Signing Day Thoughts.
Who will help immediately on the field?
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! National Signing Day has come and gone, with some interesting results at both Auburn and in the SEC in general. The early signing period back in December made for much less excitement and activity last Wednesday, but I expect that most kids already know where they are going by that time of year and were relieved to escape the usual mad scramble after the bowls. What was most interesting to me is that there seems to be a new pecking order in the SEC.
For the first year in a very long time, Alabama did not have the top recruiting class in the nation, according to most sources. Looking at the ESPN rankings, Alabama finished 4th this year behind Georgia, Ohio State and Texas. That’s still not too shabby a class. I have to think that coaching turnover on Alabama’s staff in the past year played a role. Lots folks predicted a down year for Auburn, but the Tigers finished 8th in the nation on ESPN, bolstered by a very deep class. There are no 5 stars in the bunch, but there are very few kids below 4 stars in the entire class. Auburn signed 24 players total, and 8 of them are already on campus going through winter conditioning.
Of Auburn’s rivals in the SEC West, Alabama finished 4th, Auburn 8th, LSU 12th, MSU 26th, Texas A&M 33rd, Ole Miss 34th, and Arkansas is not listed in the top 50. Ouch. Over in the SEC East, Georgia finished first, South Carolina 17th, Florida 18th, Tennessee 20th, Kentucky 36th, Vanderbilt 37th, and Missouri 41st. There are a lot of young head coaches in the SEC these days. Nick Saban is obviously the dean of coaches at Alabama, and he is going into his 12th season at the Capstone. Behind Saban, the next longest tenured head coaches at their current school are Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, going into their 6th seasons. Of the newer coaches, only Kirby Smart at Georgia really has made a huge splash on the recruiting trail.
Position Groupings, after the jump!
Defensive Line: Daquan Newkirk, Coynis Miller, Caleb Johnson. All of these guys should add some beef to the Auburn lineup in years to come but face long odds against playing significant minutes next fall. Newkirk probably has the best chance, being a JUCO transfer, and he could end up playing strong side end behind Marlon Davidson.
Linebacker: Josh Marsh, Zakoby McClain, Michael Harris. Auburn returns most of its playing rotation at linebacker, and again, this will be a difficult position for a true freshman to break through on a deep unit.
Secondary: Jamien Sherwood, Christian Tutt, Roger McCreary. Auburn has a couple of experienced starters returning at corner, but Javaris Davis and Jamel Dean both played on the same side. There is a gaping hole from Carlton Davis’ leaving early, and there is opportunity for a good cornerback to step right in and start early. Whether that will happen is anyone’s guess. It’s harder to break into the safety rotation as there is much more of a mental game there than at corner. At corner, a man has the speed and moves, or he doesn’t.
Specialists: Arryn Siposs. My thought is that Auburn signed Siposs to come in and be the starting punter, and it will be a big upset if he isn’t the starting punter from the beginning. In addition to having a very strong leg, Siposs is a lean and mean athlete, and that could be a factor in punt coverage, given how leaky Auburn was last season.
Offensive Line: Jalil Irvin, Kameron Stutts. O-line is probably the hardest spot on a team to break in early. Usually these guys need 2–3 years in the weight room before contributing.
Receivers: Shedrick Jackson, Matthew Hill, Anthony Schwartz, Seth Williams. This is a very good group coming in, but they will have their work cut out competing against a deep returning unit. However, I’m told that Hill, in particular, could be good enough to play immediately.
Running Backs: Asa Martin, Harold Joiner. The past few years Auburn has gone through a number of running backs, and these guys will both likely play early. Martin, in particular, is a guy who is good in all phases, including pass protection.
Quarterbacks: Joey Gatewood. In a perfect world, Gatewood redshirts and learns the system behind a trio of capable quarterbacks already on the roster.
Atheletes: Quindarious Monday, Richard Jibunor, Shaun Shivers, Kolbi Fuqua. These guys could play a number of different positions, but my thought is that you’ll see most of the fast guys move towards the secondary while the bigger guys will move towards linebacker and maybe buck end.