Every recruiting class has its surprises, busts and breakout stars. With that in mind, SEC Country takes a look at four signing classes (2012-15) at Auburn as Gus Malzahn enters his fourth season coaching the Tigers.
We take a look at the careers so far for these players, sum them up and provide a simple stock return: up, even or down. Today we look at the recruiting class of 2014, the highest-ranked class of the Gus Malzahn era.
RB Roc Thomas, ★★★★★
What happened: The Oxford (Ala.) High School alum rushed for 261 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries last season, rumors swirled about a possible transfer in December and he followed through by leaving for Jacksonville State to play for his former high school coach. Thomas wasn’t happy about his role with the team, which figured to be more involved at slot receiver in 2016.
LB Tre’ Williams, ★★★★★
What happened: Elevated to a key contributor and three-time starter as a sophomore, he will be the leader of the defense and top linebacker in the rotation in 2016.
OG Braden Smith, ★★★★
What happened: He started the final game of his freshman season and has been a menace to defensive linemen ever since. Those close to the program have called him the best lineman on the roster and he’ll certainly get to prove it as a junior.
WR D’haquille Williams, ★★★★
What happened: He exploded on the scene as the nation’s No. 1 player out of the junior college ranks, recording 730 receiving yards in 10 games during his first season. He was nothing but trouble off the field after that, however, as he served multiple suspensions, caused drama by hinting toward a transfer and got into a fight early in his senior season. He ended his career with one swing of the fist in October and also ended the season of backup center Xavier Dampeer, whose jaw was broken by Williams’ hook. He played a factor in Auburn’s downfall in 2015.
CB Nick Ruffin, ★★★★
What happened: He battled through consistency issues in 2015 under Will Muschamp but will likely be a starting safety when the 2016 season begins.
DE Justin Thornton, ★★★★
What happened: A non-factor in his first two seasons, he played one game against Louisville last season after redshirting as a freshman in 2014.
CB Kalvaraz Bessent, ★★★★
What happened: He left the team after only one season and transferred to Eastern Arizona College.
CB Stephen Roberts, ★★★★
What happened: He didn’t get much of a shot from Will Muschamp’s defensive staff last season until injuries forced their hand. Roberts shined when given the chance and started the final four games at safety. He could be a starter this season.
QB Sean White, ★★★★
What happened: He was forced into action four weeks into the season against Mississippi State because of Jeremy Johnson’s horrible start to the year (he co-led the nation with six interceptions through three games), and had some prolific games passing (especially against Arkansas), but he finished with only one touchdown pass against four interceptions and the Tigers’ red-zone issues continued. He’s the leader for the starting job heading into the summer, but newcomer John Franklin III is hot on his tail.
DT Dontavius Russell, ★★★★
What happened: The player many tend to forget along the defensive line, Russell has developed into a great option in the rotation at tackle. He had 42 tackles, including 4.5 for losses last season. We expect him to have a bigger season this year.
DE DaVonte Lambert, ★★★★
What happened: The junior college transfer finished with 24 tackles and one sack in his final season with the Tigers. He led the team with 3.5 sacks in 2014, when pressure was a huge issue for Auburn’s pass rush.
DE Andrew Williams, ★★★★
What happened: We’re still waiting to see if this rising sophomore can contribute. He had a sack last season against Idaho.
S Derrick Moncrief, ★★★★
What happened: He started one game and had 27 tackles, a pass breakup and forced a fumble last season. He transferred to Oklahoma State looking for more playing time in the summer of 2015.
ATH Stanton Truitt, ★★★
What happened: He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Arkansas last season. He had two carries for minus-1 yard and dropped a pass in the game. He finished with 42 all-purpose yards. Auburn needs him to step up at receiver in 2016.
RB Kamryn Pettway, ★★★
What happened: He moved to fullback and has had success at the position, where he and Chandler Cox will split time (and some carries) this upcoming season. Pettway has been Auburn’s best blocking fullback since Jay Prosch, which is a good thing considering the issues at the position in 2014.
LB DeShaun Davis, ★★★
What happened: He will compete for a starting job in 2016. He had five tackles and was credited with an assist on a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
CB Joseph Turner, ★★★
What happened: He was the final signee in the 2014 signing class and left the program before ever seeing the field.
ATH Myron Burton, ★★★
What happened: He was the MVP of Auburn’s A-Day game in 2015, catching seven passes for 124 yards and one touchdown, but leaving the team before the season opener.
TE Chris Laye, ★★★
What happened: He made three appearances in 2015 and was expected to contend for the starting job at tight end in 2016, but left the team in February.
DT Devaroe Lawrence, ★★★
What happened: Like Russell, a great addition to the rotation at defensive tackle. He finished with 31 tackles, including two for losses, last season. The senior will continue to be reliable in 2016.
ATH Markell Boston, ★★★
What happened: He redshirted in 2014, did not play in 2015 but was the A-Day leader with seven tackles in the spring. He’ll contend for playing time at safety and elsewhere in Kevin Steele’s defense in 2016.
DE Raashed Kennion, ★★★
What happened: He was Carl Lawson’s backup at the Buck position and finished with eight tackles and zero sacks in eight games. He did have three quarterback hurries, but more should be expected of the junior, who coaches raved about as a freshman.
C Xavier Dampeer, ★★★
What happened: He survived several years as a backup — and D’haquille Williams’ punch — to become the starter at center this offseason. Offensive line coach Herb Hand loves Dampeer’s ability and the senior is finally getting his shot to be a starter after living life as a backup behind Reese Dismukes and Austin Golson.
LS Ike Powell, ★★
What happened: He received a scholarship in January 2015.
CB Michael Sherwood
What happened: They call him Dirty Mike. The former walk-on recorded two tackles and one pass breakup last season.
2014 recruiting class
Rankings: 6th nationally; 4th SEC
Portfolio: The highest-ranked class yet in the Gus Malzahn era. Two of Auburn’s most productive and sought-after players (D’haquille Williams and Thomas) are no longer on the team and never lived up to expectations with the Tigers. Meanwhile, it’s the 3-star and other underrated signees who have stepped up to make a name for themselves early in their Auburn careers. The jury is still out on this class. Six players in the signing class transferred out of Auburn or were booted from the team, bringing our total through three signing classes to 21 early departures (not counting the NFL Draft).
Overall stock: Even