AUBURN, Ala. — Isaiah Buggs’ name has come up on several occasions in these notebooks. There are a couple reasons for that. One, he’s the No. 2 overall player in junior college (No. 1 at his weak-side defensive line position). And two, Auburn has exactly zero commits right now at the position.
A few weeks back, Buggs listed Auburn in his top 4 — an exclusively SEC group. That remains, and his impression of Auburn grew during his unofficial trip for the Clemson game last weekend. It was his first game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“Oh yeah, it’s nice man. It’s a big deal,” Buggs told SEC Country. “The defense is amazing. Auburn’s defense is amazing.You know, the D-line is amazing. The whole nine yards. To hold a big-time offense to 19 points, that’s pretty good.”
As you can gather from that statement, Buggs isn’t too caught up in the early-season loss. He said it doesn’t “have any kind of effect.” Buggs is looking for more important things than wins and losses in a season he can’t control. He wants to know how defensive linemen rotate, how newcomers fit in to the defensive line and what kind of intensity a defense shows.
On all three fronts, the Tigers passed the initial eye test.
“I’m looking for how the rotation is on the D-line, my position. 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 said. “I’ve been looking at depth charts and playing styles. Other schools that are in my top 4, they’ll be losing a bunch of guys on the D-line. So, whichever school I pick, I know I can come in and make an immediate impact.”
Auburn signed a pair of studs last season in Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown. They’ve had an influence on the defensive line immediately. Buggs hopes to do the same wherever he ends up.
The timeline on that remains undecided. For now, he expects to see through the whole process, citing the reality that “you never know what can happen.” He’s a likely Signing Day guy.
His view on potential staff changes is an insightful and intriguing one — especially for Auburn.
“I’m not a big fan of committing and de-committing, so I just want to wait it out,” Buggs said. “You never know what might happen with coaching staffs and coaches. I just want to wait it out.”
As for where Auburn stands, the Tigers are well in the mix along with Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. His Louisiana roots and relationship with LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron make LSU seem like the logical lean, but Buggs assures everyone is on a level playing field at this point.
Despite naming a top 4, he even suggested schools like Florida and Florida State have made recent pushes and could regain priority depending on certain circumstances elsewhere.
But following his visit with Auburn, one key thing stood out about the Tigers: noted recruiting guru Rodney Garner, who would be Buggs’ defensive line coach.
“He’s an honest man. I know he knows what he’s doing. I know he’s going to get you to the next level. He’s a great guy and a good coach,” Buggs said. “They just basically, they kind of leave the recruiting part out of it. They want me to enjoy myself. They just want to see me do good. That’s the thing I like about it. Every time I come to Auburn, it’s not all about recruiting. It’s just about getting along with the coaches and relationships with the players. That’s a good thing.”
Is that different than other places he’s considering? You bet.
“Yeah, because sometimes I go to some other schools, they always just talk about recruiting,” Buggs said. “But Auburn is a great school, great coaching staff. It’s a great program.”
This will be a long recruiting process to follow, but considering Auburn’s lack of commitments at the position, Buggs is a must-have.
Who joined Buggs on the Plains?
Mississippi Gulf Coast might be Auburn’s biggest pipeline this year.
Buggs is a priority. Wide receiver Brandon Martin committed to the Tigers and de-committed in short order, but he’s still got Auburn as his favorite. Martin had a sickness that prevented him from making the trip for the Clemson game. He’ll be back. But Buggs wasn’t the only Mississippi Gulf Coast player to make the trip.
Offensive line target D’Marcus Hayes came along and holds Auburn in very high regard. It seems he wants to get the recruiting burden lifted as soon as possible, so the Tigers should have their eyes firmly placed on Hayes to add to their strong offensive line class already built with Calvin Ashley, Nick Brahms and Austin Troxell.
A lesser-known product for Mississippi Gulf Coast is Jay Jay Smith — a 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back. He made the unofficial visit with Buggs. It’s not a major position of need, and he may not be a take at this time. But he’s certainly a name to watch.
How do the MGCCC athletes stand with Auburn? They’re in consideration for, well, pretty much everyone the Tigers are considering.
“Just about everyone they’re recruiting is looking at Auburn,” Buggs said.
Do JUCO players like ‘Last Chance U’? Not necessarily.
Keep this in mind: when I spoke with Buggs, he was gearing up for his Thursday night game against East Mississippi C.C.
His impression of the school probably only declined when the Netflix stars throttled Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. 45-7, giving Buggs & Co. the program’s first 0-2 start since the 1997 season. That’s a long time, so Buggs probably feels even worse about the rival school than when I spoke with him earlier in the week.
But, simply put, he’s not too keen on the East Mississippi sensationalism.
“I watched it. Considering the fact that we have to play them coming up this week, I don’t think too much about it,” Buggs said. “I just think it was all for style and show for their program and stuff like that. I’m not a big fan of it, so I don’t really too much care about it.”
Apparently Buggs isn’t the only person at Mississippi Gulf Coast to feel that way. According to the Sun Herald, Mississippi Gulf Coast elected to stay out of the second season of the documentary. The Netflix crew wasn’t permitted to make the trip from Scooba, Miss. to Perkinston, Miss.
So if Auburn does land Buggs or his teammates (or running back Isaiah Patrick from East Mississippi), there won’t be any Netflix footage from that game. Sorry, binge watchers.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.