Post Signing Day Musings
A new crop of young men brings optimism
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! National Signing Day has come and gone, and thanks to the new early signing period, it was a bit anti-climactic for Auburn fans. The Tigers acquired most of their new players way back in December but shored up a decent offensive line class this past week. From here, winter conditioning continues, leading up to A-Day on April 13th. The good news is that 9 of Auburn’s 21 signees will take part in spring drills.
After the last-minute flip of 5-star receiver George Pickens to Georgia, some of my colleagues wondered about trying to track the careers of commitments Auburn has lost over the years and whether they had big careers elsewhere. I looked into this, and found that putting an exhaustive list together even of just the past decade would take way too much time. However, I do have a few notes on it.
Probably the most infamous flip was that of Reuben Foster, a long-time Auburn commit that even had a big Auburn tattoo. At the very last minute, Foster flipped to Alabama. Had a pretty good career at Alabama. In the NFL, well, I’ll be charitable and call his tenure “interesting.”
At one time about 10 years ago, Auburn seemed to have a trio of great backs on the hook. LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer all attended Auburn Big Cat weekends, during the Gene Chizik era. Auburn was able to hold onto only Dyer, and he had a couple of thousand-yard years with the Tigers before off-the-field troubles sidelined him. Lattimore had a big career at South Carolina but was derailed by injuries. South Carolina handed Lattimore the ball way too many times, and the 30+ carry a game grind was too much. LaMichael James starred at Oregon, but that path did not translate to success in the NFL. In the end, none of these “can’t miss” backs turned out to be an NFL-caliber starter.
Auburn had other big-name backs at Big Cat that didn’t sign, including T. J. Yeldon, and Nick Chubb. Those guys ended up as starters at Alabama and Georgia, respectively, and had good college careers. Both are playing in the NFL, Yeldon at Jacksonville and Chubb at Cleveland. Auburn also hosted Christian Kirk (flipped to Texas A&M) and Deshaun Watson. Watson won a national championship at Clemson and is a rising star in the NFL.
I can’t complain too much about the ones Auburn did not get. Auburn has had 4 top-ten recruiting classes in the past 6 years and has been in the top fifteen every time. The average recruiting class ranking has been 9.2. Clemson, who has won 2 of the last 3 national championships, averaged 11.5 during the same period. Players are certainly the most important factor in championships but not the only factor. Development, chemistry, schemes, play-calling—those all are important, too.
It is a big weekend for Auburn men’s basketball. Auburn travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on the road. Auburn has enjoyed a 3-game homestand, blowing out all 3 opponents including Alabama, but things get much tougher on the road for this team. LSU is the leader in the SEC West right now with an 18–4 mark. The 3 nonconference losses were all to ranked teams. Last Saturday, LSU lost at home to Arkansas in a stunning upset. LSU needed overtime to beat Mississippi State a few days ago. Might they be primed for another home defeat?
I likely won’t get a chance to watch this one live. It’s a 1:00 PM tipoff, on ESPN-2. I’m a night shift guy, and unless serious insomnia strikes, I’ll be sawing logs early Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, I’ll get good news, later that afternoon!