AUBURN, Ala. — The star-studded spectators at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday went beyond Heisman winners Cam Newton and Bo Jackson.
More than 50 recruits from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes joined in on the Auburn vs. Clemson fun in the season opener. Auburn dropped the game 19-13, but the defensive performance and primetime atmosphere still captivated the attention of many of Auburn’s top targets and commitments.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made sure to take time out of his pre-game rituals to joke around with many of the recruits in attendance Saturday. Despite Auburn not coming up on the winning side, a few of the long list of commits and recruits gave their takes on the atmosphere and result to SEC Country.
- 4-star ATH commit Malcolm Askew: “It was a great experience. It was obviously a big game, playing the No. 2 team in the country. You know, there were a lot of recruits there. I had a great time with the family. The outcome wasn’t what I wanted it, but I felt like Auburn beat expectations to what people really thought they were going to do.”
- 4-star ATH commit Tray Bishop: “The atmosphere was lit, but the game could’ve been better if we get a quarterback to take control.”
- 4-star junior college DT target Isaiah Buggs: “This was my third time coming to Auburn. This was the only one on a game day. Oh, it’s nice man. It’s loud. It’s a big deal. Auburn’s defense is amazing. You know, the D-line is amazing. The whole nine yards. To hold a big-time offense like that to 19 points, that’s pretty good … 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 how I’ll be playing and the style that’s played, how the coaches are coaches. I look at all those things.”
- 3-star DT target Alec Jackson: “It was a great atmosphere. The fans were awesome. It was just a great vibe (Saturday). I think the defense played a great game, created turnovers. They just needed the offense to capitalize.”
- 4-star LB target Tadarian Moultry: “It was good. The defense, I loved seeing Deshaun (Davis) fly around the ball. I loved it.”
- 3-star CB target Shawn Shamburger: “That was my first experience at an Auburn game. Oh man, it was overwhelming, honestly. We had a game (Saturday), so I was a little delayed getting there. I didn’t get there until the second quarter. Once I first walked in the stadium, it was just like, ‘woah.’ It had me in awe, honestly.”
- 3-star ATH target JaTarvious Whitlow: “It was good. I was looking forward to the game because my recruiting coach (Wesley) McGriff, Crime Dog, he told me he had a surprise for me and come out. They really was good. But they’re trying to figure out who their quarterback is. But it really was a good game. Auburn could’ve won … That was my second one. I’m going back this Saturday, the Saturday coming up and the next Saturday. I’m going to be there back-to-back-to-back.”
- 4-star ATH commit Alaric Williams: “It’s crazy. The atmosphere was wild. It’s probably one of the best game atmospheres I’ve been to at Auburn besides Auburn-Alabama. You can’t beat that. It was crazy … I’ve been to countless. I can’t even tell you. It’s been a lot.”
- 3-star LB commit Chandler Wooten: “Oh man, it was an amazing atmosphere, man. It was crazy. The fans were off the chain. It was as loud as I’ve ever heard it in that place. It was just great to be back on the Plains and just watch a great game … That was about my fourth or fifth one. That’s definitely No. 1, being primetime on ESPN, a late-night game. Everyone was tuned in. We had a lot of different recruits there. The atmosphere was amazing. We played a great team in Clemson, and I felt like the defense played their butts off. That’s the type of defense I want to play for.”
A number of other top recruits chimed in on Twitter:
Auburn's defense and front 7 especially are the real deal ?. They will keep shocking the world.??
— Ryan Johnson 4⃣4⃣ (@ryanjohnson_50) September 4, 2016
— Andres L Fox 9️⃣ (@250shotmax) September 4, 2016
I never seen Derrick move so fast ?
— Tyler Taylor 8⃣ (@tylertaylor8) September 4, 2016
It's Lit??? had a great time it was amazing❗️❗️❗️ pic.twitter.com/8OnDOq8u7i
— Isaiah Buggs (@BigPooh_91) September 4, 2016
— SAUCE9️⃣〽️ (@Aj_P1ERCE) September 4, 2016
— Reek (@ricoshotemup) September 4, 2016
AU going bounce back… #WDE??
— Octavius M… (@octaviusmatthe1) September 4, 2016
What Robert Hicks’ de-commitment means
If you’re an avid SEC Country reader, you likely noticed some recruiting news sprinkled into the site’s team coverage on Saturday.
On an otherwise successful recruiting day for Auburn, the Tigers had a slip-up early in the day when Class of 2018 defensive end Robert Hicks de-committed via Twitter, thanking the coaching staff and confirming he still has “respect” for Auburn but that, at this time, a de-commitment was the best decision for the 3-star defensive end from Miami.
Hicks told SEC Country he still holds Auburn in very high regard.
“Auburn is still my leader,” Hicks said.
Hicks confirmed Miami and Oregon State have filled into the runner-up roles during his recruitment process.
For now, that leaves only one member of the 2018 class at Auburn — 4-star dual-threat quarterback Joey Gatewood. With Hicks’ de-commitment, the Tigers dropped 10 spots to No. 26 in the national team rankings. But the jury is still out on the 2018 class anyway. There are many question marks that recruits think need to be answered over the course of this football season and beyond.
Auburn will still be on Hicks’ radar, as will be the case with a majority of other top prospects. But they likely need to see the program’s progression over the course of this football season.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Benjamin Wolk covers Auburn football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on future stars on the Plains.