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Krootin’, 1/12

Why, I'd say that hat looks mighty fine on you, Mr. Whitaker.

Got a big “where we stand” post on the 2010 recruiting class coming later this week, but there’s too many worthwhile links/updates/newsbits/what-have-you out there to wait on passing them on. Enjoy:

Hmmmmm. The above picture of Jeffrey Whitaker comes via some anonymous Auburn fan on the floor of last weekend’s U.S. Army All-American Game and was posted–along with shots of Trovon Reed and Lache Seastrunk–at Auburntron. They’re fun, but ultimately probably not all that meaningful. What makes me sit up and take notice is the guy’s account of his meeting with Seastrunk:

I ran into lache. He called me mr au. Said luper hadn’t called in 3 weeks because we already had [Marcus] lattimore. I told him he was a totally different back than Latt and not to forget about us.

Now, quite obviously, you take the word of Random Guy on the Internet Who’s Not Into Capital Letters and his story that’s been filtered through multiple sites (including this on!) by the time it’s gotten to you at your own risk. But the feel around the Auburn recruiting sites has been increasingly confident on Lattimore and increasingly “they don’t want him” on Seastrunk over the past month. This would seem to back up both those reports and the timetable.

As for why Auburn’s coaches might have given up their recruitment of a five-star speed back that would fit Malzahn’s offense like a tailor-made glove, well, a surge of interest from Lattimore might do it. But there’s also this Rivals report from the All-American game:

Stock Dropping: Lache Seastrunk

He seemed very aloof at times and was late for meetings throughout the week. Seastrunk’s ball security was less than desirable; he carried the ball around like a loaf of bread. There are two big questions about this talented athlete: How serious is he about the game? Can he become an every-down back?

Like I said: hmmmmm. (By the by: “Honorable Mention” in the “stock dropping” category was Ahmad Dixon, another guy that Auburn’s coaches seemed to have cooled on after some earlier interest. He’s newly committed to Tennessee.)

More. Auburn’s commits and targets had a solid week at the Army game. Rivals on Shon Coleman, who they named the No. 8 star on the East team and gave various glowing reports to throughout the event:

Each of the East offensive linemen had their moments during the week and in the game, but Coleman was the most consistent of all of them. He won the starting left tackle job from five-star Robert Crisp during the week and was excellent against some very impressive ends on the East and West. He showed very good feet, he used his arms well and didn’t overreact to speed rushes and stayed low and handled bull rushes well despite his tall but thin frame. He still needs to fill out quite a bit and add more of a mean streak, but his upside is very impressive.

As has been the case for months, keeping Coleman in the fold is every bit as important as–or rather moreso than–landing any of Auburn’s high-profile uncommitted targets. Chizik and Co. did a great job identifying and getting a commitment from a kid with Coleman’s potential as early as they did; it’ll be quite the shame if that effort goes for nothing in the event of a de-commitment.

Whitaker was the other star from the Auburn perspective, getting “Honorable Mention” under Rivals’ “Stock Rising” category and also drawing “Best of the East” notice:

Whitaker is a plugger who plays with great leverage, has tremendous strength off the snap and not only takes up blockers but can beat double teams. He’s built like a brick, plays with a pad level that frustrates opponents and his anticipation and ability to read the play is impressive. He had a tackle for a loss in the game itself and you can pretty much count on him for one of those a game at the next level if he continues to develop. He’s not a natural pass rusher, but he’s great against the run whether the play is coming at him or going away from him.

Here’s the good news: Auburn confidence on Whitaker is running really high at the moment and Chizik and Co.’s biggest competitor for his signature still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator. Nothing but good news here. (Whitaker visits this weekend, by the way.)

Over at ESPN, Trovon Reed also got came in for some praise, but not exactly the kind you’d expect:

In the secondary Trovon Reed (Thibodaux, La./Thibodaux), who pulled double duty and is projected as a wide receiver in college, played a strong game at cornerback. He did well in man coverage showing his speed and athleticism and using his height.

Too bad Auburn runs/defends 80 plays a game, or we’d totally be looking at some Champ Bailey action, right? (Actually, after that Northwestern game, let’s give Daren Bates a few carries at RB, just to see if he can handle that, too.)

Yet more Lattimore. Dissenting opinion from ESPN’s J.C. Shurbutt:

Lattimore will announce his decision the day before national signing day at his family church in Spartanburg, S.C. Auburn, Oregon, Penn State and South Carolina are his four finalists. Most believe it’s going to come down to the Tigers and Gamecocks, but you can’t rule out Penn State and the Ducks — who have the last official visit (on the weekend of Jan. 22). The home team has the inside track here and he goes to South Carolina this weekend.

Shurbutt no doubt knows more about what’s going on than I do, but … as I pointed out yesterday, right now it’s hard to point out a single SEC school that’s less running-back friendly than the ‘Cocks. (Seriously: name one. You can’t. Even Vandy’s top back carried 30 more times for 120 more yards than SC’s this year.) RBs carried 10 times total in the bowl disaster against UConn, for less than 3 yards a carry; class of 2009 running back hottness Jarvis Giles didn’t touch the ball once against the Huskies despite averaging better than 5 yards a carry on the year.

There’s a gazillion different things that go into a recruit’s decision (as they should be), but if it really is Auburn vs. Carolina head-to-head for Lattimore’s signature, I like our offensive staff’s chances.

(Also at that same Shurbutt link: he says to “consider the Tigers the favorites” with Whitaker, while also noting Georgia could make a push if the get their staff situation settled.)

Mack. Back to Shurbutt on Eric Mack, who naturally downplayed the importance of the photos of him in an Auburn hat (and with Auburn players) from the Under Armour game:

Mack also went on to say that his commitment to South Carolina is “medium” due in large part to the recent departure of Gamecocks offensive line coach Eric Wolford to Youngstown State to take the head coaching position there. South Carolina hired Shawn Elliott from Appalachian State to replace him. He will visit Columbia officially on the weekend of Jan. 15 and will head to Gainesville the following weekend. He told Low that he “didn’t think” he would be taking another unofficial to Auburn and that he would be making his final decision on Feb. 3, which is national signing day.

As has been the case for a while, it’s all still up in the air as Mack decides between what I’m guessing (I mean really guessing) are the team and staff he genuinely likes (Auburn) vs. the pull of his Carolina home and teammates and family. (And hey, Florida’s Florida: no point in not hearing what they’ve got to say.) Tough choice; I wish him luck.

Driskel. Hey, Auburn just got finished landing one top-shelf quarterback, might as well add another one in 2011 in Jeff Driskel, who rocked the Army game junior combine just as he had the Under Armour version:

One who stood out was quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty), whose stock has started to skyrocket. He is a good looking prospect at the position with nice size (6-foot-2, 224 pounds) and excellent athleticism. He has great feet and is fluid and quick in his drops. He has a quick release and displays nice zip on the ball. The Florida native was tops among the quarterbacks in attendance and was just added to the 2011 Under Armour Game roster.

Auburn offered Driskel ASAP and already has the pressure on:

Driskel, an Auburn fan since he was young, received an Auburn offer last Sept. 1. He received an offer from Florida earlier this week. He said Friday Auburn remains among his favorites. He said he talks frequently with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

“I talk with coach Malzahn once or twice a week,” Driskel told AuburnUndercover.com. “We talk constantly.”

And Driskel said the Tigers signing of junior college quarterback Cam Newton has had no impact on him.

“Coach Malzahn was telling me not to worry about them signing Newton,” Driskel said. “He was telling me about how he would be graduated when I am a sophomore. That signing didn’t change my situation with Auburn at all.”

One would hope not. In any case: again it looks like Auburn’s coaches pegged a fast-riser early on.

Howard. The good news: D.J. Howard canceled his scheduled trip to Clemson after a visit from Chizik (and apparently Thigpen), citing weather concerns. The bad news: it looks like Auburn’s also going to have to fend off a challenge from Kentucky, who Howard’s visiting Jan. 22:

“I’m still open to them and Clemson,” he said. “(Auburn) coach (Gene) Chizik came by the school, and we had a good talk. We had a heart to heart about things I was hearing, that I would be moved to defense, and he promised me that I would get a shot to play running back …

“But I told him that I still wanted to take some visits. I could tell that he wasn’t happy with that. I could see it in his eyes, but I told him that I owed it to myself to check all of these schools out, to protect myself.”

Which makes plenty of sense, of course. Still: you have to think that Clemson was Auburn’s biggest challenger here and that not getting that last look at the Carolina Tigers can only help Chizik and Co.’s cause.

Adams. One of the stranger stories of this Auburn recruiting cycle came to a close last week when Ken Adams signed with LSU. Adams was a Tubby sign-and-place recruit who 1. Auburn re-recruited 2. committed to Tennessee 3. was set to announce between Auburn and Tennessee on the early Signing Day last month, supposedly in Auburn’s favor 4. mysteriously announced nothing 5. dropped Tennessee 6. was rumored to sign with Auburn again 7. finally signed with LSU. That’s quite a ride for Mr. Adams.

Exactly what happened is a matter of speculation (as far as I can tell), but I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to suggest that Adams was primed to sign with Auburn in December … until Chizik and Co. swept the Mosley, Gayden, and Newton commitments, closing out all the early-enrollment slots. One way or another, the sudden change-of-plans may have created just enough friction that one side or the other decided to part ways. I’d feel bad for Adams if he was indeed promised that early-enrollment offer and he hadn’t landed on his feet … but LSU’s not exactly chopped liver as a fallback position. Wish him luck there. (11 games a year.)

Etc. The AJC lists its top 50 in Georgia, with several Auburn commitments featured; bear in mind when you see Antonio Goodwin at No. 36 that production plays a big, big part in that ranking. (And hey, nice to see Jessel Curry up there at No. 24.)

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