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Krootin’: RB hunting

Mike Blakely: shop around, but shop us last.

We are Running Back U, after all. There’s been some minor consternation out there in Auburnland about the Tigers’ future prospects at tailback. Yes, tailback, and it’s not totally beyond reason: with Chizik and Co. whiffing on Lattimore, booting Aycock, and forced to watch Fannin leave after this year, the 2011 depth chart at RB currently consists of

1a. Michael Dyer
1b. Onterio McCalebb
3. Eric Smith
4. ??????

With Smith having never gained much traction at tailback (and not even a lock to remain on the roster, given his disciplinary and academic issues), there’s not much depth in that depth chart, is there? Which is why running back is, most definitely, a position of need … and unlike last year, the top three backs in the country haven’t all named Auburn their leader.

It’s all going to be OK, of course, because if there’s anything Chizik and Co. know how to do, it’s recruit skill position players. Mike Blakely might not be quite as well-regarded as Dyer, Lattimore, and Seastrunk were a year ago at this time, but he sure as hell ain’t chopped liver: he’s the No. 22 player in the country to Rivals, No. 116 to ESPN, No. 244 to Scout. He’s got offers from Florida, Clemson, Michigan, Tennessee, North and South Carolina. He’s good.

And Auburn’s his leader:

Blakely had Auburn at the top before Big Cat Weekend, and has Auburn at the top now. “They were definitely at the top going in. I had fun again, and really enjoyed myself. They definitely didn’t hurt themselves, and they actually went up,” said Blakely …

“The time I’ve spent there has been awesome. It’s just a great place to spend time at. Out of all my visits, it’s not like anywhere else I have seen. The coaches are so family oriented, and they stick together. They’re all like one, and that’s not how it is everywhere,” Blakely added.

Unfortunately, it’s not all party hats and kazoos: Blakely says he’s not committing anywhere anytime soon, and Florida may make a big push for him after already losing out on in-state RB Mike Bellamy to Clemson. Still, Chizik and Co. have a firm lead with their No. 1 running back target. I like their odds.

Of course, as hungry-looking as that depth chart is, it’ll be a major surprise if Auburn doesn’t take another running back. It won’t be a shock if that back winds up being Rodney Coe, who at 6’3″, 230 would bring a different, more physical dimension to the position than Blakely (or any other back on the roster) would bring. Coe hails from Edwardsville, Illinois, but made Big Cat Weekend all the same. Reaction:

“One thing that really stood out was how they interacted with the players,” Coe said. “Every other school we just toured the facilities. We toured the facilities at Auburn, but we also had activities, and it was just a different routine. We got to mingle with the players and coaches, and we just got to be closer to them. That was one of the best things I liked about it …

While Coe says he’s visited many schools so far this spring, he hasn’t quite narrowed it down to a definite top group. He does, however, have some schools in mind for official visits next fall, one of which is Auburn.

“I don’t have a favorite school right now,” said Coe. “I’ve been to about 11 schools by now so I’m starting to narrow it down. Unofficial visits I’m done, but I already have an idea of my some official visits. I know for sure I’m going to Auburn, Iowa, and Arkansas. Then I’ll have two others that I may want to go and check it out.”

He’s described the Hawkeyes, Hogs, and Tigers as his top three elsewhere, so the rest of the field will be chasing those three schools … and frankly, given the current recruiting profile of those three schools, you’d have to like Auburn’s chances unless some other major program enters the fray (and maybe even then). We’ll see what happens when Auburn gets that official visit.

And because no discussion on high school running backs is complete without a highlight film:

The other two prominent names to keep an eye on appear to be Javorious “Buck” Allen–who came to Big Cat–and, of course, Dee Hart.

Rankings fun. Not news by now, but both the full Rivals 250 and ESPN150 have been released. Reese Dismukes joined Kiehl Frazier on the Rivals list, coming in at No. 222. ESPN was much kinder: not only is Dismukes their No. 52 player (and No. 1 center), but Thomas O’Reilly showed up at No. 145 as the No. 9 guard. Which helps explain why Auburn comes in at No. 9 in their ridiculously preliminary team ranking exercise.

If Auburn enjoys the kind of success in the latter half of the recruiting cycle they enjoyed last year, they’ll easily move up. Major targets in both lists include Blakely, Erique Florence (No. 68 Rivals, 57 ESPN), Ray Drew (15, 3), Xzavier Dickson (145, 23), Gabe Wright (92, 92) (!), and Brandon Fulse (156, 93). Some of the other Auburn targets in the Rivals list include Kris Frost (27), Hart (34), Jonathan Rose (60), Coe (162), and Kevin McReynolds (218).

Frazier. And hey, before we forget Auburn’s Quarterback of the Future, he ranked 62nd in the Rivals list and 39th at ESPN. He also comes in for praise in this ESPN article cataloging the top quarterbacks in the class of ’11.  Pertinent paragraph:

Frazier may be the one player in this group with the highest ceiling for development as a passer. The measurables and athleticism are abundantly present for this dual-threat QB, and he chose the right school with the right offense (Auburn) to help enhance his physical tools. He has a big arm and is still developing as a passer. His ability to create, keep a play alive and make things happen with his legs is on par with [Ohio State commitment] Miller.

Yes, I’ll take it.

Etc. As of earlier this week there was  no change in the status of Minor defensive back Chris Jones–Auburn out in front, Florida still in the picture–but we’ll see if an Alabama offer changes that … Michigan DB Valdez Showers is taking a bus to his Auburn visit, slated for July … P-Marsh recaps Auburn’s, like, total pwnage of the Natural State.

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