AUBURN, Ala. — Among Auburn’s recruiting visitors Saturday, the most coveted of the group might’ve been 4-star defensive end Ryan Johnson, considering the Tigers have zero defensive linemen committed to their 2017 class so far.
Johnson, a standout for St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, Ala.), ranks seventh in the nation at his position and is the No. 10 overall recruit in the state of Alabama.
His credentials were the reason why defensive line coach Rodney Garner, linebackers coach Travis Williams and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele all took time out of pregame warmups to talk with Johnson on the field. Those interactions are what have Johnson coming back to Auburn.
“I want to get with the coaching staff more and more, to get more comfortable with them, more comfortable with some recruits and see some former teammates I used to play with,” Johnson told SEC Country.
Auburn has a history of drawing players from the Mobile area. Linebacker Tre’ Williams went to Johnson’s high school. Deshaun Davis and Marlon Davidson are from nearby schools as well.
Johnson stays in close communication with those guys, and when he visits Auburn, he contacts them to ask how they’re enjoying things. They always let him know there will be an opportunity for defensive linemen to contribute.
“I like to get with some of the players and see how they like it and try and see if I would,” Johnson said. “They just kind of remind me they’re losing 5 or 6 D-linemen this year. I can come in early and contribute. It’s a great place. The environment is great.”
The three coaches that chatted with him prior to the game — Garner, Williams, Steele — have been the members of the staff on him most. He likes their “laid back” nature.
“They really seem like they’re in it for me and my situation and my family. I just really appreciate that,” he said.
Johnson has the ability to play all over the line. He can stand up and rush the passer or drop back in coverage, but Johnson thinks his strength is in run-stopping. That will assist whichever program ends up landing Johnson.
For now, Auburn appears to be in the mix, if not the leader. Johnson has 92 percent of his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions in Auburn’s favor. Johnson says he has a top 12 that he’ll soon reduce to 6 or 7. When pushed for what that group might look like, Johnson listed Auburn, Stanford, Alabama, USC, Notre Dame and Texas.
Notre Dame will get an official visit in the next few weeks. Johnson will have an official visit with Alabama for the Iron Bowl later in the season. His other three visits are up for grabs and said he’s “not sure” whether the Tigers will receive one.
Either way, that seems like more of an “I already know what I’m getting at Auburn” type of decision. Johnson will make his decision in January, he said. Auburn needs him.
What recruits said about the game
Those high hopes carried over to Twitter.
— 6⃣ (@_TrayBishop) September 17, 2016
Ready to watch AU get this Dub today… #WDE??
— Octavius M… (@octaviusmatthe1) September 17, 2016
After the 29-16 loss, here’s how some of the players in attendance broke down the game:
4-star CB target Deangelo Gibbs: “Auburn made some simple mistakes that cost them.”
3-star safety commit Jordyn Peters: “I was impressed with the defense. They held their own for the most part, just a couple busts here and there. The offense still has some things to work out, but nothing they’re not capable of doing. It was a good game. Things just didn’t go our way.”
3-star LB commit Chandler Wooten: “Could’ve been a lot better, but I saw a lot of positives on the defensive side of the ball.”
4-star LB commit Tadarian Moultry: “Good game. Defense held them to 4-5 field goals. The defense can only hold on for so long. The offense has to put some points on the board.”
Cal, Nebraska notch big wins with Auburn commits in attendance
While Auburn was losing, Cal and Nebraska were winning high-profile home games.
Why does that matter, you ask? Well, ultimately, it might not matter. But Auburn had two of its top recruits — Malcolm Askew and Alaric Williams — on official visits to those schools over the weekend.
Cal won a down-to-the-wire matchup in prime time against a ranked Texas squad. Askew has a chance to play offense for the Bears, and that seems to appeal to him.
Touch Down in Cali ??☀️
— Malcolm Askew® ? (@MacAskew4) September 17, 2016
— Malcolm Askew® ? (@MacAskew4) September 18, 2016
Askew has been Auburn’s most vocal recruit. But Cal might have a legitimate shot to make some movement in Askew’s mind before it’s all said and done. It’ll be an interesting recruitment to follow.
Williams, the 4-star athlete commit who likely will play running back, attended the Nebraska-Oregon contest. He, too, received a treat of a game. The Cornhuskers pulled out the win and Williams seemed to enjoy his experience.
just touched down in Nebraska!
— ⚡️Alaric Williams⚡️ (@Alaric_8) September 16, 2016
Lincoln NE. is lit. ?? #GBR?
— ⚡️Alaric Williams⚡️ (@Alaric_8) September 18, 2016
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.