Lots to get to from a busy weekend on the Auburn news front, but we’ll start with the developments from the next-to-next-last weekend of the recruiting season. The biggest:
Coleman’s a go. It’s almost a shame Shon Coleman committed so early in the process, because hauling in a five-star, top-25 overall, 6-7, 285-pound tackle today would have been quite the thrill. As is, we’ll just have to content ourselves that the five-star, top-25 overall, 6-7, 285-pound tackle is indeed coming to Auburn. Unless this:
Coleman said “I’m going to sign with Auburn.” He referred to Auburn as “my future team” …
has some kind of secret meaning I’m not aware of.
For serious: this is massive news. For all the troubles at linebacker, the injury wave in the secondary, the questionable depth along the defensive line, no position was a greater need for Auburn this recruiting cycle than the offensive line, and Coleman looks like one of the best prospects in the country. Full credit to Chizik and Co. both for jumping on Coleman early (remember, when Coleman committed last summer his teammate Damien Robinson was thought to be the better of the two) and for locking him up now. Assuming nothing funny happens between now and Signing Day, Coleman will give Auburn three (and possibly four?) offensive players in Rivals’ overall top-50.
(If you want a caveat, it’s that neither Scout nor ESPN are nearly as enamored with Coleman and that Rivals may be overemphasizing their impressions at the U.S. Army game–the players that showed out there definitely seemed to get bigger bumps than those at the ESPN game–but whatever: they’re the ones who watched him all week in San Antonio.)
D.J. Howard: also a go. Last week’s two–part look at the Auburn roster and 2010 class illustrated two major points with regard to Howard: first, that Auburn could actually use a little more depth at running back, and second, that provided Mike McNeil comes back 100 percent and T’Sharvan Bell continues developing, the Tigers are fine at safety.
So, yeah, it’s no surprise that Chizik has told Howard that he’ll play RB at Auburn and that in response Howard has ended his recruitment and will sign with Auburn. Great news, as Howard is the kind of athlete who’s going to make an impact somewhere. It remains possible that’s at safety a couple of years down the road or as the second coming of Mario Fannin/Eric Smith at H-back, but the reports coming out of those who have watched him play at Lincoln seem too emphatic for him not to succeed at Auburn.
How good have Chizik and Co. been this recruiting cycle? They now look likely to finish the class having suffered zero decommitments.
DTs. Still no word from Jeffrey Whitaker, but Byran Jones (unsurprisingly) had good things to say about his visit. For reasons we’ll get to in a second, Jones is suddenly a key recruit for this Auburn class and Chizik and Co. have to feel reasonably good, right? He’s buddies with the rest of the 2010 class’s Arkansas contingent, Auburn’s got tons more recruiting momentum (for whatever it’s worth) than the Hogs, there’s space on the DT depth chart … the Tigers have to be the favorite, don’t they?
Maybe, but geography is always a factor and the Hogs are getting the last word with Jones on his visit next week. He’s going to be a Signing Day decision, and we’ll just have to chew our nails ’til then.
UPDATE, sort of: As I was writing this, Whitaker emerged to call his visit a 10 … but also affirm that he’s going to visit Georgia and Miami before making a Feb. 1 decision. That he’s “making sure” of a decision he may have already made sounds like a positive for Auburn, but obviously not having the final say in Whitaker’s recruitment could hurt. We’re pretty much where we were when the weekend started: optimistic, but still worried.
(By the way: a shout-out here for Jay G. Tate‘s outstanding reporting from campus today. He’s got a freaking ton more quotes and info at his place. Check it out.)
Off the board. Why is Jones so crucial all of a sudden? Because the consensus is that Mike Thornton is now well out of the Auburn picture. Auburn needs at least three and maybe even four DTs in this class; with no Thornton, Jones is a major need and Calvin Smith becomes a real possibility, I would think.
Perhaps a little more surprising than Thornton’s departure from the Auburn board is the news that Eric Mack appears to have decided once and for all to stay in South Carolina. It’s a decision that makes a ton of sense for him–remember, he has a daughter–and though his help on Auburn’s offensive line would have been much appreciated, no one here’s going to blame him.
With Coleman firming up and Mack off to Columbia, Auburn’s probably finished along the offensive line for 2010, unless James Stone pulls a shocker and bucks months of Tide-leaning to take Auburn over Alabama.
Overall: Would have been nice to wrap up one of the DTs or keep hope for Mack alive, but getting Coleman and Howard securely in the fold–along with what seem like very positive impressions on Whitaker and Jones–make this a very, very successful weekend for Auburn.
More on the weekend news later today.