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KN: Why Auburn Recruiting Will Be Better 2023


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Posted (edited)

Why Auburn recruiting will be better this cycle

24 minutes ago

 

Let's talk Auburn recruiting and where the Tigers might be headed.

As you know, Auburn's 2022 recruiting class finished at No. 20 in the 247Sports rankings -- down one spot from the previous class -- and was the lowest Tigers finish in more than a decade. Generally speaking, and statistics of college football’s biggest winners show this, stars do matter. A lot.

But ultimately, the true value of the 2022 group won’t be known for a few years so it’s possible Auburn’s evaluations were better than the class rankings would suggest. Of course, the opposite also is on the table. Time will tell. For now, we simply have the ranking to by. That's all. And the ranking suggest Auburn has work to do to catch up to the Alabamas and Georgias of the world.

With May’s arrival, we’re knee deep into the 2023 class recruiting cycle. And at Auburn, there is reason for optimism. Yes, really. And a lot of it.

With that in mind, here are five reasons I believe Auburn’s 2023 class will finish with a higher ranking than it’s predecessor.

 

 

 

-Yellowhammer Statement: The state of Alabama is, well, loaded, this cycle. And Auburn is very much in the game with about 15 or 16 of the top 30 in-state prospects. That includes three of the five 5-stars — defensive tackle James Smith and cornerbacks Jahlil Hurley and Tony Mitchell. All told there are 21 in-state 4-stars (22 if you count Hoover native Dale Miller, a defensive back now at Bradenton IMG Academy in Florida. He's very high on Auburn). If the Tigers just do moderately well at home this cycle — and we think they will — you should see a noticeable uptick in the class ranking. It's not unreasonable to think Auburn will sign a half dozen 4-stars from Alabama. One already is on board -- center Bradyn Joinerof Auburn High. Among the key targets in-state are two major flip candidates -- Hurley, a Crimson Tide verbal, and offensive lineman RyQueze McElderry, a Georgia commit. Both likely will officially visit the Tigers.

 

 

 

-The people behind the scenes: When a new head coach arrives, he at first doesn’t typically have all his people in place. That takes time. You can’t just show up at a new school and fire everyone. Additionally, some people are kept to help ease that transitional period. But now that we are more than 16 months into the Bryan Harsin area at Auburn, the behind-the-scenes operation probably is more to his liking. More staff chemistry never is bad thing, right? What we’ve heard is that cohesion in the football offices/recruiting department has been a great thing for recruiting. New hires such as Dir. of Player Personnel Steven Ruzic (and others) have provided Dir. of Recruiting and one of Harsin’s top Lieutenants, Darren Uscher, the support needed to compete in the SEC. Yes, there was a learning curve in Year 1 for Harsin and Co. Today, it’s full steam ahead. With a beefed up staff and better chemistry behind the scenes, that means, among other things, more recruiting support for the coaches and better on-campus experiences for the recruits. You’re also seeing Auburn get its foot in the door earlier with recruits and the Tigers are making a real effort to get to know high school coaches, especially those in the state of Alabama. The plan for an Auburn assistant to visit every school in the state of Alabama this spring was not an original idea but it was nonetheless brilliant. These changes (improvements) behind the scenes are not insignificant. 

 

 

 

-Bring on the recruiters: Auburn lost three quality defensive coaches during the offseason when Derek Mason (Oklahoma State), Nick Eason (Clemson) and Bert Watts (Denver Broncos) departed. Make no mistake, according to others in the coaching business, those guys can coach. But collectively, they didn't knock it out of the park on the recruiting trail the previous cycle. That’s not all on them of course as recruiting is a team effort and both praise and criticism must be equally shared among an entire staff. Also, as I write about momentarily, the staff did have major challenges in Year 1. That said, while Eason did land some potentially important pieces (notably No. 1 junior college prospect Jeffrey M'ba and Oregon transfer Jayson Jones, both defensive tackles), Mason had only moderate recruiting success and Watts didn’t land a single edge, which has left the Tigers in a precarious spot at that position.

 

 

 

Enter their replacements — defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, edge coach Roc Bellantoni and linebackers coach Christian Robinson. I’m not qualified to compare and contrast their player preparation and game-day attributes with Mason, Eason and Watts. But in terms of recruiting acumen, this looks and feels like an upgrade in the aggregate. Robinson is known as being one of the best relationship-builders in the business, Bellantoni is plugged in down in Florida and Brumbaugh is a recruiting workhorse who played at Auburn and is connecting with recruits from the Sunshine State to New Jersey. Now, none of the three has a commitment just yet, but the feeling is they will make some noise.

-Georgia on its mind: Auburn signed four prospects from Georgia in the 2022 class after landing just two in the transitional 2021 class. By comparison, the 2020 Auburn class had 10 Georgians (Tank Bigsby was among them) and the 2019 class had nine (led by 5-star backer Owen Pappoe).

 

 

 

Low numbers in Georgia won’t cut it. Not for anyone in the Deep South, and particularly not for Auburn, which sits right on the Alabama-Georgia border and is only 90 minutes from the heart of the football hotbed of Atlanta. It’s okay to cherry pick from the west coast and recruit in other states outside of the traditional Auburn recruiting footprint (see Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas), but one of the biggest keys to the Tigers’ success is — and will always be — shining in the Peach State. Coaches who ignore that do so at their own peril and won’t be long for Auburn.

For the Tigers, we’ve seen an increase this cycle in the attention this state has received. Secondary coach Zac Etheridge continues to makes waves in the metro area, Robinson, who played at Georgia, is popular throughout the state, Brumbaugh has spent extensive time there and the same goes for offensive line coach Will Friend and others. Ruzic, too, has strong ties in Georgia, where his dad coached high school ball for many years. When you add it up — more effort here and more connections here — one has to think the combination will pay dividends before all is said and done.

 

 

 

-Coaches on the road, more recruits on campus: Right now, Auburn’s assistants are all out on the road — recruiting and evaluating. This time last year because of Covid, the NCAA had an extended recruiting dead period that lasted through May 31. So not only were coaches not on the road, they couldn’t host kids either. Yes, everyone had to play by the same rules but for Auburn, with a new staff in place, that simply was devastating as the Tigers were left to build relationships over the phone and via Zoom calls. The really put Auburn behind the 8 ball in many respects and left a first-year group playing catchup throughout the entire cycle. Is this an excuse? Sure it is — but a legitimate one. A very legitimate one.

While those rules impacted every school, they hurt some more than others. The damage to a staff with mostly new faces — many of whom had not previously recruited in the southeast — was huge.  Right now, Auburn’s coaches are seeing prospects in person, making connections with high school coaches and doing in-person evaluations of prospects in the 2023 class along with younger recruits. Last April and May, Auburn couldn't have recruits on campus. This April and May, most of its top targets were there. 

 

These things matter.

 

 

 

A few more thoughts …

What we've observed from Harsin in Year 2 is this: He seems to be adapting. 

While the level of talent in Alabama from year to year is out of Harsin's control, how his staff recruits the state of Alabama is within his control. 

We've seen significant changes made (and like them) and those don't happen without approval from the top of the food chain. That sometimes goes for minor ones, too. So however the program has evolved under Harsin's leadership, it doesn’t matter where the ideas for change and growth came from, the person in charge deserves credit for signing off. That goes not only for making hires but also any shifts in recruiting strategy.  

Having talked to both people inside and outside the program, most see the things we've written about today as mostly encouraging developments. Additionally, many have noticed a more engaging Harsin when it comes to recruiting and that hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Another positive: Based on our interviewing, he seems to be connecting much better with key prospects in Year 2. Again, not a bad thing. 

And finally ...

You'll notice we didn't dig into NIL, or even mention it up until now. That's because my feeling continues to be that the top programs will have similarly appealing NIL programs. And if that is in fact true, relationships, staff organization and strong recruiting strategies will continue to be major factors in recruiting just as they've always been.

Keith Neibuhr

Edited by toddc
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  • toddc changed the title to KN: Why Auburn Recruiting Will Be Better 2023




Some on here have called out reporting by beat writers as “sunshine pumping “, but KN usually calls them as he sees them. This article lays out the recruiting at Auburn being on the upswing for sure.

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4 hours ago, toddc said:

Some on here have called out reporting by beat writers as “sunshine pumping “, but KN usually calls them as he sees them. This article lays out the recruiting at Auburn being on the upswing for sure.

I have been watching the reported effort and the players that are showing up on campus.  This along with what Keith is saying gives me hope as he is not a sunshine pumper. That said until I see some higher rated players actually commit I can't let my love for Auburn cloud my perspective. We seem to be doing all the right things the question is will it overcome the advantages the big boys have and the negative recruiting other teams are doing after what happened with Harsin.  

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8 hours ago, toddc said:

Bring on the recruiters: Auburn lost three quality defensive coaches during the offseason when Derek Mason (Oklahoma State), Nick Eason (Clemson) and Bert Watts (Denver Broncos) departed. Make no mistake, according to others in the coaching business, those guys can coach. But collectively, they didn't knock it out of the park on the recruiting trail the previous cycle. That’s not all on them of course as recruiting is a team effort and both praise and criticism must be equally shared among an entire staff. Also, as I write about momentarily, the staff did have major challenges in Year 1. That said, while Eason did land some potentially important pieces (notably No. 1 junior college prospect Jeffrey M'ba and Oregon transfer Jayson Jones, both defensive tackles), Mason had only moderate recruiting success and Watts didn’t land a single edge, which has left the Tigers in a precarious spot at that position.

Bert was legit terrible on the trail but it seems like a bad take on the others 

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We can  Have a decent recruiting class if we can somehow manage to have a decent season this year. Recruits will always be interested in Auburn just off name alone. But having a big name won’t make them commit.
 

Winning and putting guys in the draft early is what these recruits see. It’s not rocket science and if we can’t do that then everybody will keep going to Bama, UGA, and Ohio state 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Sizzle said:

We can  Have a decent recruiting class if we can somehow manage to have a decent season this year. Recruits will always be interested in Auburn just off name alone. But having a big name won’t make them commit.
 

Winning and putting guys in the draft early is what these recruits see. It’s not rocket science and if we can’t do that then everybody will keep going to Bama, UGA, and Ohio state 

How good a record do we have to have?

I saw some people on the recruiting thread on Rant comparing the current regime to Lebo. That would be the worst possible scenario given what would come next (you could honestly parallel the end of Gus's tenure with Cliff Ellis--god forbid that parallel holds, as it would take until 2034 to reach 2019 levels of success i.e. 9 wins and beating UAT).

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1 hour ago, AUwent said:

How good a record do we have to have?

I saw some people on the recruiting thread on Rant comparing the current regime to Lebo. That would be the worst possible scenario given what would come next (you could honestly parallel the end of Gus's tenure with Cliff Ellis--god forbid that parallel holds, as it would take until 2034 to reach 2019 levels of success i.e. 9 wins and beating UAT).

If he can get to a minimum of 8 wins I think that’ll be enough to build some momentum IMO. There’s 3 easy games, hopefully they beat Penn state and Missouri. Then after that we’ll have to see 

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Still lots to do....another 23 in-state defensive recruit and we aren’t in his top list of choices.  Gardendale HS

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Always cool to see South Carolina recruit bettert than us

 

 

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13 hours ago, W.E.D said:

Bert was legit terrible on the trail but it seems like a bad take on the others 

Bert was quite literally useless in terms of recruiting. Him and Will Friend both were my two biggest under performers. 

I agree that Eason had popular reviews but him and Mason both aren't used to being on the road guys. Etheridge has largely carried our defensive recruiting and Caddy carried the offense. Kiesau we'll see. He got numbers but we missed on big Wide Receiver talent including in the portal. 

We have a development based staff with a few strong recruiters. I very much wanted Friend gone with Bobo. I think EJ Harris is the only line.an he has brought in...

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1 hour ago, W.E.D said:

Always cool to see South Carolina recruit bettert than us

 

 

We never had a chance with him from the beginning but not even being in the top 5 is embarrassing 

2 minutes ago, Zeek said:

Bert was quite literally useless in terms of recruiting. Him and Will Friend both were my two biggest under performers. 

I agree that Eason had popular reviews but him and Mason both aren't used to being on the road guys. Etheridge has largely carried our defensive recruiting and Caddy carried the offense. Kiesau we'll see. He got numbers but we missed on big Wide Receiver talent including in the portal. 

We have a development based staff with a few strong recruiters. I very much wanted Friend gone with Bobo. I think EJ Harris is the only line.an he has brought in...

Harsin not gone survive much longer at Auburn with only 2 guys on his whole staff getting results in recruiting. All his guys been on the road real heavy these past couple weeks, hopefully it brings in good results down the road

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13 minutes ago, Sizzle said:

We never had a chance with him from the beginning but not even being in the top 5 is embarrassing 

Harsin not gone survive much longer at Auburn with only 2 guys on his whole staff getting results in recruiting. All his guys been on the road real heavy these past couple weeks, hopefully it brings in good results down the road

Yeah I don't know about these new guys yet. I still think Will Friend is our undoing. We had like 8+ seniors on the OL last year and replaced that with one lower rated guy... and didn't take two guys that wanted to be here... then didn't get a single guy out of the portal.

This recruiting class is vital but what we do in the portal this offseason is huge. We don't have the guys to replace our OL next year. 

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1 hour ago, Zeek said:

Bert was quite literally useless in terms of recruiting. Him and Will Friend both were my two biggest under performers. 

I very much wanted Friend gone with Bobo. I think EJ Harris is the only line.an he has brought in...

I don't understand how Friend is so awful.  He has always been a top recruiter.  Are we not cheating at all?  Can we not toss some bags to kids like everyone else is?  Did that neuter him so badly?

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1 hour ago, Sizzle said:

We never had a chance with him from the beginning but not even being in the top 5 is embarrassing 

Never had a chance b/c it was a situation like the QB in B'ham or b/c the staff isn't doing a good job?

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11 minutes ago, W.E.D said:

I don't understand how Friend is so awful.  He has always been a top recruiter.  Are we not cheating at all?  Can we not toss some bags to kids like everyone else is?  Did that neuter him so badly?

South Carolina fans had a similar take on his recruiting. I don't know.

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2 minutes ago, Zeek said:

South Carolina fans had a similar take on his recruiting. I don't know.

When was Friend at USC?  I thought it was UGA->Colorado St->TN->Au

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Zeek said:

Yeah I don't know about these new guys yet. I still think Will Friend is our undoing. We had like 8+ seniors on the OL last year and replaced that with one lower rated guy... and didn't take two guys that wanted to be here... then didn't get a single guy out of the portal.

This recruiting class is vital but what we do in the portal this offseason is huge. We don't have the guys to replace our OL next year. 

The easy way to tell how your season is going to go is to look at who your starting linemen are on both sides of the ball. If both are top tier you’re probably going to have a good year if one is in the bottom half then your season probably won’t end too well unless you have a Heisman caliber QB

15 minutes ago, W.E.D said:

Never had a chance b/c it was a situation like the QB in B'ham or b/c the staff isn't doing a good job?

I think it’s both but more the latter

Edited by Sizzle
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3 minutes ago, W.E.D said:

When was Friend at USC?  I thought it was UGA->Colorado St->TN->Au

Sorry I know he was there with Bobo but I don't know if he ever coached there. Just remember other fans laughing at the hire and telling us good luck.

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16 minutes ago, Zeek said:

Sorry I know he was there with Bobo but I don't know if he ever coached there. Just remember other fans laughing at the hire and telling us good luck.

lots of ppl def laughed at us, but I don't think he was ever with Bobo at USC.  He was in athens until 14.  15-17 he was at colorado.  18-20 he was at UT.

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How much would we give to have the #7 ranked class this year?  That happened in 2020, but the only way it happens this year is if we literally purchase that talent. We call this staff a developmental staff because it doesn't consist of any proven elite recruiters. Unfortunately, evidence of all the talent they have developed is also hard to find or missing.

But.... rest easy and worry not, all that big big Alpha energy is about to make lemonade from lemons.  If so, I'll buy a round for everyone.  If not, brace yourselves.

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31 minutes ago, AU9377 said:

How much would we give to have the #7 ranked class this year?  That happened in 2020, but the only way it happens this year is if we literally purchase that talent. We call this staff a developmental staff because it doesn't consist of any proven elite recruiters. Unfortunately, evidence of all the talent they have developed is also hard to find or missing.

But.... rest easy and worry not, all that big big Alpha energy is about to make lemonade from lemons.  If so, I'll buy a round for everyone.  If not, brace yourselves.

All accounts are that, as the thread stated, we are heading in a better direction in recruiting.

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On 5/11/2022 at 8:48 AM, W.E.D said:

I don't understand how Friend is so awful.  He has always been a top recruiter.  Are we not cheating at all?  Can we not toss some bags to kids like everyone else is?  Did that neuter him so badly?

He could be gun-shy after that UT/Pruitt mess? 

There's a negative stigma (for years) with Auburn's brand as it relates to attracting top olinemen and Friend will has an uphill battle to overcome that.  

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50 minutes ago, JerryAU said:

He could be gun-shy after that UT/Pruitt mess? 

There's a negative stigma (for years) with Auburn's brand as it relates to attracting top olinemen and Friend will has an uphill battle to overcome that.  

At this point we don’t attract ANY OL let alone top tier OL. We struggle to get 3 stars now

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15 minutes ago, Sizzle said:

At this point we don’t attract ANY OL let alone top tier OL. We struggle to get 3 stars now

It's BAD and has been for a while, I don't know what it'll take to make it better other than showing recruits we'll pay yuge NIL contracts to linemen once they get here.  I mean like a few hundred grand a year type deals. 

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1 hour ago, JerryAU said:

It's BAD and has been for a while, I don't know what it'll take to make it better other than showing recruits we'll pay yuge NIL contracts to linemen once they get here.  I mean like a few hundred grand a year type deals. 

It takes another coach IMO

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