Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. In this edition, we recap the five biggest storylines from the five biggest Auburn targets during The Opening.
5-star QB Justin Fields
Nothing earth-shattering surfaced, but everyone learned a few things about Justin Fields.
He may end up ranked the top QB in the country. He may end up ranked the top prospect in the country. He orchestrated impressive game-winning drives that ultimately helped him capture the Elite II MVP and Opening MVP.
But everyone who has watched Fields to this point had an inkling he could do all of those things. There is much less certainty where he’ll commit.
Fields confirmed two major visits in the coming weeks. He will make his first overnight visit to Auburn on July 13. He’ll visit Georgia on July 16. SEC Country has been told those two visits will have a significant influence on whether Fields decides in July or deeper into the football season.
The information I’ve gathered suggests that, if Fields were to wait well past those visits, it would be positive news for Auburn. The longer he waits, the more likely Georgia is to be eliminated from the race. But if he decides soon, that could be trouble for the Tigers and likely positive news for the Bulldogs.
Also, don’t rule out Florida State here. Auburn and Georgia both consider Florida State to be the biggest threat. Florida, once the favorite, appears to have taken a back seat to the other three programs.
Auburn is very much in this, even though Florida State and Georgia have received slightly more national coverage regarding Fields.
4-star WR Justyn Ross
Justyn Ross opened up to reporters slightly more than usual, which meant we were able to gather a few extra tidbits.
He’s been leaning toward a certain school for a little while, but there is reason to believe it’s any of the three main programs he talks about — Auburn, Alabama and Clemson. Ross also said it was Auburn and Clemson, not Alabama, that was recruiting him the hardest. That’s a change of pace from earlier in the spring.
As for performance, Ross flashed a few highlight-reel plays, including a couple one-handed catches. I’m not sure it was enough to secure a full-time fifth star, but there’s no disputing Ross is one of the five best wide receivers in the nation.
Ross hasn’t altered his decision timeline. It’s still expected to happen later into the season. That’s more positive news for Auburn. The Tigers already sit in great position — and I’ve been given reason to believe Auburn is his implied leader — but a successful passing game this fall would be the confirmation Ross needs to choose the Tigers.
4-star RB Harold Joiner
Harold Joiner managed to clear up some of the confusion about him entering the event.
LSU and Georgia are, in fact, out due to their recent flurry of running back commits. That created a reshuffled list of Alabama, Auburn, UCLA, USC, Texas and Michigan State. He said Michigan State is his leader, but he hasn’t visited there, nor has he gone to UCLA, USC or Texas. That’s why I view Alabama and Auburn as the only expected destinations on that list, and the Crimson Tide don’t appear to be eager to take him.
Auburn has altered its stance with him, however.
Gus Malzahn personally called Joiner prior to the start of the dead period. Malzahn told Joiner he wants him in Auburn’s class as a running back who could also play some wide receiver. Joiner is OK with that pitch. Malzahn also wants Joiner to visit Auburn for the mid-July picnic so he can have some 1-on-1 time with Joiner and his father.
If Joiner makes that visit, which I expect him to do, then Auburn could quickly become the team to beat. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see him commit before the summer ends.
He also shined in a specific drill during The Opening. In the cat-and-mouse drill, a running back with a ball is tasked with running head on with a defensive player attempting to tag the running back. Joiner went untouched the event for most of the weekend, showcasing his rare athleticism.
4-star OG Tank Jenkins
Tank Jenkins didn’t make the trip out to Oregon for The Opening, citing a sickness.
I haven’t been able to gather much information here, but it certainly comes as a surprise. I spoke with Jenkins the Thursday before he was scheduled to fly out, and he told me how excited he was to get to the camp and impress in a similar way to what he did when he won OL MVP at the Charlotte regional.
When it gets to decision time for Jenkins, I think two schools remain in contention: Auburn and Missouri.
Missouri has the pull of his cousin and close friend James Foster, who committed to play quarterback there earlier this fall. Auburn has been a school after Jenkins for a while, and he visited within the last month.
Jenkins told SEC Country his decision, once set for midsummer, will likely drag into the football season. He may even wait until after the season to decide.
4-star LB Channing Tindall
Channing Tindall, much like the Atlanta regional, became the star of the show at The Opening.
Several people left the event saying Tindall was clearly the best linebacker in attendance. Granted, this all happened without pads, but Tindall has had one of the fastest rises of any prospect this spring.
On the recruiting front, Auburn received some more good news when Tindall said South Carolina is no longer is surefire No. 1 school. Auburn leveled up with the Gamecocks. In some less positive news, Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame have also worked their way into a five-way tie atop Tindall’s leaderboard.
The main thing to track with Tindall going forward: Does he come camp with Auburn coaches?
He said he hopes to get back to Auburn for some 1-on-1 time with Travis Williams and Kevin Steele. There will be a camp opportunity on July 14 and July 21. If Tindall returns to the Plains for either of those, it’ll be a good indication where Auburn stands with him.