Asked and Answered with Jerry Hinnen: Recruiting classes, quarterbacks, and Barbee Ball

Down. Set. Pike?

Presenting the second installment of “Asked and Answered” with Jerry Hinnen. You can read the first post, which introduces the series’ rhyme and reason, here.

How would you rank Auburn’s recruiting class? When it’s all said and done, who will Auburn fans remember the most out of this class?

If suddenly granted the ability to start my own recruiting news service and overhaul the entire team rankings system, I’d do away with the straight ranking of classes 1-50 or whatever; considering that the difference between that No. 1 class and the No., say, 7 class is already essentially nonexistent and could be outright backwards once the recruits in question actually see the field, I’d break it up into tiers. Looking at this rather remarkable graph of classes by Rivals grade from MGoBlog, there seems like a pretty wide gap — to me — between No. 8 (USC) and No. 9 (Miami), but little difference between Nos. 1 and 8 or 9 through 15. Call the first eight the five-star classes and the next bunch four-star classes, and leave it at that. (I mean, seriously: if one player can cause a class of 20-25 players to jump multiple spots in your rankings, your rankings are wack.)

So I would say (as Rivals sort of did), that Auburn is firmly in that four-star pack. They weren’t on the level of an Alabama or Stanford or USC, but they weren’t all that far behind, either, and I don’t buy they were a “three-star” class near the bottom of the top 20, either; Chizik and Co. whiffed on a lot of supermegastar-types (and as well know, I mean a lot), but the reluctance of the staff to shoot offers to players they weren’t sure they’d have room for meant that almost no one in the class is a flyer/sleeper/whatever-euphemism-you-prefer-for-”not highly regarded” type. At Rivals, 5.6 is a kind of baseline with anything higher and above-average recruit; only four of Auburn’s 20 signees received a 5.6 grade or lower (though none were lower), easily the lowest percentage of such recruits for any class the Tigers have signed since Rivals started bothering. (That one of those 5.6′s, defensive end Gimel President, seems rather obviously underrated is another plus). Yes, Auburn’s class lacked both the five-star megastuds and the overall numbers of some higher-ranked classes, but it mostly made up for it with some serious quality depth.

The bottom line: this isn’t the kind of class that’s going to cost Auburn a thing. Would that little bit of improvement to get the Tigers back among those five-star classes in 2013 be nice? Sure. But can you win an SEC title (or more) with a class like this on your roster? Only an idiot would say you couldn’t. (And if it wasn’t for Auburn’s archrivals recruiting the way they do, I wouldn’t care about having a four-star class vs. a five-star at all.)

As for who Auburn fans will remember the most, the class’s lack of a Newton- or even Westerman-grade recruit — and presence of a baker’s dozen recruits with the potential to play like that kind of recruit — makes that a tough, tough call. So I’ll take a flyer on Zeke Pike, who plummeted from consensus five-star status in the summer of 2011 to the services’ forgotten man by the time his injuries, iffy senior season, and admittedly less-than-optimal off-field behavior had had their way with his rating. Here’s a guess that Loeffler puts him back together again.

Who will start at quarterback next year?

This question can’t be answered straightforwardly, because who starts for Auburn in Week 1 and who starts for Auburn in Week 7 and then who starts in Week 13 could be three different answers. But I’ll tip Frazier to get the nod out of the gate; offensive philosophy shifts or not, his combination of athleticism and dollop of experience is something neither Moseley (on the former) nor Pike (on the latter) can match. Loeffler’s smart enough — I think — to figure out what his most talented QB can and can’t do and plan accordingly. Whether Frazier can make good on enough of his potential to hold onto the job from start to finish … well, I hope he is. But I’m much less certain about it.

Has Auburn basketball improved under Tony Barbee?

Ask Justin. From where I sit, yes–they’re more competitive night-in and night-out than last year (certain games against certain teams notwithstanding, sigh), with fewer outings where it seems like the roof just caves in. But you’d expect that, because last year’s team was younger, even thinner, etc. Have they improved enough that I’m willing to give Barbee an unconditional thumbs-up? Well … let’s see how things play out down the stretch. Or ask Justin.

What do you think about division-less SEC basketball? How will next season’s 18-game conference schedule affect Auburn?

It’s an idea whose time is far, far overdue, if for no other reason than to give the SEC tourney’s seeding system an ounce of logic. If you’re not playing a East vs. West championship game, divisions are never going to make a lick of sense. Good riddance.

But I say that knowing that the new schedule won’t do Barbee and company any favors–more games vs. the East and fewer vs. the West isn’t going to help anything other than the Auburn Arena’s attendance when Kentucky comes to town.

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