Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Thursday, and SEC Country clears up the Richard Jibunor confusion, previews some more bad news and looks ahead briefly to January.
Clearing up the Richard Jibunor confusion
It was supposed to be a drama-free early signing period. More or less, it was.
One interesting development took place Wednesday when SEC Country reported that Richard Jibunor said he wouldn’t sign Wednesday for unspecified reasons. He said he would just wait until he got back to school to sign paperwork around many of his classmates. Another source said Jibunor would “probably” sign by Friday after some confusion about the new early signing period, but that’s unlikely to happen at this time.
The latest is this: Jibunor plans to sign Feb. 7. That’s what Jibunor has been telling SEC Country since noon Wednesday.
While a few of my other sources have suggested Auburn will try to ink him up before then, it doesn’t appear that’s going to be the case. Jibunor had a few lengthy conversations with linebackers coach Travis Williams on Wednesday to clear up some of this. Jibunor was under the impression the early signing period ran longer than it did, and he could do it back in school without having to wait until February. That’s not the case — early period ends Friday — and Jibunor thinks it just makes more sense to wait.
A few alternative possibilities were floated to Jibunor, but the fact of the matter is this:
Jibunor has no plans to go to another program. Auburn is his choice, and he can’t make that more clear. The way he sees it? He’s going to sign with Auburn eventually — and isn’t an early enrollee — so it shouldn’t matter whether he does it on a Thursday in December or a Wednesday in February. He’d rather just do it in the setting he envisioned.
Jibunor made some of his sentiment known on Twitter late Wednesday night, yet another sign this is a logistical issue, not a loyalty one.
I love seeing these boys who commit to the other schools 🤣😂. Especially the OL's. Can't wait to open them up 💯💯💯. War Eagle 🦅 🐯 💯💯
— Richard Jibunor (@JibunorRichard) December 21, 2017
More bad news on the horizon?
When Gus Malzahn was asked Wednesday evening about the rest of the 2018 signing class, he didn’t hesitate with his initial response.
“I really feel like we need a big-time tight end,” Malzahn said.
That statement from Malzahn was by design.
Auburn’s biggest target throughout December — and, per the plan, in January — was 4-star tight end Luke Ford. Larry Porter made multiple visits to the Ford house in Illinois during the December contact period. The Tigers always knew it was going to be a battle against Georgia for the nation’s No. 2 tight end.
On Thursday morning, Ford dropped a surprise. He’s signing Thursday, which came as a surprise to many, including Auburn.
Stay Tuned 💬 Signing at Carterville High School at 3 pm ‼️‼️‼️
— L U K E F O R D™ (@lukeredx97) December 21, 2017
A source close to the situation confirmed they expect the choice to be Georgia, which adds a little extra salt to the wounds after the Bulldogs’ big day Wednesday. Luckily for Auburn, most of the rest of the southeast will feel the same way about Georgia’s unprecedented recruiting push.
Where do the Tigers turn at tight end? Based on Malzahn’s comments, it seems as though Auburn will still look for another impact tight end. Of the prospects who claim offers, only Ford and Tyneil Hopper remain uncommitted. It’s possible Auburn circles back around on a prospect such as Nathaniel Watson who is committed to Mississippi State, but didn’t use the early signing period.
Now what for Auburn?
With 15 prospects signed, there are 10 spots available to add in January and February.
Let’s add the four non-signees, by their own choosing, to the mix. That’s Richard Jibunor, Matthew Hill, Coynis Miller and Arryn Siposs. That brings Auburn to 19, which leaves room for six more prospects, one of whom could be commit Kolbi Fuqua who has to wait to sign for medical reasons.
These are the prospects who Auburn will recruit down the stretch.
- 4-star offensive tackle Richard Gouraige
- 4-star offensive tackle William Barnes
- 4-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere
- 4-star offensive guard Tank Jenkins
- 4-star offensive tackle Jalen Goss
- 4-star wide receiver Anthony Scwhartz
- 4-star wide receiver Justyn Ross
- 3-star athlete Nathaniel Watson
- 3-star tight end Tyneil Hopper
- 3-star defensive tackle Tramel Walthour
- 3-star defensive tackle Shannon Carswell
- 4-star defensive end Caleb Tannor
- 3-star defensive end Caleb Johnson
- 4-star linebacker Quay Walker
- 4-star linebacker JJ Peterson
- 3-star cornerback Benjie Franklin
- 3-star cornerback CD Daniels
- 4-star cornerback Kelvin Joseph
- 3-star athlete Cam Taylor
- 3-star cornerback Roger McCreary
More names could emerge, but the most likely five — assuming Fuqua sticks in the class — will come from this list of prospects, unless the Tigers identify a more elite-level tight end, which I’m hearing is possible.
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