Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. In this edition, we look at the latest on Auburn’s status with linebacker target Zakoby McClain. In-state offensive lineman Tank Jenkins visited this weekend. Quarterback commit Joey Gatewood will be on campus until Tuesday.
Is 4-star LB Zakoby McClain on commit watch?
HOOVER, Ala. — When Zakoby McClain last visited Auburn, he didn’t hide his feelings for the school and its football program.
“Auburn done took No. 1,” McClain said at the time. “[The Tigers’ lead] is kind of big.”
That was all the way back on April 1.
Since then, McClain has added three new Power 5 offers from Ole Miss, Michigan State and Oregon and included them on a top-10 list with Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, West Virginia, South Carolina, Nebraska and Tulane.
As for McClain’s sentiments, however, little has changed.
“Auburn’s still at the top,” McClain told SEC Country.
The 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker from Valdosta (Ga.) hears from Auburn on a weekly basis, and despite other solid linebackers in the class, McClain is certainly an immediate take for the Tigers. West Virginia communicates with McClain on close to the same level as Auburn. Tennessee and LSU aren’t too far behind that, which is why those three schools make up the pack behind Auburn.
But the Tigers’ separation has little to do with the quantity of his conversations with the staff and more to do with the quality of it with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams.
“They’re not doing anything different [than other schools]. It just comes down to mine and coach T-Will’s relationship. He’s like a father figure to me. We already know each other and all that stuff,” McClain said. “His message is always just to work hard in everything you do and be a leader on the team.”
Does McClain have a relationship with any other coaches that comes close to what he has with Williams?
“No, not at all,” he said.
McClain said he will “hopefully” make it to Auburn’s cookout on Saturday, which will be his second time on campus. By the way he talks about Williams, it doesn’t seem out of the question for McClain to be on commit watch considering the Georgia linebacker wants his decision out of the way before his senior season.
A commitment, especially if Auburn pushes for it, could be imminent.
“I might. It’s a possibility,” McClain said.
OL target trying to figure out timeline
Tank Jenkins is trying to decide what he wants to do with his decision timeline, he told SEC Country.
The 6-foot-3, 335-pound 4-star offensive lineman from Park Crossing (Ala.) visited Auburn over the weekend, his second time on the Plains within a month. That’s a great sign for the Tigers. But according to Jenkins, the wait could be longer than he previously thought.
Jenkins told SEC Country it’s possible he doesn’t announce his decision until National Signing Day.
That’s a major change from what Jenkins has said in the past. Previously, Jenkins said a June decision would be likely. Then he said he thought it would probably happen before the season.
He admitted that with a few weeks left in the summer, he might still be able to take the visits he wants and have the conversations with coaches he wants to help him make a summer decision. But he’s not necessarily counting on it.
If he doesn’t make a summer decision, it appears Jenkins intends on extending his decision as long as possible.
Regardless of when he commits, Auburn has a legitimate chance of landing Jenkins. I still haven’t put in a Crystal Ball prediction. If I did, it would probably be Auburn, and that projection likely will come from me in the near future.
Auburn QB commit returns ‘home’
While everyone worries about 5-star quarterback Justin Fields’ plans, remember that Auburn already has a top-tier quarterback committed in the 2018 class.
Joey Gatewood returns to the Plains for a visit to start this week. He arrived Sunday afternoon and will stay until Tuesday. Gatewood hasn’t been at Auburn since the spring game because he was unable to attend Big Cat Weekend.
Here’s the good news: Gatewood is thrilled to be back in on the Plains, per his tweet upon arrival that read, “Back home” with an Auburn University pin. The not-so-good news? He won’t be staying for the July 22 cookout to help recruit.
But when it comes to Gatewood, I always get the same question: What would he do if Auburn landed Fields?
Based on conversations with Gatewood and people around him — nothing. It wouldn’t change anything for Gatewood. He embraces any and all competition. He remains committed to the Tigers, as he has been since December 2015, and he’s adamant that won’t change regardless of what happens.