Malzahn Pulls in Stellar Class — Again
Racean “Roc” Thomas is the second consecutive ‘Mr Alabama Football’ to sign with Auburn. (photo:Julie Bennett,al.com)
What a great day for Coach Malzahn and his staff. They may not have a TOP 5 Class and all the glitzy primadonnas that try to reinvent the Hat game for their two minutes on ESPNU, but the staff did a stellar job of addressing major needs with impact players and adding depth where it was sorely needed.
The much maligned secondary gets a major infusion of talent with Markell Boston and 4 star DB’s Stephen Roberts, Kalvaren Bessent and Nick Ruffin. The D-Line added more talented depth and eventual starters with 4 Star DE Andrew Williams and Davonte Lambert and 4 Star DTs Donavious Russell and Deveroe Lawerence. The LB rotation finally gets some talent to back up Frost and McKinzey with future starters 5 Star Tre Williams and 4 star DeShaun Davis. Those were serious needs that were addressed with spectacular recruits that will serve to shore up Auburn’s defensive deficiencies.
On offense, the Tigers don’t have many holes but the gaping one left by Tre Mason’s departure was certainly filled by Roc Thomas, who will make an impact from day one. I promise you, “The Roc” is just …
that, and if he is anything like his highlight reel, the Auburn rushing attack won’t miss a beat in 2014. Four-star QB Sean White seems to be quite the media darling, and if he is as advertised, the next couple of years are going to be interesting on the Plains as he and Jeremy Johnson fight to be the next Auburn signal caller. And it will be a fight, because Auburn added more quality targets for them to trow to like 5 star WR Dahaquille Williams and 4 Star TE Jakell Mitchell. If nothing else, look for the ear to ear grin from Sammie Coates, as defenses will not be allowed to double cover him without leaving ample space for Williams, Ricardo Louis or Marcus Davis to attack.
The big win today though, IMO was the signing of 4 star OL, and 6’6′ genetic freak, Braden Smith out of Kansas. Aside from 3 star Center Xavier Dampeer, Auburn didn’t have any OL recruits slated for this class and as I think we all realized this year, if you want to win, you better have a good line on ‘both’ sides of the ball. Auburn had great line play this year and should be deep there as well next year. However, Greg Robinson’s departure opened a hole that will only get bigger in the next couple of years but luckily for Coach Malzahn, Smith will help bridge that gap until we bring in more recruits next year. Smith is a monster that is freakishly strong, with good feet, and will be a good candidate for pulling guard and eventually left tackle. He’s a great score for the offense and a nice NSD surprise that somehow Coach Grimes was able to pull off in the last couple of months. All in all, you can’t look at the areas that needed to be addressed and not be thrilled with the job that the Tiger staff did today … if only there was one more name to add to the list.
There will be a lot of criticizing of Auburn and Gus Malzahn for losing out on Rashaan Evans but I think Malzahn did a stellar job again, and actually may have saved himself a headache by not getting the Auburn HS standout. A lot of the recruiting pundits thought it was imperative for Malzahn to stand up to Saban and keep him from picking talent in Auburn’s backyard to show that Malzahn and Auburn were on equal footing in the state. That’s really a disingenuous argument to make because kids don’t base their decision on geography, they base their decision on where they will be most successful, both on the field and in the classroom.
Rashaan Evans wants to go to the NFL and get paid big money, and he knows the best way to do that is to go someplace where he will primarily rush the QB and get sacks. That’s how you get big 1st round money and Rashaan Evans knows it. At Alabama, they have a long history of OLB’s and defensive ends that rush the QB and go to the NFL in the early rounds. Auburn does NOT have that history with its LB’s, in fact we have a pretty lousy history of putting LB’s in the NFL. Outside of Karlos Dansby and Takeo Spikes, you’ll be hard pressed to find much of a LB presence in the NFL. Corey Lemonier is the most recent to go pro but played sparingly as a rookie. Alabama LB’s litter the NFL landscape from DeMeco Ryans to Courney Upshaw to Dontae Hightower, seemingly sending one or more to the NFL each year. If Evans wants to be get a big money NFL deal, his best option was to go to Alabama. It is a mistake in my opinion, because of his body type, but if that is what he ‘wants’, then that’s the best way to do it.
If Evans went to Auburn, he would have been dissatisfied with his role in the defense unless the Star was going to be a QB rusher. That is not what the Star position is there for in Ellis Johnson’s defense and if he changes his defense around to accommodate the wishes of one player, not only would the defense likely be less effective, it would put individual goals above the team goals. I believe that is where Gene Chizik started to lose his team. So to do so – to accommodate Evans would have been the first step down a slippery slope. I believe in the long run, Coach Malzahn is better off on missing on players that want special treatment and sticking with those that believe in his vision and that want to do what is best for Auburn football. In the end I think Gus dodged a bullet and saved himself a headache.
The onus is now on Evans to add weight and size, while keeping his speed so that he can play the Jack LB in Saban’s defense. If he can’t, well Saban won’t think twice about giving that opportunity to someone else that more naturally fits that position. It’s a win, win for Saban regardless because at the end of the day Evans isn’t playing for Auburn. IMO Evans missed a big opportunity to be an impact player on Auburn’s defense from day one, instead of a backup for two or three years at Alabama. Evans has great instincts and speed and I think he would have been great in the Star position, however it ultimately was not the position he wants to play, so unfortunately for both parties we’ll never get to see how that would have turned out. I wish him luck and hope he enjoys his time at Alabama and he is able to get that big NFL payday he is looking for … but I also hope he enjoys tangling with “The Roc” and getting stiff armed by Jeremy Johnson. Sorry Rashaan, it was ‘your’ choice.
In any event, it’s a great start to 2014! I can’t wait for kickoff!