How do those four and five stars pan out at Auburn?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! This morning, from the snow-covered hills of the Tragic City, we’ll talk some Auburn recruiting. More specifically, we’ll look at how Auburn’s last five classes have contributed, with an emphasis on four and five star players. Four years ago, I looked back at five years of recruiting and what had become of those classes. I bemoaned Auburn’s numbers, as it seemed that a ton of players from Tommy Tuberville’s last few classes had not been able to contribute. How different are things now, four years later?
Before I begin charting recruits, I need to say a word or two about a top recruit this winter. Folks, I cannot believe the backlash linebacker Rashaan Evans has received for choosing Alabama over Auburn. There’s no call for the vitriol he and his family have received. Last time I checked, this is supposed to be a free country, and a young student does have the right to choose where he goes to college. We Tiger fans would have liked to have seen Evans in orange and blue in the coming years. It won’t happen. He’s decided to go to Alabama. Here’s where we wish Evans well, and move on. Leave the name-calling and worse to other fanbases.
Speaking of moving on, that’s clearly what’s happened with the Auburn coaching staff in regards to 2014 signee Kalvaraz Bessent. About a week ago, Bessent was arrested on felony drug charges. While the Auburn coaching staff has declined to comment much on the situation, they’ve added a new commit this week. JUCO cornerback Joseph Turner is on board, and welcome to the Auburn Tigers.
So, how have Auburn’s four and five stars from the Gene Chizik era turned out? For reference, I’m going to use 247sports star ratings for this, citing ease of use of their material. After the jump, we’ll take a look.
Chizik’s first class in 2009 was ranked 22nd in the nation, and did not include any five-star players. The four stars were: Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Demond Washington, Eltoro Freeman, and Tyrik Rollinson. Lutzenkirchen and Washington became multi-year starters, and Freeman played a role in the linebacker corps, coming into his own late in 2011. Rollinson left after just one year.
Lesser recruits that went on to big things included Dee Ford, Nick Fairley, Nosa Eguae, John Sullen, and Emory Blake.
The 2010 class was a big one at the time, ranked 6th in the nation. It featured five star recruits Michael Dyer and Trovon Reed, as well as four-stars Corey Lemonier, Jeffrey Whitaker, LaDarius Owens, Eric Mack, Craig Sanders, Kenneth Carter, Jake Holland, Cam Newton, Antonio Goodwin, Roszell Gayden, Shaun Kitchens, and Shon Coleman.
Dyer had two big years before running afoul of the coaching staff, and Reed has found a place in the playing rotation after several years battling injury. Lemonier was a good defensive end who left early for the NFL. Whitaker and Owens are expected to be starters again on the defensive front. Craig Sanders was a special teams standout and contributor on the line. Kenneth Carter also started a few games up front on defense. Holland was a three year starter. Cam Newton was one year and done, but what a year it was! Goodwin and Kitchens were both involved in criminal activity, and were kicked off the team after one season. Gayden battled for the right tackle starting job, lost it to Brandon Mosley, and left the team. Shon Coleman battled cancer, but has now positioned himself to fight for a starting tackle spot this spring.
Lesser recruits that made some noise on the field included Cody Parkey, Brandon Mosley, Demetruce McNeal, Ryan White, Chris Davis, Ryan Smith, Steven Clark, and Jonathan Mincy.
Chizik fielded another top ten class in 2011, which was ranked 8th in the nation. Christian Westerman was the lone five star. Four stars were Khiel Frazier, Quan Bray, Erique Florence, Reese Dismukes, Kris Frost, Greg Robinson, Jonathan Rose, Brandon Fulse, Robensen Therezie, Jermaine Whitehead, C. J. Uzomah, Tre Mason, Thomas O’Reilly, Sammie Coates, and Angelo Blackson.
Westerman competed for a couple of years, then transferred. Frazier started 5 games at QB, moved to receiver this past season, and has transferred. Bray is in the receiver playing rotation, and has been a mainstay in the return game. Florence looked to have a starting safety spot nailed down in the spring of 2012, but left the team without any significant contribution. Dismukes has been the starting center since his first game, and will have one more year after an all-star season in 2013. Kris Frost looks to take sole possession of the starting middle linebacker spot next season. Greg Robinson anchored the left side of the Auburn o-line for two year, and is on to the NFL. Rose did not crack the playing rotation at corner, and left after a couple of seasons. Fulse has been a starter or co-starter for the past two seasons, and is probably Auburn’s best skill position blocker returning in 2014. Robensen Therezie broke out at the Star position last season, and was one of Auburn’s defensive leaders. Jermaine Whitehead spent his first season as a backup corner, then moved to safety and has started every game the past two seasons. C. J. Uzomah has been in the receiver rotation since game one, but really took over as the starting tight end at midseason in 2013. Tre Mason made an immediate impact as a kick returner, and developed into a Heisman finalist last season. He’s off to the NFL. O’Reilly transferred after a year on the scout team. Coates became Auburn’s go-to, big-play receiver last season. Blackson has been a part time starter on the defensive line.
Lower stars that have been bright spots include Jaylen Denson, Justin Garrett, Anthony Swain, and Gabe Wright.
Gene Chizik’s final class in 2012 ranked 11th in the nation. There were no five stars in this class. Four-stars were Avery Young, Ricky Parks, Jordan Diamond, Joshua Holsey, Tyler Nero, Jovon Robinson, Patrick Miller, Shane Callahan, Cassanova McKinzy, Ricardo Louis, Zeke Pike, JaQuay Williams, and Darrion Hutcherson.
Avery Young started 3 games before being injured his first year. Last season, he took over the starting right tackle spot at midseason. Ricky Parks was booted off the team this past summer, but is back this winter as a walk-on and should be in the playing rotation at tight end/h-back. Joshua Holsey started several games at corner his first season, and was a starting safety for six games in 2013 before being sidelined with a knee injury. Patrick Miller started 9 games as a freshman, and was the starter for the first half of 2013. Cassanova McKinzy moved into a starting linebacker role in just his second season in 2013. Ricardo Louis moved into a starting receiver spot late in 2013. Guys that are still with the team but have largely toiled without seeing the field include Diamond, Nero, and Callahan. Jovon Robinson left the team after a grade-fixing scandal emerged. Zeke Pike transferred. Williams and Hutcherson didn’t make it to campus.
Lesser stars that have made contributions on the field include Alex Kozan, Jonathan Jones, Javiere Mitchell, and Jonathan Wallace.
Despite coming in late, Gus Malzhan held together a 13th ranked class after just a couple of months on the job on 2013. His five stars were all on the defensive line, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. Four stars were Tony Stevens, Jeremy Johnson, Ben Bradley, Jonathan Ford, Cameron Toney, Jason Smith and Earnest Robinson.
Lawson, Adams and Daniel all were major factors on Auburn’s defensive line as true freshman. Tony Stevens cracked the playing rotation at receiver. Jeremy Johnson secured the backup quarterback spot, and put up impressive numbers against a couple of opponents. Ben Bradley was in the playing rotation at defensive tackle. Jonathan Ford played on both sides of the ball. Smith and Robinson did not make it on campus.
Lesser stars that contributed significantly were Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Marcus Davis.
Looking through these lists, I think Gene Chizik and his staff deserve some credit. While there have been a few high profile defections and flame-outs, the majority of his four and five-star guys have stood the test of time, and become valued Auburn men. These guys got Auburn to the BCS title game twice in the past five seasons, and should be commended. So far, Gus Malzhan and his staff seem to have continued the momentum without missing a beat. Time will tell!