Auburn Football Recruiting: What’s Next?

Monday, December 20, 2021

Auburn Football Recruiting: What’s Next?

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The early signing period has passed but there is still plenty of work left to do on the recruiting trail.

Auburn football recruiting had a good week. The Tigers landed 8 new commitments during the early signing period. Two of those pickups were flipping blue chip prospects from Alabama and LSU. Three were the top rated JUCO players at their position while another was an LSU legacy. The top 3 rated players in Auburn’s class committed last week.

Like I said, it was a good week on the Plains.

But this class is far from done and there are still some major holes that need to be filled over the coming months. Auburn reportedly has 22 or 23 initial counter spots available for this class plus due to having 7 players enter the portal already are eligible to use 7 extra spots on transfers. That means the Tigers could still add anywhere from 10 to 14 more players to the roster this cycle. It would not shock me to see Auburn use every one of those spots as the roster continues to turn over.

So today we look at what prospects and transfer target to track over the coming months. January should be an extremely busy time on the Plains as the staff will look to lock down their final top remaining targets and get some high priority transfers on campus.

Let’s take a look.

What’s the Story on Story?

The only Auburn pledge to not ink with the Tigers last week was 4-star DL Caden Story. Story entered the week as Auburn’s #1 ranked commitment so this is a pretty important recruitment to track. His father told aldotcom that the family decided to push back his signing to February due to logistical concerns.

“We’ve been extremely busy, and the date kind of just ran up on me,” Clifford Story said. “I didn’t want to rush it and throw it together. We’ve been dealing with issues on the school side as far as location and some other things. I wanted it to be special, so we decided to wait and do it in February.”

There have been conflicting reports since this news on whether Story will end up in Auburn’s class come February. Some insiders believe this will end up a nothing burger and the blue chip will sign with Auburn in a couple of months. Others believe the two sides could be mutually parting ways for undisclosed reasons.

So far, Story has done nothing to make me doubt his commitment status so until he shows up on a campus elsewhere I will trust that he and his father are telling the truth. But I do think this is a story worth monitoring. There is a chance that like Ja’Kobi Albert who signed with Kentucky last week, Auburn has recruited over Story and the two sides could be going in different directions. If that ends up the case keep an eye on Gus Malzahn and the Knights. They finished runner up the first time around.

Prep Prospects to Know

The majority of the 2022 class signed last week but there are still a handful of SEC caliber players on the board. Auburn’s recruiting staff will undoubtedly review who is still available over these next couple of weeks and some new targets could emerge. This is typically the time of year when some kids committed to G5 kids are discovered and start flying up boards. Don’t be surprised if some new offers are handed out soon as the big board is updated and reevaluated. For now though these are the names to know.

  • 4-star RB Tre’Vonte Citizen - Likely Auburn’s top remaining target, Citizen elected not to sign early last week like Auburn’s staff had hoped. Still, Auburn heads into the late period as likely the team to beat but the competition will be fierce. Both LSU and Florida will host the #9 ranked back for official visits in January. If the Tigers can get him back on campus for an unofficial that would be huge for their chances. While Carnell Williams has done a marvelous job in this recruitment, I just have a hard time seeing Citizen withstand the local pressure he will receive to stay home. But let’s see if Caddy can land a monster fish in February.
  • 4-star OL/DL Tae Woody - This appears to be a 50/50 battle between Auburn and Florida State heading into the late period. Woody has already stated that he plans to take unofficial visits to both programs next month. However, there are some academic concerns with Woody which is why he’s having to wait until February to make a decision. If those clear up, he’d be a huge addition to this Auburn signing class.
  • 3-star LB EJ Lightsey - Lightsey was part of the mass defections in Gainesville last week but he elected to wait until February to choose a new destination. He was a top AU linebacker target during the summer but chose the Gators while Auburn turned up the heat on other targets. With 4-star DeMario Tolan and 3-star Deuce Spurlock choosing to stick with their commitments next week, Auburn will likely turn the heat up on Lightsey in January. He’s coming off an excellent senior season including an impressive 2A Georgia state championship performance.
  • 3-star OL Jalen Farmer (Florida) - Hey look! An offensive lineman! Auburn has been after Farmer for a couple of months now and will host the big man on an official visit next month. But as I have mentioned a number of times, Power 5 caliber OL prospects will now become major priorities for everyone so expect other programs to try and get involved down the stretch.
  • 3-star OL Anez Cooper - The big instate lineman is simply waiting on the green light by the Tigers. If it comes, he’ll sign with Auburn but that’s no guarantee. The staff seem to have mixed thoughts on the 6’6” 350 pounder but continue to recruit him. Personally, if Auburn can’t get traction with any other prep offensive lineman next month then take this kid. Yes he’s a developmental project but that happens a lot on the OL. Right now, Auburn needs to start getting kids in with upside and seeing if they can develop them. Cooper would be a good start.

Again these are just known targets that Auburn was recruiting during the fall. Don’t be surprised if some other names emerge soon.

Scouting Transfer Portal

Where Auburn’s recruiting efforts will really focus in on over the next few months will be on the transfer portal. Seven Tigers have entered the portal which means per NCAA’s special guidelines for this cycle, Auburn can use those seven spots on transfers themselves. I expect Auburn to add 7-10 transfers when it’s all said and done. Many of those players will likely have more than 1 year of eligibility. Here are some names to know.

  • QB Kedon Slovis (USC) - Obviously Auburn needs a quarterback now that Bo Nix is headed to Eugene. The Tigers announced over the weekend that they are hiring Seattle Seahawks QB coach Austin Davis as OC. Per AuburnLive’s Justin Hokanson, Davis has already started to work on former USC starter Kedon Slovis. After a breakout freshman campaign, injuries limited Slovis’s production over the next two years and he eventually lost his starting gig this past season. But his skillset fits what Bryan Harsin likes to use at QB. Right now, Arizona is believed to be the favorite as Slovis seems inclined to return to his home state to finish his collegiate career. My understanding is also that Auburn is evaluating a number of QB targets, some of which have yet to enter the portal, so it’s not Slovis or bust at QB.
  • QB Zach Calzada (Texas A&M) - Yes, Auburn’s staff has reportedly been evaluating the former Aggie QB who outplayed Bo Nix in College Station in November. I am skeptical this gets past the eval stage but still he’s someone to watch for the next couple of weeks.
  • QB Cameron Ward (Incarnate Ward) - Probably the highest upside prospect in the portal, Ward won the Jerry Rice Award in 2020 which is given to the top freshman in FCS. He threw for over 4,600 yards this past fall while also tossing 47 touchdowns and only 10 picks. He would have three years of eligibility. To date, Ward has only taken one official visit and it was to see Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. The Rebels might be the early team to beat but if he holds off to take visits in January, Auburn will likely push hard to get him on campus.
  • WR Jacob Copeland (Florida) - I still remember when Auburn felt they had become the team to beat for the former top 100 recruit after he visited for A-Day when Jarrett Stidham threw it all over the field. However, he eventually ended up signing with the Gators, much to his mother’s displeasure. Following an up and down career in Gainesville, he’s hit the portal and the Tigers are reportedly interested. How interested remains to be seen.
  • WR Trey Palmer (LSU) - The #112 player in the 2019 class entered the portal over the weekend and Auburn reportedly has reached out. While he brings a lot of upside at wide receiver, Palmer is a proven electric return man with both a punt return and a kick return touchdown to his name. We will see if things heat up between the two sides.
  • OT Bobby Haskins (Virginia) - With Miles Frazier off the board, Haskins might now be the top OT target in the portal. The Cavalier was a three year starter who could immediately step in an and anchor one of Auburn’s tackle positions. He’d only have 1 year of eligibility remaining but given the need for Auburn he’s probably worth it.
  • OT Ryan Swoboda (Virginia) - The other starting Virginia offensive tackle also entered the portal (as did their Rimington finalist center who appears likely headed to Michigan). He’s a two year starter who like Haskins would only have 1 year of eligibility.
  • OT Mason Brooks (Western Kentucky) - Brooks is being recruited by seemingly everyone including Auburn. He just earned 1st team All C-USA honors this past fall and would have 2 years of eligibility remaining due to the bonus COVID year. Having played in such a pass heavy offense there might be some further development needed in order to get movement on the ground in the SEC but he’d step on campus as Auburn’s best pass protector.
  • OT Spencer Rolland (Harvard) - The Ivy League has become a hot bed for producing top transfer offensive lineman. Rolland initially committed to Penn State but backed out of that commitment and is again on the market. He would have 2 years of eligibility remaining making him an ideal candidate for the Tigers.
  • IOL Hunter Nourzad (Cornell) - Nourzad is the latest OL Ivy Leaguer to hit the portal and garner major interest. Auburn offered last week joining the likes of Iowa, Penn State, Miami, and others. Nourzad played tackle this past fall but he expects to slide inside at his next destination.
  • DL Jayson Jones (Oregon) - I remember Jones’s recruitment a couple of years ago. The hulking product out of Calera was a long time Alabama commit. However the Tide wanted him at OT but Jones wanted to be a defensive tackle. Oregon was willing to give him that opportunity so he flipped to the Ducks. After a redshirt year, Jones earned a spot in the Ducks rotation and was expected to challenge for a starting role next fall. He’s the ideal nose guard prospect and would have four years of eligibility remaining due to the free COVID year. The Tigers are believed to be the early leader for his services.
  • EDGE Jared Verse (Albany) - Quarterbacks, offensive tackles and pass rushers are the most highly sought after prospects right now. We’ve discussed QBs and OTs, now it’s time to talk pass rush. While there is optimism that Derick Hall will return in 2022, it’s not a sure thing and Auburn is always looking to upgrade when it can. Verse is being recruited by pretty much everyone and would be a day 1 impact player for whichever program can land him.
  • LB Mohamoud Diabate (Florida) - An Auburn High school alum, Diabate transitioned to inside linebacker the last couple of seasons becoming a starter for the Gators. In 2021 he recorded 89 tackles and 2.5 TFL. With Owen Pappoe trending towards returning, Diabate would be an ideal candidate to pair with Pappoe. You could have Diabate take over at the MIKE and shift Pappoe to his more natural position on the outside.
  • LB Eugene Asante (North Carolina) - The only transfer that has so far been confirmed as a visitor to the Plains is Asante. A former blue chipper, Asante was apart of the Tar Heel rotation but never earned a starting gig so this is an interesting prospect to monitor. He would have 2 years of eligibility.
  • CB DJ James (Oregon) - James was one of my favorite players in the 2019 class despite his low rating. The Spanish Fort product left SEC country to play for the Ducks and earned a starting role this past fall. The Tigers have a serious need at corner with Roger McCreary headed to the NFL. Auburn is recruiting James hard and is believed to be the early favorite. If decisions come soon for James and Jayson Jones then the Tigers are probably going to get some good news.

Again, these are just some of the early known names. As more players enter the portal, I would expect other targets to emerge. I am not convinced Auburn’s true QB target is available yet (not saying I know who that would be but I believe staff has some feelers out) and it would not shock me to see more big name WRs jump in too. Obviously offensive tackle will be the big position to watch. For this class to truly be a success Auburn must land a quality QB transfer and at least 2 starting caliber offensive lineman in the coming months. Let’s see if this staff has another big time close left in them for the 2022 cycle.

War Eagle!

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