Gus Malzahn talked a little bit about recruiting during his Tuesday news conference, though what he had to say wasn’t particularly groundbreaking.
“Traditionally, we’ve always recruited well in Georgia. That’s a big state for our success,” he said.
Auburn always has dipped into Georgia’s rich talent pool to pull some of its most outstanding players. Just take a look at the 2016 roster: Montravius Adams, Derrick Brown, Stanton Truitt, Markell Boston, Kyle Davis, Josh Holsey, Nick Ruffin, Marshall Taylor, Tray Matthews, Carl Lawson, Mike Horton, Andrew Williams, Darius Slayton, Maurice Swain and Dontavius Russell.
That’s just the list of major Auburn contributors who played their high school ball in Georgia. Plenty of other Auburn walk-ons and younger players arrived from Georgia.
That trend isn’t changing in 2017. Of the 15 commits now, three are from Georgia. Auburn would like to land a few remaining uncommitted prospects from the neighboring state, including Tyler Taylor, Jeremiah Holloman and DeAngelo Gibbs.
Here’s a deeper look at the three Auburn commitments who are from Georgia.
4-star ATH Tray Bishop, Terrell County
Bishop is a must-keep for Auburn.
There’s some uncertainty what position he may play at the next level, but Bishop is capable of playing wherever he wants to play. He’s the star quarterback of his high school team, and he’ll play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7. The assumption is Bishop will get his chance to prove himself as a quarterback, but the defensive backfield always can be a security blanket.
Going into his original decision process, Bishop considered Auburn, Florida and Georgia. During the 2016 season, Bishop has taken trips to Athens and Gainesville, which has caused some unease for Auburn. Again, I believe that to be unwarranted now. He’s simply using the resources available to him to ensure the best decision — a wise decision for all recruits.
Earlier in the season, Bishop said this about Auburn: “They remained at the top throughout the whole process.”
If someone were to lure Bishop, my best guess would be Georgia. But, again, that would be a major surprise. It adds yet another intriguing storyline to the Auburn-Georgia history of recruiting battles.
3-star OLB Chandler Wooten, North Cobb
Wooten will enroll early, which will give him a head start on many of his 2017 classmates. That decision to begin his college career in January might’ve been critical in keeping Wooten.
Within the last two months, the lanky edge rusher picked up big-time offers from Ohio State and Georgia. Understandably, those two programs would make any recruit step back and assess. The one from the Bulldogs particularly was interesting because it’s the in-state school and Kirby Smart is placing an emphasis on in-state products.
Michigan State also showed sincere interest throughout. Wooten flirted with the temptation of taking official visits to those three schools, but most of that happened during the early-season job-security issues. That almost has disappeared because Auburn is riding a six-game winning streak.
Likewise, Wooten put his recruitment to rest. Georgia’s last-minute overture proved to be too little, too late. He won’t take official visits and has been all-in on Auburn as the Tigers have gained some recruiting momentum lately.
3-star safety Carlito Gonzalez, Stephenson
Maybe Gonzalez will go down as one of the many Auburn players from Georgia whom the Bulldogs failed to give enough respect.
He’s a 3-star safety, but Gonzalez has shown as much of a playmaking knack as anyone during the 2016 high school season. During his senior year, the Auburn commit has 43 tackles, 2 interceptions and 3 tackles for loss. Gonzalez also has a fumble-return touchdown and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
His offer sheet wasn’t as long as many of his counterparts. When he made his decision in August 2015, Gonzalez only held offers from Auburn, South Carolina and Kentucky. Among major programs, that was it. He picked the Tigers and is one of two underrated safeties in the 2017 class now.
It’s a position group that might grow significantly as Signing Day approaches, but Gonzalez is on board with the Tigers. He made a call last week for all commits to get together in Auburn for the Alabama game.
Georgia has plenty of athletes to choose from in its own state, and the Bulldogs never will be able to court or land everyone. But Gonzalez has the upside to make Georgia regret that oversight.