For the most part, Auburn appears safe from massive staff turnover.
A few Tigers assistants — Rhett Lashlee, Tim Horton and Wesley McGriff — have had their names floated as potential head coaches or coordinators at other schools. Only McGriff has been reported to be leaving.
Reports have surfaced that McGriff is in the process of finalizing a deal to take Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator opening. If and when that is complete, Auburn will have a short time frame to fill the McGriff vacancy.
It could have an effect on the recruiting trail. Among Auburn commits, four defensive backs have McGriff as their primary recruiter. Much of the future effect will be dependent on who steps into McGriff’s role and how quickly it’s filled.
This will be a fluid process, but here’s the latest on each of the four prospects who have McGriff as their main recruiter.
3-star safety Carlito Gonzalez
Gonzalez has been through this before with Auburn.
Last offseason, all three of Gonzalez’s primary points of contact left the Auburn staff. Dameyune Craig served as Gonzalez’s main recruiter until Craig jetted for LSU. Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson also played an integral early role for Gonzalez.
McGriff gave Gonzalez plenty of confidence he should stick with Auburn. Now, with similar news hitting again, Gonzalez said the McGriff loss could alter how he approaches recruiting down the stretch.
It should be noted, Gonzalez was caught off guard by the news.
“That’s gonna be a blow. Really I just wanted to be under McGriff,” Gonzalez told SEC Country. “I might have to wait and see, but I might have to open it back up.”
Gonzalez will try to be patient and believe in Auburn. He’s been committed since Aug. 8, 2015, which has extended through two defensive backs coach with a potential third on the way.
But it’s late notice. As the No. 354-ranked prospect in the nation, Gonzalez doesn’t know how a new defensive backs coach would view him.
Gonzalez said there are two teams to watch here: South Carolina and Ole Miss. The Gamecocks got a strong look back in 2015. Muschamp and Robinson only help with that. Ole Miss hasn’t been a major factor in his recruitment yet, but that shows the high opinion Gonzalez has of McGriff.
3-star CB Traivon Leonard
The latest commitment to Auburn seems the least surprised by the McGriff news.
Traivon Leonard flipped from UNC to Auburn last week. It had a lot to do with the attention McGriff has shown Leonard throughout his senior season despite being committed elsewhere.
But, if any of the four are a sure thing to stick around, Leonard is probably it. He indicated he knew the situation he was getting into when he changed his decision from the Tar Heels to the Tigers.
“Yeah I saw it coming. I’m still gonna be 100 percent committed,” Leonard told SEC Country.
4-star CB Malcolm Askew
Update: Askew went to Twitter to confirm his allegiances to Auburn.
I'm 120% ALL TIGER ?
The Plains Will Be My Home For The Next 3-4 Years BELIEVE THAT❗️
I'm Ready To Go To Work For My Next DB Coach #WDE ?
— Malcolm Askew™ (@MacAskew4) December 15, 2016
If the news stung someone most, it was likely Askew.
The 4-star athlete has been the unofficial spokesperson for the 2017 recruiting class. His relationship with McGriff might have run as deep as anyone. Askew and his father shared a close bond with McGriff that evidenced itself on unofficial and official visits.
Askew didn’t comment on the reports, but he posted and retracted a tweet that suggested the McGriff move wasn’t expected.
It’s terrible timing for Askew. He plans on enrolling early in January. He’s even told SEC Country he plans to get over for bowl practices. Is there any chance he doesn’t end up on the Plains?
It will be a tough couple days of decision-making for Askew. He informed me earlier in the week that he would receive his financial aid papers from the school on Wednesday, but didn’t say whether or not he had immediate plans to sign them (other EEs — KJ Britt, Chandler Wooten, Nick Brahms — have all signed the non-binding paperwork).
Perhaps the most interesting element to all of it: Askew flirted with Ole Miss late, as he told SEC Country after a Alabama-Mississippi all-star week practice.
If he was surprised by the news as he hinted, and still has interest in the Rebels at all, the McGriff connection could be a major game-changer. It would be majorly late notice at this point. Plus, the negative publicity and unknown future about Ole Miss could save Auburn here.
But the Tigers’ most sure commitment might be the most affected by the McGriff reports.
3-star safety Jordyn Peters
Peters hasn’t made any public comment regarding McGriff.
The relationship is quite close, however. It turned out to be the biggest reason why Peters chose Auburn in August, though his initial contact with the Tigers came through offensive line coach Herb Hand.
Here’s how Peters described McGriff earlier in the season.
“He’s one of those coaches that you go to when you’re uptight and nervous and all that. He makes you want to play for him,” Peters said. “With me, when I start playing for him, I want to do good to make him happy. That’s the type of the guy he is. We clicked right off the bat.”
This will only further encourage Peters’ plans to look elsewhere, if only for security reasons.
Peters told SEC Country after an Alabama-Mississippi all-star practice that he was working on plans to take official visits to other schools. He said at the time he was “solidly committed” to Auburn.
He said a Virginia Tech visit is likely. A few other schools could work their way into the mix, as well. This McGriff news could make all of that more of a possibility than it was a week ago when I last spoke with Peters.
The big thing to watch here: How the new coach perceives Peters.
He is about as under-ranked as you can get, falling outside the top 1,000 prospects in the nation. If a new secondary coach comes in late in the process, it’s possible he will have his eyes on other recruits.
Peters will likely want to protect himself here. I think the official visits are a sure thing. Remember, though, Peters grew up an Auburn fan. As long as the Tigers make a smart, swift hire, Peters should remain on board.