2011 recruiting on similar path as 10
This time last year, the Auburn coaching staff was wrapping up their first spring and summer in the Auburn program, and it was one of the most eventful offseason's in recruiting Auburn had experienced in a while.
The establishment of the Big Cat Weekend sent shockwaves through the recruiting world, making headlines for the creativity, originality, and forward thinking that it displayed. Bringing together top recruits from all over the country in a non-camp, no-pressure type setting, it made Auburn the epicenter for top-notch high school athletes for that one weekend at least.
At the end of July in 2009, Auburn had 12 verbal commitments, including three four-star prospects. Three of those three-star commitments would later get bumped up in the Rivals rankings, two becoming four-star prospects, and one becoming an elite five-star prospect.
The buzz of Big Cat Weekend and the number of quality prospects already committed had Auburn fans on a new found high of excitement and it culminated in the nation's No. 4 class.
So as July of 2010 comes to an end, the Tigers are sitting on 12 verbal commitments once again, identical to last year. Auburn also has two four-star commitments thus far, only one off their pace of last year.
The question is, will the 2011 class continue to rival the 2010 class?
Last year was a good indication that the Auburn coaching staff was ahead of the game as three early commitments all moved up in the rankings by National Signing Day. Pelham (Ala.) four-star linebacker Jake Holland, Olive Branch (Miss.) five-star offensive tackle Shon Coleman and Greenville (Ala.) four-star defensive tackle Kenneth Carter all moved up the rankings as the season went on, including Coleman being ranked one of the top tackle prospects in the country by February.
This year may not be any different as the Tigers have commitments from a few prospects that have been discussed as potential candidates to continue to move up in the rankings. Pope (Ga.) three-star offensive lineman Thomas O'Reilly, Davidson (Ala.) three-star defensive tackle JaBrian Niles, and Gadsden (Ala.) safety Anthony Swain are three prospects that, with good senior seasons, could make a push for a four-star ranking. Red Lion Christian Academy (Del.) three-star defensive tackle Angelo Blackson is another under-the-radar recruit that was virtually unknown when he committed to Auburn in the spring. Blackson possesses the size and athleticism that could make him the sleeper of the entire 2011 class.
This time last season, Auburn already had a comfortable lead for Little Rock Christian (Ark.) five-star running back Michael Dyer, who later committed to Auburn in November. The Tigers also had themselves positioned in great shape with two other top backs in the country, Byrnes (S.C.) five-star running back Marcus Lattimore and Temple (Tex.) five-star running back Lache Seastrunk. Lattimore and Seastrunk ultimately decided to play elsewhere, but Auburn made it known it would recruit the best in the country that weren't afraid of competition.
Fast forward to this year where Auburn is right in the thick of it with some of the best backs 2011 has to offer. Manatee (Fla.) four-star running back Mike Blakely, Dr. Phillips (Fla.) four-star running back Dee Hart, Edwardsville (Ill.) four-star athlete Rodney Coe, Jefferson County (Fla.) three-star running back DeVondrick Nealy, and Lincoln (Fla.) three-star running back Javorius Allen all have Auburn among their favorites as the summer comes to an end.
Some of the Tigers top incoming freshmen this year were committed to other schools at this time a year ago as well, proving that verbal commitments these days don't always mean the process is over.
Ariton (Ala.) four-star defensive end Craig Sanders was committed to Alabama, Valdosta (Ga.) three-star offensive lineman Ed Christian was committed to Florida State and Calhoun (S.C.) four-star offensive lineman Eric Mack was committed to South Carolina. All switched their commitment to Auburn and signed with the Tigers on signing day.
Who will that be this year?
Maybe a player like Amanda Elzy (Miss.) four-star defensive back Jermaine Whitehead, who is committed to Mississippi State but continues to be intrigued but what Auburn offers on the offensive side of the ball.
A trio of top-ranked junior college prospects weren't even on Auburn's radar this time last year. All three ended up being important parts of the 2010 signing class as the Tigers will get a starting quarterback and likely a starting offensive tackle from the trio.
Coffeyville C.C. (Kan.) four-star offensive tackle Brandon Mosley, College of the Sequoias (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Roszell Gayden and Blinn C.C. (Tex.) five-star quarterback Cameron Newton had not received Auburn offers at this time last season. In the end, they all signed with Auburn, including Newton, who decided to be a Tiger even after not visiting the Auburn campus until December, his first time since high school.
It wasn't just prospects committed elsewhere, or off-the-radar prospects that made the 2010 class unpredictable.
Three of Auburn's most highly-recruited signees led the way for a resurgent Tigers class in 2010, and Auburn had to fight until the bitter end to grab their signatures.
Thibodaux (La.) four-star wide receiver Trovon Reed was thought to be a lock to sign with SEC West-rival LSU early in the process until Auburn got involved in the spring. Auburn gradually won Reed over and earned his commitment in November.
Warner Robins (Ga.) four-star defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker was one of the nation's best, and his recruitment was a two-team battle between Auburn and Georgia when it was all said and done. Whitaker made Tiger fans sweat until February, but committed to Auburn and signed days later.
Then there was Hialeah (Fla.) four-star defensive end Corey Lemonier, a prospect who had Auburn in his top four most of the process, but most thought Florida State was the team to beat. The Tigers stayed persistent in their recruitment of Lemonier and garnered a commitment and signature from him on signing day.
The 2011 class isn't any different so far as the Tigers are right in the thick of it with some of the nation's elite prospects.
The Tigers already have a commitment from the nation's No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, Shiloh Christian (Ark.) signal caller Kiehl Frazier, and the nation's No. 3 center prospect in Spanish Fort's (Ala.) Reese Dismukes.
Leeds (Ala.) four-star cornerback Jonathan Rose is set to make his decision Sunday. Auburn remains the heavy favorite to land the talented cornerback with Auburn bloodlines' commitment, and the Tigers may not be done attracting top talent at the corner position. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson also lists the Auburn atop his list, and may be nearing a decision as his high school season closes in. Valley (Ala.) four-star safety Erique Florence is one of the nation's best safeties, and Auburn remains the team to beat for Florence as well.
A trio of that caliber could give the Tigers the top defensive back class in the country.
Auburn remains in the mix for a number of other top prospects, and is among the favorites for many of the recruits including Fort Meade (Fla.) four-star tight end Brandon Fulse, Thibodaux (La.) four-star offensive lineman Greg Robinson, Carver (Ga.) four-star defensive tackle Gabe Wright, Thomas County Central (Ga.) four-star defensive end Ray Drew, Butler (N.C.) four-star athlete Kris Frost, Lagrange (Ga.) four-star athlete Quan Bray, Jackson (Fla.) four-star athlete Robenson Therezie, Evangel (La.) four-star defensive end Jermauria Rasco, Trinity Christian (Fla.) four-star running back Andrew Buie, North Gwinnett (Ga.) three-star athlete C.J. Uzomah, Stephenson (Ga.) three-star safety Kadetrix Marcus and Trinity Christian (Fla.) three-star athlete Ahmad Christian.
Will Auburn finish with back-to-back top-five recruiting classes? It's very possible, but the foundation has to be built first. Just like last year at this time, names such as Newton, Gayden, and Lemonier seemed like long shots, if shots at all, for Auburn, and there are certainly more to come in 2011.
With a commitment Tuesday from Tucker (Ga.) three-star linebacker Justin Garrett, who held offers from the top programs in the southeast, Auburn may have begun what could be an eventful few weeks in recruiting.
Sitting on the identical number of commitments, and with many top prospects continuing to have heavy interest in Auburn, the Tigers' recruiting appears to be on a similar track as 2010.
A track that last year led to the highest rated Auburn recruiting class in the history of Rivals.