Auburn added 12 new members to its roster on National Signing Day, bringing the 2016 class to 21 total commits.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was satisfied with the day’s events. Here are five things he likes about Auburn’s recruiting class after Wednesday:
- “Our defensive line class, I really believe, is the best in the country. I believe we’re building a foundation for a top-10 defense. Coach (Rodney) Garner deserves a lot of credit.
There was some worry that the turnover on Auburn’s defensive staff would hurt its recruiting efforts after former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp left to become the head coach at South Carolina, but the Tigers still hauled in some key prospects for its defensive front.
Auburn signed five defensive linemen ranked in the top 13 at their positions, including Antwaun Jackson (No. 7 defensive tackle), Prince Simmons (No. 11 strong-side defensive end), Nick Coe (No. 13 strong-side defensive end) and Marlon Davidson (No. 4 strong-side defensive end). The icing on the cake came when Derrick Brown, the No. 1 prospect in Georgia, chose the Tigers Wednesday.
Garner, who serves the associate head coach and defensive line coach, was instrumental in maintaining the talented defensive class after Muschamp’s departure.
- “Our wide receiver class is the top in the country. It’s guys that we went after over a year ago. We hand picked them, we got them.”
Auburn ranked 111th in the country in passing yards per game last season, but that didn’t scare off the nation’s top receivers.
The Tigers added elite potential on the perimeter with commitments from Florida natives Nate Craig-Myers (No. 6 wide receiver) and Eli Stove (No. 20). They join wide receiver Kyle Davis (No. 9), who was one of Auburn’s nine early enrollees.
Those three players should significantly improve a passing attack that tied for 101st in the nation with just 31 passing plays of 20 yards or more last season.
- “I thought it was big that we signed the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia. Georgia is very important to our success. Almost half of our players are from the state of Georgia and that will give us great momentum for the future.”
For the first time in program history, Auburn was able to poach the top-ranked player in Georgia. The aforementioned Brown chose the Tigers over SEC rivals Tennessee and Georgia.
Malzahn said in his press conference that Brown had one of the most impressive performances that he has ever witnessed in person. Fans will hope that translates to the Plains next season in what appears to be a stacked unit on paper.
- “We signed what we believe is the top player in the state of Alabama in Marlon Davidson.”
While arch rival Alabama was able to get commitments from the top two players in the state (linebackers Ben Davis and Mack Wilson), Malzahn is confident Davidson is the best of the three.
Davidson was also an early enrollee, which gives him an increased chance to compete for playing time in the fall. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end was a longtime focus for Auburn and should help the Tigers sooner rather than later.
- “I know every year I’ve been here I’ve gotten up before (the media) and said how excited I am, which I was, but this class is a little bit different. This is a special class and probably from the standpoint that there are impact players at impact positions.”
Auburn was able to address critical needs in this recruiting class. Beating out Georgia for the No. 1 player in its own state, even in Kirby Smart’s first season, is an encouraging sign for Auburn fans.
The Tigers needed to reload on offense after one of the worst statistical seasons in Malzahn’s tenure and they did that at the receiver position. The team’s quarterback play was inconsistent as well, but the Tigers added the country’s No. 6 quarterback prospect in Woody Barrettand junior-college transfer John Franklin III to compete with the returning passers on the roster.
Auburn’s defense significantly improved by the end of last season. With significant contributors returning, if the 2016 class pans out, the defense should be a strength for the Tigers next season.