Bring your questions, comments and popcorn. I want to do this every week. If you have something you’d like me to discuss — on the recruiting front, for the most part — send me questions via the Auburn Insiders Facebook page, my personal Twitter (@benjaminwolk) or to my company email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope you enjoy. And if you don’t? I accept hate mail too. It makes for good content.
Q: What recruit in their right mind would go to Auburn to play football right now?
—Robert S., St. Elmo (Ala.)
First mailbag, first question, guns blazing.
Let me add a little context to Mr. Robert’s heater to start the mailbag. For starters, he sent this question prior to the wild win over LSU, so — at the time — Auburn seemed a lot less stable (amazing what one second can do, huh?). Also, his profile appears to indicate he’s an Auburn fan, so this isn’t some Bama troll trying to rile Tigers fans.
It seems to be a fair, honest question. In fact, in my Auburn Insiders Recruiting Live last week (plug: every Thursday at 8ET/7CT on the Auburn Insiders FB page) I said something to the same effect. I think what I said was more along the lines of: “If I was a 2017 or 2018 recruit, I wouldn’t be committing to Auburn anytime soon.”
Now that’s one heck of a hypothetical, putting myself in the shoes of someone with actual athletic ability. But my point was simply that there’s so much time between now and Signing Day. If you were willing to wait into the season, especially as a 2017 recruit, why not just let things play out?
Well, that’s basically what we’re witnessing with this class. Auburn hasn’t landed a recruit since Jordyn Peters on Aug. 19. Recruits seem to be playing patient to see how the remainder of the Tigers 2016 season plays out, and what that might mean for coaching stability.
That win against LSU certainly made things feel more comfortable, and Gus Malzahn showed that in his Tuesday press conference.
Q: A little worried about the TE position, team and recruiting. Do we have some good TE that Auburn is looking at, and do you think we are weak at TE?
—Matthew D., Odenville (Ala.)
This is the big mystery, not just in recruiting but on the team side too.
Where in the world did the tight end position go in this offense? Jalen Harris has been relegated to virtually a blocking-only role. There have been a few plays involving Pete Berryman and Keenan Sweeney in tight end or H-back spots. And when I say a few, I mean I only know they happened because of the relentless researching from Ferg’s Film Room — it’s that few.
The Landon Rice dismissal adds another complicated layer to the tight end dynamic because now there are only three tight ends on the roster — two sophomores and a junior. The position might not have felt like a major need with Rice present. But it is now.
So, what does Auburn do? Well, first the Tigers have to convince recruits they can make plays in the offense. Tight ends don’t mind blocking. It’s a big part of their job description. But they like the limelight every now and then, and that seems like an impossibility right now at Auburn
But maybe you’d like me to answer your questions, since that’s why we’re here.
On the team side: No, I don’t think Auburn is weak. I think Harris has the frame and athleticism to make plays. Does he have the hands? I don’t know because he’s not being thrown the ball. That might change, especially in the red zone where Malzahn said to expect changes.
On the recruiting side: Yes, very weak. It doesn’t have to stay that way, so long as the recruits interested in Auburn see that the Tigers are willing to make tight ends look cooler. Touchdowns are cool. Blocking for Kerryon Johnson? Not as cool. Tight ends want to be cool too.
You saw that from Tre’ McKitty, the IMG Academy (Fla.) tight end, who picked Oregon over Auburn this summer. The Ducks might have some coaching instability of their own, so McKitty might be a commit still considered on the market. The long-distance trip to Oregon might make the pull to Auburn even easier, but that remains to be seen. McKitty is a playmaker, and I doubt he wants to be put in a blocking-only spot.
Who else will the Tigers try to convince they want tight ends to come make plays?
- Kurt Rafdal, 3-star from Carmel (Ind.)
- Adam Boselli, 3-star from Jacksonville (Fla.)
At this point, it’s probably a bigger need and concern that Auburn is willing to let on. The Tigers’ thirst at the position on the recruiting trail might begin to pick up.
Q: I’m kind of sad to see Les (Miles) go. He made the SEC more fun. All mourning aside — and I’m sure everyone is asking you this — but do you think his departure will make things easier for Auburn in recruiting?
—Alan G., Columbus (Ga.)
Funny you should ask, Alan. Surprisingly, you’re the only person to hit me up with a Les-related question, in the recruiting realm at least.
And while I’m glad you asked so I can attempt to answer, it also gives me a great opportunity to shamelessly plug my last two In Plains Sight recruiting notebooks. On Tuesday, I wrote about Will Ignont — a 4-star in-state LB and a major want for the Tigers. Earlier Wednesday, I unleashed a few more prospects who are a part of the SEC West Tigers recruiting battle.
Short answer: It’s too early to tell.
I will say that Ignont had a couple pretty appropriate quotes on the matter.
- “LSU isn’t going anywhere.”
- “Whether Les Miles is there or not — he was big, I loved coach Miles — but with him not being there, I still love LSU. I still love the school itself.”
LSU sort of has that swag factor to it. Something about the purple and gold on the bayou just has that effect. That won’t change with Miles’ departure. It all comes down to what direction LSU goes with its new head coach.
I’m not trying to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton my way around your acceptable question, I just don’t think many guys will 100 percent remove a school because of a coaching change, especially before the replacement has officially been named.
This will be an interesting topic to follow as LSU nears a permanent decision (I vote for Coach O).
Q: If there’s one commit that you would call “underrated,” who would that be?’
—Linda R., Mobile (Ala.)
If you’ve tuned in for my recruiting Facebook Live videos, you’ll know I’m the world’s No. 1 advocate for 3-stars who should be 4-stars or 5-stars.
That probably annoys some, so let me clear this up: I don’t hate ratings. They serve a worthy purpose for fans, coaches, players and reporters. The scouts at Scout, Rivals, 247, ESPN and others do tremendous work to track and evaluate as many prospects as possible. It isn’t easy work. As a result, it’s destined to be an imperfect system.
There will always be 3-stars that outperform 5-stars. Of course, there also will be 3-stars that never end up seeing the field at the SEC school they choose. It’s the nature of the business.
But in this Auburn class, there is one 3-star that I believe has some serious star power — linebacker Chandler Wooten.
I wrote about him last week when he received his Under Armour All-America game jersey, the first player in his high school’s history to receive a national high school all-star game bid.
My background is in basketball, and I always use the same description for people with long arms, so here it is: Wooten is the kind of guy who can scratch his knees while standing straight up. It’s the same way I describe Kevin Durant. It might sound like a back-handed compliment, but it’s not.
The dude has crazy long arms, which will only help as he builds on is frame. Wooten stands at 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds. He’ll add weight to that. I think he has the ability to become a dangerous edge rusher at the next level.
Q: Favorite restaurant in Auburn?
—Isaiah G., Auburn (Ala.)
Disclaimer: I’m the newest Auburn resident of the SEC Country Auburn crew. Lauren Shute got here a few weeks before I did, and Justin Ferguson could be considered a townie at this point. So I might be the single worst person to ask this question.
And because of my lack of knowledge of the area, I want to answer this question more than I wanted to answer any of the other ones.
I’m a sucker for good barbecue. Before coming here I lived on St. Simons Island (Ga.), and I’ll vouch for Southern Soul BBQ as the greatest restaurant in the history of mankind. So I’ve enjoyed Mike & Ed’s and Moe’s. Still, it’s hard to live up to my barbecue expectations.
So I’m going to go in a much different direction. I enjoy a good burger and good craft beer. I’m sure there are plenty of spots for this in town — suggestions welcomed — but I’ve spent a few trivia nights and pre-gamedays (no beer for those, swear!) at Auburn Draft House on Magnolia Avenue.
Sorry, gotta run. There’s a Chorizo Burger in my future.