who have both taken regular in-home visits.
The relationship with Auburn wide receivers coach Kodi Burns runs deep. Black has said Burns recruits him the hardest, and it’s uncontested. It’s a hour-to-hour interaction that’s more like a friendship than anything. And I’ve been told by a reliable source that Black was actually on campus in Auburn for the last weekend of the contact period. That would be something.
Also noteworthy: Black moved up his decision date. He originally indicated he would announce through a Bleacher Report video. He now will decide during a ceremony at his school. It’s not clear whether that adjustment has anything to do with his college choice.
Decision time: 12 p.m. CT/1 p.m. ET
Prediction: Everyone thinks it’s a done deal for Michigan — 96 percent of the Crystal Ball predictions point in the Wolverines’ favor. I hate to give non-predictions, but I have to do that here. Everything points to Michigan, but I trust my intel that Black visited campus last weekend. If that’s the case, it’s a conveniently-timed, awfully-secretive trip to the Plains. I wouldn’t rule out the Tigers like most of the industry has for a while. In fact, I might give them the 51-49 edge. It would be a surprise to the recruiting world, no doubt, but that’s been the theme of the week.
3-star tight end Salvatore Cannella, Scottsdale C.C.
Intel: The two late-movers are the leaders in the clubhouse. Maryland jumped out early, but the Terrapins have been caught by Auburn and Texas who both extended offers to the JUCO tight end in January.
Cannella took his two-day official visit to Auburn from Thursday to Saturday. He and his father were on campus for the visit, and the Tigers hit a home run. Cannella considered a commitment then and there, but he thought the trip to Austin, Texas, would be an eye-opener.
He was right. An excursion to the Longhorn Network studios and meetings with new Texas head coach Tom Herman helped the Longhorns continue their late push as well. It is neck-and-neck for the 6-foot-6 pass-catcher.
Decision time: 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET
Prediction: I think Auburn hits here, as well. The Tigers got a longer official visit than the Longhorns. That’s not always a good thing, but Cannella loved his trip to the Plains so it can only help. The relationship with Scott Fountain runs a little deeper than the relationship with Texas coaches, and we all know recruiting is a relationships business. I think, in a one-hour span, the Tigers will hit on two new weapons for Jarrett Stidham … I mean, whoever wins the starting job.
4-star safety CJ Avery, Grenada (Miss.)
Intel: Avery has it narrowed down to a final four, but I’ve been told Ole Miss isn’t nearly as big of a factor as Louisville, Mississippi State and Auburn. It’s really more of a top 3.
For a while, I’ve thought Avery to be a near-lock to Auburn. He never included the Tigers in a top version of his list until he narrowed it down to a final four, which was an Auburn expansion to an already-made top 3. That smelled like a late Tigers’ steal thanks to the family ties to Wesley McGriff.
Two key components changed that: Avery’s official visit to Louisville and his final in-home visit with the Cardinals. Bobby Petrino and Todd Grantham have put a strong end-of-cycle finish on Avery that has the Cardinals looking like the favorite going into the decision.
Auburn hasn’t gotten Avery on campus since the LSU game, so the in-town memories are much more stale compared to that of Louisville.
Decision time: 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET
Prediction: Despite being in my last two class projections, there is something more to this late Louisville push. The Cardinals showed Avery exactly what he wanted to see on his official visit on the last weekend of the regular season. Coaches have solidified that down the stretch. Avery chooses the Cardinals, and that’s a painful miss in addition to the de-commitment of safety Tray Bishop.
Speaking of Bishop…
The 4-star athlete de-committed from Auburn on Tuesday. We spoke at length shortly after the announcement, and here’s a quick rundown of his thought process.
I’ve said it for weeks, but with the Jarrett Stidham wait, it was often glossed over. I’ll say it again: Keeping Bishop might be more important than adding others. Despite originally committing as a quarterback, Bishop switched his plan to safety only. He’s Auburn top-ranked safety committed, and he’ll participate in the U.S. Army Bowl next month.
It’s going to be hard to retain Bishop at this point. Despite the initial reports saying Auburn was out of it, the Tigers will still get an official visit and Bishop told me Auburn still has a chance. With that said, it won’t be easy.
The in-state appeal is there for Georgia. The relationship with Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray will also be a major player. I repeat: Auburn needs to get Wesley McGriff more involved here. Bishop’s No. 1 factor is NFL development. McGriff is fresh off a stint as an NFL secondary coach.
Let’s play worst-case scenario for Auburn. Bishop never re-commits to Auburn. Avery selects Louisville. Both of those things look like realistic outcomes.
What does Auburn do? The Tigers have two safeties committed, but they’re both 3-star prospects. Not that any recruit is, but that diamond-in-the-rough prospects are certainly never a sure bet. That’s not meant to be a knock on Carlito Gonzalez and Jordyn Peters who I think could be gems in the 2017 class.
But Auburn quickly could go from the idea of having 4-5 safeties committed to 2. Bishop, gone. Avery, maybe following suit. All eyes would quickly turn to elite safety target Devon Hunter who is believed to be a Virginia Tech lean.
The Tigers would need a splash landing there.