Two days later, it’s still hard to put into words what we witnessed this Auburn coaching staff do on National Signing Day. For years, we’ve heard the pundits say it’s impossible to recruit a top five class to Auburn.
Never mind that Auburn sits less than two hours from Atlanta, less than four from Mobile and a little more than two from Birmingham. Many pointed out that recruiting against “state” schools like Alabama and Georgia just made things too difficult on Auburn to truly land an elite class. Chalk that argument up to history.
The coach that nobody wanted a year ago has gone and landed the most coveted class in school history. With Alabama claiming a national title, SEC fans were watching to see if Auburn and its young staff would blink. This was the perfect opportunity for Nick Saban to put a fork in the Auburn program for the foreseeable future. Gene Chizik didn’t blink.
The numbers are impressive. According to Rivals.com, Auburn signed three five-star athletes, 13 four-star players and 13 three-star performers. They also added three two-star athletes. Auburn had the top rated class nationally for offensive lineman, the number four class for athletes, the fifth-ranked class for both defensive ends and tight-ends, and the sixth-ranked class for linebackers. Auburn literally filled every need with a blue chip star.
Wednesday was not without some drama. When you are talking about the high stakes game of college football, the best and worst come out in people. That was never more evident than in the recruitment of Louisiana receiver Trovon Reed. We don’t know what kind of player he will become, be there’s no arguing the young man’s character. What he dealt with in the final weeks before signing day was disgusting in every way. The fact that he stuck to his guns is inspiring.
Instead of looking out for Reed’s best interest, his high school coach was more interested in getting him to sign with LSU – something Reed clearly didn’t want to do. According to mainstream media reports, the badgering and arm twisting by his coach (an LSU graduate) continued until the final moments before signing.
Following his announcement, it was reported by one media outlet that Reed’s coach intimated that Auburn was able to sign the prep star because it used his mother’s death to their advantage. It’s one of the saddest and sickest stories I’ve ever heard. Most of us will never know the pressure and back door negotiating that takes place in college football recruiting.
Now the hard part starts for the Auburn coaching staff. There are some mighty big egos and expectations that will be arriving on campus this summer. All of these freshmen have been the biggest fish in their small pond. They’ll be dealing with living away from home for the first time and attending class on their own. You remember those days.
Unlike us, they’ll face scrutiny that few people will ever endure. By their senior season, history says half of them will no longer be with the team. They’ll be players like Carnell Williams and Jason Campbell who live up to the billing. There will also be guys like Leon Hart who just never quite reach their potential. And there will be three-star recruits like former Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman who far exceed those little stars beside his name now.
National Signing Day is fun and it’s exciting – especially when you land a class like Auburn has this year. But at the end of the day, like Acid Reign said yesterday, it’s best to take everything with a grain of salt. The future looks bright, but nothing is promised. True, you can’t win without talent. But just as important, you can’t win without coaching and a little luck.
I can’t wait until fall practice.