Auburn is still strongly in contention for the nation’s No. 2 overall junior college player, but the Tigers now face a little more competition than they previously expected.
Isaiah Buggs, the top JUCO defensive line prospect, released a top 7 on Sunday. The list was bigger than the last one Buggs put out. In August, Buggs placed Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU in his all-SEC top 4.
All four of those programs remain in contention. But there are three more suitors — Texas A&M, Miami and Florida State — have earned their way into consideration.
Schools that I will be taking a closer look into❗️❗️ (No Order) pic.twitter.com/buualPDNIc
— Isaiah Buggs (@BigPooh_91) October 16, 2016
— Isaiah Buggs (@BigPooh_91) October 17, 2016
Florida State isn’t surprising. Buggs told SEC Country in August that Florida and Florida State both still had a chance to break into that top group. The Gators didn’t succeed in that endeavor this time around, but another Florida school did. Miami and Florida State broke Buggs’ SEC trend, but Buggs has said in the past the idea of playing SEC football is one of the biggest factors in his decision.
Texas A&M is also a newcomer. The Aggies’ first-half performance, including a double-digit win over Auburn, caught the attention of Buggs. Auburn recently lost a recruiting battle with Texas A&M for another junior college defensive lineman, Tyree Owens.
Those types of decisions could play a factor in Buggs’ decision, as he’s told SEC Country in the past that he desires to be an integral part of the rotation, which is the biggest thing he looks at when he visits schools.
“I’m looking for how the rotation is on the D-line, my position,” Buggs said. “I’m looking for every little thing that is possible to see, to see how I’ll be playing, the style of play, how the coaches are coaching. I look at all those things.”
Buggs has visited Auburn three times (only once for a game) during his recruitment process. He has indicated previously that he will visit the Tigers on an official visit, though all those dates likely will be set up after his season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
“That’s something I’m still thinking about doing,” Buggs said. “I haven’t made any official visits set up yet, but I should be getting that set up pretty soon here.”
There is no rush in Buggs’ decision. As a junior college player, he’ll be a midyear enrollee, so his final pick might be pending more than his high school counterparts.
But, in his mind, it’s a long way between now and December. He wants to be calculated in his decision.
“I’ll probably just wait it out through the whole process because, you know, you never know what can happen,” Buggs said. “I’m not a big fan of committing and de-committing, so I just want to wait it out. You never know what might happen with coaching staffs and coaches. I just want to wait it out.”
Here are the most-recent comments Buggs has made to SEC Country regarding Auburn.
Auburn misses out on 2018 safety
Tennessee didn’t have many positives come out of its 49-10 loss to Alabama. But the Vols’ one bright spot came at Auburn’s expense.
Safety Bryson Richardson, a 2018 prospect out of Buford (Ga.), arrived at his college decision Saturday while attending the Vols-Tide game, and Tennessee’s loss didn’t affect Richardson’s feelings.
— Bryson Richardson (@2forty5) October 16, 2016
It’s not a major loss for Auburn. The Tigers still have several top priorities available at the safety position. They actually had not offered Richardson yet, but Auburn was high on him.
Richardson visited Auburn for the Arkansas State game and told SEC Country he felt like an offer was imminent. The Tigers hadn’t pulled the trigger, but it didn’t matter. Richardson suggested he was high on the Vols, and that proved to be the case when he chose Butch Jones & Co.
Auburn still has only 2 commits in 2018, giving the Tigers the 17th-ranked class in the nation.
Coaches on the recruiting trail
As mentioned Thursday, the bye week gave Auburn’s staff a great opportunity to get out and recruit. I reported Thursday that coach Gus Malzahn and running backs coach Tim Horton would be in Madison, Ala., to see DE LaBryan Ray and LB Monty Rice from James Clemens High School. Horton stayed around to watch the duo’s game against Buckhorn High LB target Will Ignont.
Malzahn had other trips to make, as did a number of other members of the staff. Here are the visits SEC Country was able to confirm from the weekend.
- Rodney Garner and Kodi Burns went to Mississippi Gulf Coast on Thursday to see Buggs, WR Brandon Martin, offensive lineman D’Marcus Hayes and DB Jay Jay Smith.
- Wesley McGriff and Herb Hand attended IMG Academy (Fla.) vs. Oxbridge Academy on Thursday to see a handful of IMG players, including TE Tre’ McKitty and C Cesar Ruiz.
- Scott Fountain went to Washington, D.C., on Saturday to watch 5-star offensive line commit Calvin Ashley.
- Rhett Lashlee went to see 2018 quarterback commit Joey Gatewood and also made a few other stops in the Jacksonville area.
Tidbits from those trips
As I mentioned in these notebooks last week — and in my weekly Facebook Live recruiting chat — I took a recruiting road trip from Auburn to Nashville last week that included pit stops in Birmingham and Huntsville. There will be plenty of content on that front in days to come.
Likewise, 247Sports’ Keith Niebuhr traveled south and scored some intel on a pair of IMG Academy prospects who still hold Auburn in high regard.
McKitty, an Oregon commit, will attend the Auburn-Arkansas matchup this Saturday in Auburn. McKitty has long been considered to be a potential flip at a position where the Tigers are in desperate need.
He won’t be the only member of his high school team coming to the game, however.
Ruiz, the No. 1 center in the nation, also will make the trip — on an official visit.
“Auburn was never completely out of it — I just wasn’t sharing a lot of things with my recruitment,” Ruiz told Niebuhr. “I’ve always been in contact with (Auburn). I just could never find a date where I could take an official. … Since Tre’ was going, I thought it was the perfect time to go.”