Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. In this edition, we update the busy summer ahead for Auburn defensive target Richard Jibunor. Also, who did Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand go see Thursday?
Richard Jibunor explains why Auburn is different
ATHENS, Ga. — Richard Jibunor will be the first to admit his naïveté when it comes to college football recruiting.
“For real, I don’t really understand it,” Jibunor joked with SEC Country. “Naturally, I love almost every school recruiting me.”
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound athlete from Athens Christian (Ga.) picked up football his sophomore season, a year after arriving at the school as a foreign exchange student from Nigeria. It didn’t take long for Jibunor to excel in the sport, and likewise, for college coaches to recognize the fast-rising prospect has a clear future as a college football player and beyond.
The recruiting process has been a delight for Jibunor. He has an uncanny ability to be positive about literally everything, especially with his many opportunities to play college football. Jibunor embraces all of these outstanding Division I options that have surfaced over the last year and a half.
But now comes the hard part. He has to differentiate one top-notch program from 15 other schools of the same caliber.
As someone who hasn’t grown up understanding college-by-college culture and history, Jibunor has relied on his own Internet researching, phone contact with coaches and campus visits to get a complete comprehension of each of the universities. It hasn’t always been easy to separate one from another.
Auburn has been one of the only programs to stand out — and remain ever-present — in Jibunor’s mind during the process.
“The Auburn coaches talk to me the same way that most of the other people do. But the thing is, some coaches speak up now that they’ve seen me this spring and compete against some of the top guys. Some coaches spoke up at the time and then slowed down. But Auburn has been with me since the day they offered me last summer,” Jibunor said. “They’ve just always been the same.”
Jibunor attended an Auburn camp last summer. At that moment, Kevin Steele, Travis Williams and Rodney Garner all decided they wanted Jibunor on the Tigers. They weren’t even, and still aren’t, 100 percent certain what position he’ll play, but they know they want Jibunor on their side.
His Auburn recruitment really began at that moment.
Since Auburn offered, the Tigers have remained a constant in Jibunor’s primary interests. He’s never named top schools specifically, but when he arrives at an official top 10 in the next week or so, Auburn will be a cornerstone of that list. Auburn’s dedication to Jibunor’s recruitment has made the Tigers one of the teams to beat.
When Jibunor was name defensive line MVP at the Nike Opening regional in Atlanta, who was the first coach to call and congratulate him? Garner. When coaches were permitted to come by during the evaluation period, who were some of the first coaches he heard from? Steele, Williams and Garner.
Jibunor hasn’t been oblivious to Auburn’s staff-wide effort.
“Coach ‘T-Will,’ he was at my school last week. Coach Steele was at my school this morning. Coach Garner talks to me a lot. They’re planning on visiting again this week. They said they want me. Auburn has never changed on anything with me,” Jibunor said. “Since the first day they offered me, they’ve been 100 percent on me and nothing has changed. We talk the same way, always have fun. Sometimes we never talk football. I like my relationship with them.”
Richard Jibunor visits planned this summer
Jibunor knows he needs to gather more information before making a decision.
That’s what the next few weeks will entail.
The 3-star athlete finishes exams next week. Then there’s a month-or-so break before Athens Christian resumes with summer workout routines. He wants to use that time to visit as many programs as possible and close in on a final decision, which he hopes to have finalized before his senior season.
“I’m just going to travel around. I don’t care how far the school is. I just want to go everywhere I want to go,” Jibunor said. “By the grace of God, I’ll have a decision as soon as I’m done with those trips.”
The schools in contention for first-time visits: Alabama, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse and Utah.
Alabama and Georgia Tech are almost guarantees. He has those lined up in the near future and both are programs that could become immediate factors. The Crimson Tide have been working to get Jibunor on campus for months now, so that’s definitely a visit to track.
There also are three SEC programs — Auburn, Tennessee and South Carolina — Jibunor expects to return to this summer, using his patented “by the grace of God” pretext to describe it.
“I’ll be very busy because this will be a very big decision for me. But I don’t want to be the type to commit and de-commit,” Jibunor said. “I want to be true to a school. I’ve been praying hard. When I take all my visits, whatever my mind picks, no matter which school, I’ll go with it.”
Another offensive lineman to watch
Here’s a quick bullet-point list of uncommitted offensive linemen Auburn has seen during the evaluation period.
- William Barnes
- Richard Gouraige
- Jalil Irvin
- Kameron Stutts
- Dylan Wonnum
- Qadir White
- John Campbell
- Jerome Carvin
- Trey Hill
- Tank Jenkins
And, based on the vigor Herb Hand has shown as a recruiter, that probably doesn’t even scratch the surface of the secondary, tertiary and future offensive line options Auburn has visited during the spring evaluation period. Many of those on the list are top-100 options and almost all of them fit into the top 20 nationally among their specific position group.
Let’s add another top-tier name to the list: Nicholas Petit-Frere from Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla.
Coaches from Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, Miami, UNC, Ohio State and Oregon here at the spring game of top-100 OT Nicholas Petit-Frere.
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) May 18, 2017
Petit-Frere is the No. 5 offensive tackle in the nation, which puts him in the No. 55 spot among overall prospects. He holds offers from Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and 20 others. Hand attended Petit-Frere’s spring game on Thursday night, and he’ll likely stay in Tampa overnight for Gouraige’s spring game on Friday.
Auburn plans to add 2-3 more offensive linemen in the class, and the Tigers are loaded with options.
Miss an edition? Find the previous SEC Country Auburn Tigers recruiting notebooks right here.