AUBURN, Ala. — Everyone has their own opinions about recruiting star ratings.
To an extent, they add a necessary level of value to help coaches, players and fans understand a certain pecking order in the football recruiting landscape. But they can also be deceiving, suggesting certain players are more capable, talented or college-ready than others when it’s just not the case.
Take Auburn’s opener against Clemson, for example. Sure, Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Kyle Davis — all highly-rated freshmen — had standout performances for the Tigers. But there was 2-star Will Hastings (at kicker, no less) and 3-star Deshaun Davis who shined the brightest as up-and-coming sophomores.
The point being: Appreciate the rankings for what they are, a solid measurement of a wide range of thousands of players across the country. There will be hits, and there will be misses. With SEC Country, we’re fortunate enough to see and speak with many of these athletes. We agree with some of the service’s assessments, and we disagree with others.
Below, you’ll see the recruiting situation for a pair of 3-star defensive backs whose only big-time college offer is Auburn. The Tigers see their potential, and they appreciate that. So here’s the recruiting update on Colquitt County (Ga.) cornerback Shawn Shamburger and Lafayette School (Ala.) athlete JaTarvious Whitlow.
Auburn already has a couple of 3-star safeties — Carlito Gonzalez and Jordyn Peters. 4-star ATH Malcolm Askew could fit into a variety of positions, but projects as a cornerback. 4-star ATH Tray Bishop wants to play quarterback, though he has the potential to play pretty much anywhere he’s asked.
Here’s a look at how Shamburger and Whitlow stand with Auburn.
3-star cornerback Shawn Shamburger
To begin: Auburn tops Shamburger’s list.
Right now, his other offers are Louisiana-Lafayette, Troy, Southern Miss and South Alabama. Obviously, the Tigers stand out from that bunch, which reasons why Shamburger holds Auburn in such high regard.
But it’s more than that.
“They’re No. 1,” Shamburger said. ““It was just, they’ve been my love from the start. I’ve grown up always being an Auburn fan. When I first got that offer from them, they were my first SEC offer.”
Despite his Auburn fandom, he experienced his first game in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday and called the experience “overwhelming.”
Since the Tigers offered, Alabama, Florida and Kentucky have all shown interest. Still, Shamburger keeps Auburn as his frontrunner. He hasn’t set up any official visits yet.
Based on his offer sheet, you might think he’s not up to the caliber of some other defensive back targets. That’s just not the case. One thing that’s always a strong indication of player’s ability to produce in college: Do they come from a winning program?
A Theodore (Ala.) transfer, Shamburger now plays for perennial Georgia power Colquitt County. The Rush Propst-led squad has won back-to-back state championship in Georgia’s highest classification, and Shamburger will be a major player in the attempt for a three-peat.
If any high school program knows how to win, it’s Colquitt County. So Shamburger will bring a winning culture to whichever school he chooses. That decision will come “sooner than signing day,” Shamburger told SEC Country.
It seems like Shamburger wants to hold out and see if he gets any other big-time offers. But, for now, Auburn is his favorite. He’s just not sure when he’ll decide.
“I really don’t know. It’s a spur of the moment thing,” Shamburger said. “I mean, I’ll probably let a few people know when I’m going to do it. But there’s no set date for it.”
He’s a guy for Auburn to keep its eyes on in the near future.
3-star athlete JaTarvious Whitlow
Like Shamburger, Whitlow is an underrated, under-offered prospect.
His offer sheet starts with Auburn, Jacksonville State, Georgia State, UAB and Troy, and that’s where it ends — for now. Whitlow expects that to change soon, and he should.
“I’m still weighing out my options, waiting for more to come,” Whitlow said. “I know they’re going to come. I believe more are going to come.”
That’s not intended to undercut what Auburn has presented him.
He loves the Tigers, which is why he came to town for the Clemson game and will be back the next two weeks against Arkansas State and Texas A&M. Auburn leads for the prospect who lives roughly 40 minutes driving distance from campus.
“They’re my leader,” Whitlow said.
When Auburn offered him in June, many people in the small Alabama town felt he should commit immediately. The Lafayette area lacks a major-program track record. Whitlow’s brother played at Tennessee State. Another athlete in the area went to Tennessee Tech.
But schools of Auburn’s stature don’t come around often. Still, Whitlow wanted to hold out to make a more calculated decision, even though Whitlow believes Auburn will be heavily in the mix no matter who offers him.
“People said when they offered me that I should just go off and sign. People from small, little towns, we don’t really get big offers like that. But we haven’t ever had no SEC people to go. Everyone was like, ‘You should sign,’” Whitlow said. “It’s not about the school. It’s about the coaches and academics. Do you feel welcome there? When you go there, do you feel at home? That’s why Auburn and UAB are what I’m feeling.”
Whitlow still wants offers from Mississippi State and Florida State, two schools that have showed strong interest. Even then, it would take a pretty impressive sales pitch to advance either school past Auburn.
“They’d really have to welcome me,” Whitlow said. “The atmosphere, the people. I want to be able to, if I mess up, criticize me. Let me know what I did wrong. What I get in high school, I want to get the same thing in college. That’s how it is at Auburn. So they’d really have to bring coaches in, academics. For right now, to come on top of Auburn, they’ve really got to bring a lot.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Benjamin Wolk covers Auburn football and recruiting for SECCountry.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on future stars on the Plains.