football Edit

Who signs where? Checking in on Auburn's top 12 remaining targets

AUBURN — A week from Tuesday, unsigned college football recruits across the country will gear up for their final 24 hours on the market.

With a week to go, some prospects will take their last official visits of the cycle. Others will host coaches on in-home visits leading up to Sunday night when face-to-face contact comes to a halt before National Signing Day.

It's possible Auburn adds a target or two in the next few days, but the Tigers' board is taking shape. Below are the 12 prospects most strongly considering Auburn who have taken official visits to the Plains. I break down where I expect each of those programs to sign and who is in the best position to change that before signing day.

This is a two-team race. Despite Bell's rave reviews of Tallahassee this weekend, I actually view this as Auburn's race that Florida State is trying to survive in. Auburn has made it clear the Tigers want Bell to play center at the next level, and Bell loves that pitch. The Tigers have been around this recruitment for a long, long time and, dating back to the summer, the team Auburn was most worried about pushing was Alabama. That hasn't happened. Florida State has given a valiant effort, but it won't likely be enough.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Florida State

Here's another two-team race that feels an awful lot like a two-team race. Brothers has already taken an official visit and confidently called Auburn his leader. In fact, Brothers told AuburnSports.com that, while he didn't say it until he visited and knew for sure, he'd felt for a while his No. 1 choice was and would be Auburn. Once he made that trip, he felt like it was a no-brainer to come out and say it. Since that visit, Brothers put Miami and North Carolina in his top 3 with Auburn and elected against a Miami official visit he initially planned. North Carolina's official visit came before the new staff arrived. The Tar Heels are hanging around, but it won't beat out Travis Williams.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: North Carolina

This has been a tough one to gauge. Dating back to the summer, Auburn was the team to beat even though he remained committed to Tennessee. Cox changed his tune during the fall and winter, though, specifically telling AuburnSports.com in December that he would sign with the Volunteers and had little doubt in his mind about that. But he still had an official visit planned to Auburn and took it. He hasn't said much publicly since that trip, but the Tigers feel good about where they stand with Cox. Assuming Auburn pushes for Cox the way it seems, I expect Cox to flip to the home-state school.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Tennessee

Fuller has lived his recruitment to the fullest for the last month. Starting with his Auburn official visit in December, Fuller has taken visits to Auburn, Louisville, Florida State and now said he plans to be in Tuscaloosa next weekend. This makes for an exciting finish to a recruitment. With all that said, the Seminoles have hosted him on an unofficial visit and official visit in the last month. It's tough to envision Florida State getting him on campus twice in the last month and still losing a commitment it's held since February 2017.

Prediction: Florida State

Next in line: Auburn

Griffin's recruitment has taken off in the last month the way it should for the few years prior. One of the state of Georgia's most productive running backs in history has officially stepped off his long-time N.C. State commitment. This has opened the door for Auburn and Georgia Tech who have been seen as the favorite. Griffin has also opened up his recruitment to other programs, which included an official visit to Louisville and an upcoming trip to Florida State. I think this could go a variety of different ways — especially if Auburn were to miss on Mark-Antony Richards — but the late addition and visit to Florida State makes me think the Seminoles will make a successful final push despite some of Griffin's family connections to Georgia Tech.

Prediction: Florida State

Next in line: Georgia Tech

One thing to watch this weekend: Will Hampton visit Auburn this weekend? If he does, that will be game-changing news for Auburn. He has already taken an official visit, so to return on an unofficial visit just before signing day would be telling. With that said, the LSU side feels confident about where things stand after Hampton went on an unofficial visit to LSU recently. This is a football and baseball decision, so the work of Butch Thompson & Co., certainly comes into play in this recruitment. Ultimately, it's hard to envision Hampton stepping off a commitment he's had since July 2016, but it's undeniable Auburn is giving him something to think about.

Prediction: LSU

Next in line: Auburn

Much like with Bell, Henry has a two-team decision to make between Auburn and Florida State. Both of those players were in Tallahassee over the weekend and were actually communicating via Twitter about wanting to play together. I believe they will end up in the same destination. Henry called Auburn his leader after his trip to the Plains. He has since said it's a close battle between the two. Gus Malzahn plans to go see Henry at the end of this week, and I think his last-minute in-home will do the trick to shore up the only pure offensive tackle for the Tigers in this class. This is a gotta-have-it signing for the Tigers, in my opinion.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Florida State

Behind Henry (and George Pickens, I suppose), Moore might be my next on the list for most-important get. Let's take this back a couple years. Moore committed to Mississippi State before his junior season in 2017. He tore his ACL that year and lost almost the whole season. That didn't stop Rodney Garner from staying true to his recruitment of Moore. It paid off last spring when Moore started visiting. Auburn received another boost when one of Moore's good friends Jaren Handy signed with the Tigers. But another twist occurred: Dan Mullen's coaching move to Florida. Moore committed to Mullen way back when. Mississippi State had little shot to keep Moore with Auburn and Florida pushing the way they did. The Mullen effect has made this a close, close recruitment. But the combination of Handy, Garner and area recruiter Marcus Woodson seems to give Auburn a few advantages that I think will win out.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Florida

Pickens is certainly keeping a lot of people guessing. As he has said, he almost signed with Auburn during the early signing period, but he decided to back off. A big reason for that? A few schools he hadn't officially visited yet also sent him letters of intent during the early signing period in hopes of landing a surprise signature. Pickens decided to check those places out in January. He has been to Georgia and Miami back-to-back weekends. Those are the two programs who still have a realistic shot for Pickens. But, as I've said for months on Pickens, I'm not changing my prediction on this one. Auburn has had Pickens' commitment since July 2017, and the Tigers will hold onto him over the course of the next week.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Georgia

This recruitment has turned in several different ways throughout the process. Initially, the only school who really recruited Plumlee exclusively as a quarterback was Georgia. That's what landed him in the Bulldogs' class to begin with. Then Georgia changed its offer before the early signing period and gave him a blueshirt option. Plumlee decided to check a few other things out, just in case. That has included trips to Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Florida State. The main difference: all of these schools have changed their pitch to quarterback, and Georgia has stayed true to its blueshirt plan. That makes Georgia an unlikely landing spot at this point. Auburn has recruited Plumlee, but the two in-state schools seem to be making stronger pushes.

Prediction: Mississippi State

Next in line: Ole Miss

Here's another one near the top of the must-win list. Richards has been an Auburn target for as long as he's been a high school football player. That separates the Tigers in a big way. Still, Florida and Georgia — more than Miami, really — have given Richards something serious to think about in the final days leading up to his National Signing Day decision. Auburn has been and continues to be the team to beat in this recruitment, however, and it's difficult to envision that changing in a week given the diligence Richards and his family have taken throughout this recruitment. Gus Malzahn and Cadillac Williams plan to see Richards on Wednesday, and that should be the final check mark that wins out for the Tigers.

Prediction: Auburn

Biggest threat: Florida

Earlier this month, Jammie Robinson took his official visit to Auburn with his mother and brother. It was his mother's first time on the Plains and re-entered Auburn into a recruitment many had forgotten about in the months prior. Robinson has been an Auburn target since he was an underclassman coming on recruiting visits with Big Kat Bryant and Quay Walker. Auburn has created a last-minute push, but South Carolina has consistently been there the entire time. The Gamecocks likely win out because of their long-standing status for Robinson.

Prediction: South Carolina

Next in line: Auburn

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: That would bring Auburn to 24 signees, assuming all my predictions happen. Throw in the grad transfer addition of Jay Jay Willson, and that's 25. My sourcing tells me Auburn thinks it will take 26-27 during this cycle. That number, however, includes any grad transfers the Tigers may take. Throw in La'Michael Pettway who took an official visit last weekend, and that's 26. If the Tigers try to go grad transfer quarterback or offensive lineman, that gets it to 27. So it's possible Auburn wants to leave a couple spots available after National Signing Day to allow a late addition. With that said, Auburn wouldn't turn away Robinson or Hampton or Griffin if they wanted in. This is all part of the decision making and numbers crunch leading up to National Signing Day.