As weekends go, it’s safe to say this has been one of the better ones for Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers.
First, there was that whole “run up the most offensive yards in four years while defeating a dangerous bowl-bound opponent by 24 points” thing, and now Auburn has received the most important commitment of their 2010 recruiting class to date … and possibly, the most important one, period.
That commitment is LaDarius Owens, the young gentleman pictured above. Owens is a supremely athletic defensive end-slash-outside linebacker from Jess Lanier and boasts the highest guru rankings in the current Auburn class, receiving four stars from Rivals, Scout, and ESPN and a spot in both ESPN’s and Rivals’ list of the top 150 prospects–at any position–in the country. He’s Rivals’ No. 7 outside linebacker, ESPN’s No. 15 defensive end, and Scout’s No. 20 LB. Owens landed at No. 2 in the B’ham News Super Senior list and is Rivals’ No. 3 recruit in the state. He’s got offers from Alabama*, LSU, Florida St., Clemson, and others. So, yes, the people who are paid to figure out if LaDarius Owens is good unanimously, universally say that he is very, very good indeed.
But that’s only part of why this is such a huge commitment for Chizik and Co. You don’t have to follow recruiting all that closely to know that Auburn’s in-state recruiting the previous two years hasn’t even quite measured up to “lackluster.” Auburn hasn’t a signed a prospect in the Rivals’ Alabama top 10 since 2007, signed just one of last year’s Super Seniors, etc. There’s a reason the Auburn staff spent part of the summer touring the state’s high schools in a limo.
Owens represented a golden opportunity to end that streak–he’s got deep Auburn ties (it’s impossible to read a piece about him that doesn’t mention them), he plays a position where Auburn can offer immediate playing time, he came away from Big Cat Weekend raving and had Auburn listed as his leader throughout virtually the entire summer. If Chizik and Co. were going to be able to claim any kind of actual victory in their stepped up in-state recruiting efforts, Owens was a recruit they simply could not lose.
And unless Owens pulls a surprise sometime between now and Signing Day–which looks unlikely from here, given that the link above says he’s not planning on visiting any other schools and that he’s already calling Auburn “home”–they won’t. After two years of being shut out of the Rivals’ state top 10, Auburn has a third of their top 6. There’s still work to do, but strides are– unequivocally–being made.
For more on Owens, check out his Super Senior profile and the following batch of highlights, for which the usual warning regarding the audio applies:
One other note that needs to be made in this space: while Auburn hasn’t been nearly as successful yet at their other position-of-desperation (i.e. the offensive line), Chizik and Co. have their linebacking issues addressed with four different commitments now, including arguably the top OLB in the state in Owens, the top MLB in the state in Jake Holland, and two other LBs in Jawara White and Jessel Curry with serious attention from serious college football programs. Final verdicts will have to be withheld for a long, long time, obviously, but right now this looks to be a job well done.
*Alabama fans may tell you that the Tide “didn’t have room” for Owens, and given that they already have 137 linebackers on the roster and are widely expected to land fellow studly in-state LB C.J. Mosley, I’m not insider-y enough to say that’s totally incorrect. I just don’t see that it matters–“commitable” offer or not, there was some a great deal of interest on the Tide’s part, and everyone who’s gotten a look at Owens agrees that he’s a terrific pickup for Auburn. That’s all I care about.