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How Hugh Freeze, Marcus Davis built the best WR class in Auburn’s history

Updated: Dec. 20, 2023, 5:30 p.m.|Published: Dec. 20, 2023, 3:31 p.m.

6–8 minutes

To pay off his end of the bet — so to speak — to his starting quarterback, Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze had to follow through on his promise to bring in talent around him. It’s “no secret” Auburn needed help at the wide receiver position, Freeze said.

On National Signing Day, Freeze brought in difference makers he sought out. It’s a four-man group as things stand now, with five-star signees Cam Coleman and Perry Thompson paired with four-star signees Malcolm Simmons and Bryce Cain.

It is without question the best wide receiver class in Auburn’s history.

Auburn had only signed one five-star receiver ever before 2023. In this class alone, it has two.

“It’s no secret, we needed to get some difference-makers at the receiver position,” Freeze said during his National Signing Day press conference. “To land two of the top 10 in the nation in Perry and Cam and then two others that I think are sleepers. But they are ranked in, what, the top 150 in the country? Bryce and Malcolm. Now, they’re going to have to get thrown into the deep end of the pool and swim pretty fast, but I think they have that ability. It changes our offense if we have guys like that on the outside and in the slot that can make plays.”

Freeze called back on his history of recruiting elite receivers while at Ole Miss like Laquan Treadwell, A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf. He has a track record. But Auburn is a different challenge.

This is a football program that has an offense known largely for running the ball. Auburn has only had two 1,000-yard receivers in program history. So how did Auburn pull off this change perception?

Cain was the first to commit in June, Simmons followed in July. It was the beginning of work by Freeze and wide receivers coach Marcus Davis to infuse youth and talent into the wide receiver room. But there were bigger fish on their minds.

“All of our staff put in great effort, but Marcus Davis -- he had to spend extra, extra time because of the number of kids we were trying to sign there, too,” Freeze said.

Those players, in-state receivers Thompson and Coleman, were a bigger challenge. Auburn played catchup for them both, as the staff under head coach Bryan Harsin did not heavily pursue either five-star talent. Coleman is ranked as the No. 8 player overall and Thompson the No. 26.

“I think I couldn’t have asked any more out of the effort that it took to try, in a short amount of time, to get into the battles for the top guys,” Freeze said. “Because truthfully the elite schools are always a couple years ahead. We had to close the gap on a lot to get in in those battles. We didn’t win all of them but we sure were in them.”

Foley’s Perry Thompson runs for yardage during a preps football game, Friday, September 8, 2023, in Semmes, Ala. (Scott Donaldson/al.com)Scott Donaldson/al.com

The effort began immediately for Thompson. When Freeze took over in November 2022, Thompson had already been committed for several months to Alabama. Freeze and Davis went after the Foley receiver immediately. Slowly, the tide of his commitment swung toward an Auburn flip.

Meanwhile, Auburn began to build recruiting momentum elsewhere. Auburn proved to Thompson in mid-July that he was capable of a major flip when it pulled four-star linebacker Demarcus Riddick away from Georgia.

“Alright, so, you can go to the elite right now and help them sustain, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Freeze said of his recruiting pitch. “You could also choose, if you want to be a trailblazer and do something different and join together with a group of guys and return a program that’s proven it can be there and return it back to that.”

At Auburn’s Big Cat Weekend recruiting event at the end of July, Thompson made a pool-side announcement on an Instagram live-stream. Freeze was right beside him, celebrating as Thompson put on an Auburn hat. A handful of the other recruits in town picked Freeze up and threw him in the pool.

To that point, Thompson was the most notable recruit in Auburn’s class. It was the moment when Auburn legitimized its momentum.

Once he made his pledge, Thompson became one of Auburn’s most vocal recruiters. Turns out, Auburn needed the help.

Coleman committed to Texas A&M in July; it came largely as a surprise to an Auburn staff that thought it had done enough.

“When Cam made his commitment to another school, we immediately said, look, that’s fine, but we’re not going to waiver,” Freeze said. “We’re not going away, and we’re going to fight to the end. We’ll prove to you that we want you more, that we obviously feel like you’re a difference-maker here.”

Central-Phenix City's Cam Coleman breaks loose for a touchdown during the AHSAA Super 7 Class 7A championship at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. (Vasha Hunt | preps@al.com)Vasha Hunt | vhunt@al.com

Freeze and Davis pushed for Coleman throughout the fall. Freeze was seen in Phenix City, Alabama, at one of Coleman’s games. Auburn brought him on campus over multiple football games this season, with Thompson right there alongside.

And while Freeze said he believes he could have landed Coleman regardless, the biggest moment in his recruitment came when Texas A&M fired head coach Jimbo Fisher on Nov. 12.

“Obviously it helped that the other school had a coaching change,” Freeze said. “I’d like to think we were going to win it anyway, but I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

Together, Coleman and Thompson are the top two rated players in Auburn’s 2024 class. Auburn brought in both quality and quantity with its signees on offense. They are the keys to Auburn’s now No. 8-ranked signing class.

And they matter as they will change the way Auburn is going to run its offense. Quarterback Payton Thorne said Monday he is excited to air the ball out next season, to expand the playbook with his new playmakers.

In a way, it all reminds Freeze of his teams at Ole Miss.

“It changed the way we called games,” Freeze said of landing Laquan Treadwell. “I feel like the same about Cam and Perry and Malcolm and Bryce. You combined Walker with those, I think we did pretty good at the skill positions.”

Matt Cohen covers Auburn sports for AL.com. You can follow him on X at @Matt_Cohen_ or email him at mcohen@al.com

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In terms of recruiting, what's left for Hugh Freeze and Auburn?

Updated: Dec. 20, 2023, 5:11 p.m.|Published: Dec. 20, 2023, 5:11 p.m.

4–6 minutes

Auburn Football

Day 1 of the early signing period has come and gone. What’s left for Hugh Freeze and Auburn?

Hugh Freeze breaks down Auburn's 2024 signing class

Auburn announced its first signee at 6:17 Wednesday morning as 4-star defensive lineman Malik Blocton submitted his paperwork.

More than 10 hours later, the Tigers were left tuning into LJ McCray’s Instagram live as the 5-star flip target announced his plans to stick with Billy Napier and the Florida Gators, despite Auburn’s strong push down the stretch.

And while the bulk of it all has been put behind Hugh Freeze and Auburn’s coaching staff, there’s still work to be done as a handful of targets remain unsigned and positions on the Tigers’ roster remain unsatisfied.

So what’s left?

There’s still plenty of work to be done along the offensive line

After 10 hours of work, Auburn signed two offensive linemen in 4-star DeAndre Carter and JUCO product Seth Wilfred.

“I love the two that we have – DeAndre and Seth,” Freeze said Wednesday. “I think Seth was named yesterday (a) First Team All-American. It’s something that we saw in him. Obviously, DeAndre is one, I think he’s going to be an NFL inside guard/center. Love him as a kid. I think we got two really good ones there committed.”

That said, Freeze recognizes he and Auburn’s coaching staff can’t be done in that area.

Considering Auburn is set to be without three of its five starting offensive linemen from the 2023 season next year, it’s imperative the Tigers find replacements for Gunner Britton, Avery Jones and Kam Stutts — all who are out of eligibility at the conclusion of this season.

“There’s still one out there we’re battling for, or two that we’re battling for,” Freeze said Wednesday afternoon.

Because Freeze can’t discuss specific recruits until they’ve signed, he couldn’t name drop those he and the Tigers were still battling for. However, it’s likely he was referring to 4-star offensive lineman Coen Echols and 3-star offensive lineman Favour Edwin.

Both Echols and Edwin remain uncommitted with a number of programs still in pursuit of their commitment.

Echols plans to sign his paperwork on his birthday, Dec. 22, and will likely choose between Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, Edwin hasn’t announced a timeframe for his decision, which could come anytime now. According to 247Sports, Auburn, Alabama and Florida are all programs that are in play for Edwin.

Should Auburn miss out on both of its offensive line targets, Freeze says the Tigers will have to look to the portal.

“Hopefully they’ll be – if we need more, hopefully there’ll be a few that go in the portal that we can try to get in on,” Freeze said. “There’s no question, that one position has been the biggest challenge for me to try to figure out and for Jake to try to figure out. We’re still trying to figure that one out, truthfully.”

Can the Tigers get the final piece of the ″Freeze 5″?

Auburn signed a historic wide receiver class Wednesday as it secured the signatures of 5-star Cam Coleman, 5-star Perry Thompson, 4-star Bryce Cain and 4-star Malcolm Simmons.

However, there’s one pass catcher still on Auburn’s wish list: 5-star Alabama commit Ryan Williams.

Williams didn’t sign a letter of intent Wednesday, which didn’t come as a surprise. Williams has said all along he intends on signing in February.

And while Williams remains committed to the Crimson Tide, the Tigers have been in constant pursuit of the Saraland standout.

On Sunday, as Auburn’s men’s basketball team hosted the USC Trojans, Williams was in attendance. And it didn’t go unnoticed as Auburn’s student section orchestrated a “We want Ryan!” chant, which was led by current members of the Tigers’ football program.

Williams canceled his scheduled visit to Tuscaloosa to be on The Plains Sunday.

A lot can happen between now and February. But considering Freeze and the Tigers kept their stellar receiving class together on Wednesday, surely there might be a temptation to join the movement.

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Rewinding Auburn’s National Signing Day: A 4-star flip and a top-10 class

Updated: Dec. 20, 2023, 10:49 p.m.|Published: Dec. 20, 2023, 6:00 a.m.

18–23 minutes

Welcome to National Signing Day, one of the most chaotic and exciting recruiting days on the calendar.

Auburn enters the day with 20 players committed to its 2024 recruiting class and expects most of them to sign their National Letter of Intent. Several already have and some have even begun practicing with Auburn as it prepares for the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.

On the eve of National Signing Day, Auburn’s class is ranked as the 11th best in the nation, per 247Sports. It is headlined by two five-star rated wide receivers in Cam Coleman and Perry Thompson. Both are expected to sign on Wednesday.

But where the day gets interesting for Auburn is its last-minute pursuit of several flip targets. Five-star safety KJ Bolden (a Florida State commit), five-star DL LJ McCray (a Florida commit) and four-star defensive lineman Amaris Williams (a Florida commit) are all announcing their final college decisions Wednesday and are at the top of Auburn’s recruiting board.

Another one of Auburn’s top flip targets, five-star rated wide receiver and Alabama commit Ryan Williams, will not be making his decision until February’s signing day.

Auburn likely will not land all three, but getting the pledge of one or two from the trio would be a big day for head coach Hugh Freeze. McCray is expected to announce around 9 a.m., Bolden around noon and Williams closer to 12:40 p.m.

Freeze is expected to hold a press conference at 12:30. With the program finally receiving letters of intent from its recruits, Freeze can finally freely discuss his thoughts on the incoming players.

Check out updates from the day below:

How Hugh Freeze, Marcus Davis built the best WR class in Auburn’s history

How a late night of video games helped Hugh Freeze keep Auburn’s recruiting class together

10:33 p.m.: Well, here’s a late-night update. Auburn gets three-star OT Favour Edwin, the offensive line commitment it dearly needed with just two incoming players at the position beforehand in four-star signee DeAndre Carter and junior college transfer Seth Wilfred.

Edwin picked Auburn over Alabama and Florida. Freeze was asked about adding another offensive lineman during his press conference earlier today. Check out what he had to say in the tweet below. Freeze now has gotten one of the two guys he was “battling” for.

5:00 p.m.: No more craziness is expected today. Auburn went one-for-three on its flip targets, but the one commitment from four-star Amaris Williams was enough to bump Auburn’s class from No. 11 to No. 8. A good overall day for Hugh Freeze and company. The class isn’t set yet, with transfer portal additions to come, a few more commitments up in the air over the rest of this week in the early signing period and, eventually, a strong pursuit of five-star receiver Ryan Williams who will sign in February.

4:52 p.m.: Five-star DL LJ McCray ends up sticking with Florida. What a wild Signing Day for him. He was initially supposed to sign at a 9 a.m. ceremony. News then came out that he wouldn’t be signing today. Auburn then flipped four-star former Florida commit Amaris Williams this afternoon before McCray tweeted he would still be making an announcement this evening. On an Instagram livestream, McCray put on a Florida hat.

“I don’t know why y’all thought I was flipping,” McCray said.

4:18 p.m.: Well hello, Signing Day is not quite a wrap just yet. LJ McCray is going to go live on Instagram at 4:45 p.m. central time. The five-star defensive tackle is currently committed to Florida, but Auburn remains a strong flip possibility. Auburn already flipped former Florida defensive line commit Amaris Williams earlier this afternoon.

4:15 p.m.: Auburn announced the signing of Dylan Gentry. Gentry is a wide receiver and high school teammate of Cam Coleman. Their commitments to Auburn came in quick succession in December.

2:45 p.m.: So what’s left? The biggest name on the board that will get an answer this week is five-star defensive lineman LJ McCray. McCray was initially supposed to sign Wednesday morning but pushed back his decision. There is not an expected time of when he will make up his mind.

Auburn also is still awaiting decisions from four-star offensive lineman Coen Echols and three-star offensive lineman Favour Edwin.

Auburn High School kicker Towns McGough also has not yet made a decision.

Those will be the biggest names to track the rest of this week. Afterward, Auburn may need to hit the transfer portal again in search of another offensive line addition.

And, of course, the high school attention will squarely focus on five-star wide receiver and Alabama commit Ryan Williams. If Auburn can flip him, it may have the best all-time wide receiver class. Not just at Auburn, the best group anywhere since recruiting rankings became popularized.

2:40 p.m.: So this pretty much wraps up the biggest hectic news of National Signing Day. As things stand right now, Auburn has the No. 8 ranked class in America. It began the day ranked No. 11. The only new names Auburn added to its class today were four-star defensive lineman Amaris Williams who flipped from Florida and Dorian Mausi, a linebacker transfer from Duke.

Auburn signed two five-star receivers today, something it has never done before in program history.

2:25 p.m.: Auburn announced its signing class as things stand by Wednesday afternoon. It’s a 24-man group including high school commits, transfers and walk-ons. The press release included five players Auburn had as known commitments but had not been previously announced: four-star safety Kensley Faustin, four-star DL TJ Lindsey, four-star receiver Bryce Cain, three-star safety Kaleb Harris and junior college offensive lineman Seth Wilfred.

The press release also includes J.R. Buckner, a long snapper from Auburn High School and Keaton McNutt, a long snapper from East Coweta High School in Newnan, Georgia.

2:16 p.m.: Auburn officially announces the signing of Demarcus Riddick. The four-star linebacker from Chilton County was the first big flip in Auburn’s 2024 class, getting him away from Georgia. At the time of his commitment, Riddick was Auburn’s first five-star pledge since LB Owen Pappoe in 2019. Riddick’s commitment was one of Auburn’s biggest in-state recruiting wins in years and laid the momentum for the eventual commitment of five-star wide receiver Perry Thompson.

2:00 p.m.: A’mon Lane-Ganus was the first commitment under Freeze and stuck with it all the way through. Auburn announced the signing of the four-star-rated cornerback. He is regarded as one of the fastest players in this recruiting class.

1:45 p.m.: Auburn announces the signing of Jamonta Waller from Mississippi. Auburn flipped Waller away from his commitment to Florida. Waller, a four-star recruit, is going to provide an immediate boost to what is a very thin group of edge rushers going into next season. Waller is the highest-ranked pure pass rusher in Auburn’s class. Waller had nine sacks in 2023, and was the highest-rated player in Mississippi.

1:27 p.m.: Here is a thread of some key quotes from Hugh Freeze’s press conference.

1:24 p.m.: In a surprise announcement during his National Signing Day press conference, Freeze announced Auburn had signed Dorian Mausi, a linebacker transfer from Duke. Mausi has significant experience under his belt with 44 games played over four seasons and a consistent starter over the final three. He had 193 tackles in his Duke career.

12:55 p.m.: Auburn got the Amaris Williams paperwork quickly.

12:49 p.m.: Hugh Freeze walks in right after the Amaris Williams flip.

“Sorry guys, I was a little bit tied up,” he said.

You can watch his press conference here:

12:45 p.m.: Auburn pulls off its first big flip of National Signing Day, getting 4-star DL Amaris Williams away from Florida.

With Williams’ commitment, Auburn now has a consensus top-10 recruiting class in the country.

This one doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, having trended this way for days. Williams is a big addition to Auburn’s defensive line, especially in the wake of Marcus Harris leaving for the NFL.

Williams is ranked as the 34th overall player on 247Sports, just two spots away from being a five-star recruit. Auburn will now continue going after LJ McCray, its last big-time flip target, who is another Florida defensive line commit.

McCray announced earlier he will not sign today after initially being expected to.

Auburn has now flipped two defensive players — Williams and Jamonta Waller — away from Florida in this recruiting cycle.

12:30 p.m.: Hugh Freeze is expected to address reporters shortly for his National Signing Day press conference. You can watch his appearance here:

12:22 p.m.: Auburn starts 0/1 on its flip targets as five-star safety KJ Bolden flips his commitment from Florida State to Georgia. Auburn went after Bolden hard, and really until Tuesday felt like the favorite to flip him. This was a wild back-and-forth recruiting process including Auburn getting the last visit with him before his initial Florida State commitment. Bolden likely could have played immediately at Auburn with starting safeties Jaylin Simpson and Zion Puckett both off to the NFL.

Next focus, Amaris Williams.

12:04 p.m.: The Buford High School signing ceremony has begun with KJ Bolden. Every player at the table has hats out, except for Bolden. Bolden is entering today as a Florida State commit. Auburn and Georgia are considered the other top contenders to flip him. Watch the live feed here.

11:50 a.m. The third receiver announcement of the expected four-man group, as Auburn posts the signing of four-star Benjamin Russell product Malcolm Simmons. Simmons surpassed 1,200 receiving yards this season and had 14 touchdowns. Simmons committed to Auburn in July during the team’s Big Cat Weekend recruiting event.

Five-stars Perry Thompson and Cam Coleman as well as Simmons are now all officially Tigers. An infusion of youth and talent in a wide receiver room that needed big upgrades.

11:45 a.m.: Getting close to five-star safety KJ Bolden’s announcement at noon. You can it watched here.

11:35 a.m.: Auburn is still yet to officially announce a few signings of players who have had ceremonies this morning. One of those is Thompson 3-star safety Kaleb Harris. Harris led Thompson with 125 total tackles as a safety. AL.com was at his signing ceremony this morning. Photos from that can be found here.

11:30 a.m.: D’Angelo Barber has already been with Auburn during bowl practices, and now officially is announced as a signee. Barber has 115 total tackles this season as a senior on his way to winning the Alabama state championship with Clay-Chalkville.

Barber is a three-star linebacker recruit.

11:24 a.m.: Five-star safety and Auburn target KJ Bolden is set to announce his decision in less than an hour. Auburn had a ton of momentum with him heading into signing day, but the current Florida State commit appears to still be trending toward Georgia, based on another report from On3. The Bulldogs have been the trendy pick for the Georgia native since yesterday.

11:00 a.m.: Here is the big one. The highest-rated recruit in Auburn’s 2024 class, as it stands now, Cam Coleman is officially an Auburn Tiger. Coleman is a consensus top-10 recruit in the country and is the defining piece of a wide receiver class that is set to re-shape Auburn’s offense.

Coleman flipped to Auburn from Texas A&M after Jimbo Fisher was fired. Auburn had been a candidate to land his commitment long before Fisher was fired though. That was just the finishing piece. Auburn has only signed three five-star receivers in the history of the program, and two of them are in this signing class.

Coleman did not leave anything to chance on Signing Day, with an announcement table at Central High School’s ceremony covered in Auburn memorabilia.

It is easily the best receiver class in Auburn’s history and a candidate for one of the best receivers classes ever, with four-star commits Malcolm Simmons and Bryce Cain’s signings still to come.

10:43 a.m.: Still waiting on Auburn to officially announce the signing of its other five-star wide receiver Cam Coleman. Coleman has held his signing ceremony with Auburn helmets all over the table and has signed his National Letter of Intent for Auburn. So nothing funny going on there, just taking some time.

10:15 a.m.: The first of Auburn’s two five-star receivers have signed. Perry Thompson’s commitment in July, flipping away from Alabama, was the one that legitimized serious recruiting momentum under Freeze. This is the first time in more than 20 years Auburn has signed a five-star wide receiver.

Thompson kept an Alabama hat on the table during his commitment and feigned interest in putting the hat on, but there was never any real doubt he was sticking with Auburn. Alabama coaches did visit him in advance of Signing Day.

Thompson is going to be part of a complete reset of Auburn’s wide receiver room. The gamble Freeze has made is getting improved talent on offense to surround Payton Thorne. This is one of the key pieces of that plan.

Auburn should be getting announcements from its other receiver commits, five-star Cam Coleman and four-stars Malcolm Simmons and Bryce Cain, shortly. Cain was seen at the Auburn football facility this morning and is expected to practice with the team ahead of the Music City Bowl.

9:51 a.m.: Auburn is about to get signings from three of its big-time wide receivers commitments. AL.com’s Ben Thomas is at five-star Foley wide receiver Perry Thompson’s signing. Thompson flipped to Auburn from Alabama in July, but still does have an Alabama hat on the table during his ceremony. He is not expected to flip back, but has had an Alabama in-home visit in advance of Signing Day. Thompson was at Auburn last weekend for the Auburn-USC basketball game.

9:44 a.m.: Auburn needs offensive linemen for its long-term future and gets a big one here with DeAndre Carter. Carter is ranked as one of the top three interior linemen in America and is Auburn’s only high school offensive lineman in the 2024 class. Carter was a long-time starter at Mater Dei, a nationally renowned powerhouse high school in California. He primarily played tackle there, but is expected to shift inside once he gets to college.

9:43 a.m.: The Daytona Beach Journal confirms the earlier report about five-star defensive lineman LJ McCray. He will not sign today after previously being expected to. McCray will reportedly “announce his decision,” in the next few days.

9:10 a.m.: The first big-name signee has rolled in. Four-star quarterback Walker White is officially a Tiger. White has been one of Auburn’s most verbal recruiters throughout the fall and is the apparent future at quarterback for this team after Payton Thorne. Freeze said he expects to ride with Thorne next year, but White is truly Hugh Freeze’s “guy” so to speak. He’s Freeze’s first QB recruit.

Holden Geriner remains in the picture going forward and the two will likely battle for the starting quarterback job after Thorne. Welcome to the beginning of Auburn’s future.

As a senior in high school in Arkansas, White passed for 2,660 yards, 29 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 62.8% passing percentage. He added another 530 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

8:54 a.m.: One of Auburn’s top flip targets LJ McCray, a five-star DL and current Florida, may not sign today according to On3. He was originally supposed to announce his signing at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Auburn has been considered the favorite to land McCray should he in fact flip his commitment. He may be waiting for the decision later today of fellow Florida defensive line commit Amaris Williams, who is expected to flip to Auburn. A delay in his signing feels like a good sign for Auburn.

8:53 a.m.: The No. 1 junior college safety in America is signed with Auburn. Laquan Robinson could fill a big hole now that Auburn is expected to lose both Zion Puckett and Jaylin Simpson to the NFL. Robinson played at Holmes Community College in Mississippi, but is an Alabama native from Greenville.

8:30 a.m.: Next up, Kansas transfer Gage Keys. Keys has two years of eligibility and is an intriguing prospect to step up immediately into playing time with the departure of Marcus Harris to the NFL. Read more about Keys from when he announced he’d chosen Auburn just after he visited during Auburn’s basketball game against USC this past Sunday, here.

8:05 a.m.: Next up, four-star DB Jalyn Crawford from Georgia. Crawford was part of a huge Auburn recruiting run in July that culminated with the commitments of five-star wide receiver Perry Thompson and four-star linebacker Demarcus Riddick. Crawford’s high school defensive backs coach talked to AL.com about Crawford at the time of his commitment. Crawford enters a cornerback room that is looking to its long-term future after losing NFL-bound corners DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett along with Keionte Scott gone after next season.

8:00 a.m.: We’re about an hour away from the first big possible flip announcement of the day: five-star DL and Florida commit LJ McCray. Recruiting experts suggest that he will likely stick with Florida. Reports from recruiting experts also suggest that five-star safety and Florida State commit KJ Bolden may have had Georgia heavily enter the picture yesterday and into this morning. He announces around noon. Auburn and Florida are getting buzz, experts say, around 3-star offensive tackle Favour Edwin. Auburn needs offensive line depth for the future after largely striking out in the transfer portal. Predictions for Edwin’s commitment had been trending toward Alabama before this morning.

7:46 a.m.: Outside linebacker Joe Phillips, a local four-star recruit from Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama, signs with Auburn. He’s the second high school signee to be announced today, and he too is already on campus going through bowl practices. This season, Phillips tallied 140 tackles, 35 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles.

7:08 a.m.: Bit of a slow start for Auburn announcing its signees. Next up is Robert Lewis, a wide receiver transfer from Georgia State. He had 70 catches for 877 yards this season, and has one year of eligibility remaining. Lewis was Auburn’s first transfer commitment since the transfer portal opened on Dec. 4. Auburn’s receiver room next year, despite the high lift of high school talent it is expecting to sign today, is gravely in need of a player like Lewis with previous college experience.

6:17 a.m.: Malik Blocton, younger brother of Auburn star defender and NFL-bound Marcus Harris, is the first Auburn signee of the day. He is rated as a four-star recruit. Blocton is already participating in bowl practices with Auburn.

6 a.m.: The craziness begins. It’s 6 a.m. central time meaning national letters of intent can officially begin rolling in. Auburn already has a few in hand, meaning there should be a flurry of early morning announcements to come.

Matt Cohen covers Auburn sports for AL.com. You can follow him on X at @Matt_Cohen_ or email him at mcohen@al.com

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Freeze and Tigers get difference makers at wide receiver

Jason Caldwell

3–4 minutes

AUBURN, Alabama—When Auburn’s Hugh Freeze took over the job on the Plains, one of the things he talked about needing to improve was the wide receiver room. Last year they were forced to go to the transfer portal to try to remedy the issues, but the goal was to always bring in the building blocks for the passing game in the 2024 class.

Consider that goal met after the signings of 5-stars Cam Coleman and Perry Thompson along with 4-stars Bryce Cain and Malcolm Simmons on Wednesday. While there’s still one big fish still left to potentially add with 5-star Ryan Williams not signing until February 9, Freeze said he’s ecstatic about the wide receiver group the Tigers are bringing in along with Georgia State transfer Robert Lewis.

“It’s no secret, we needed to get some difference-makers at the receiver position,” Freeze said. “To land two of the top 10 in the nation in Perry and Cam and then two others that I think are sleepers. But they are ranked in, what, the top 150 in the country? Bryce and Malcolm.

“Now, they’re going to have to get thrown into the deep end of the pool and swim pretty fast, but I think they have that ability. It changes our offense if we have guys like that on the outside and in the slot that can make plays.

“I’ve seen them do it. I’m reminded when we started rebuilding Ole Miss, that first full class just like this first full class, we talked a guy by the name of Laquan Treadwell in coming with us. It changed the way we called games. I feel like the same about Cam and Perry and Malcolm and Bryce. You combined Walker with those, I think we did pretty good at the skill positions.”

Along with the true freshmen, Lewis is a guy that brings experience to an Auburn wide receiver room that has just six scholarship players available for the bowl game. After a big 2023 season at Georgia State, Freeze said he’s someone that could give you snaps either inside or outside.

“I forgot about Robert Lewis,” Freeze said. “I think he’s a really solid player that gives us some experience and it's good that he'll be here in the spring.”

Counting on this group of receivers to come in and compete for playing time, Freeze said he likes the makeup of the class because they bring a variety of playing styles with them to the team next season.

“Well, I like length and catch radius, so I'm glad that we've added some of that,” Freeze said. “I don't mind small kids. I just don't think you can have too many of them in this league, and I think now we've got Jay Fair and we've got Bryce Cain, and I think those are two guys that can play in this league. And then the others all have some length to them.”

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Elite edge rusher Jamonta Waller signs with Auburn

JD McCarthy
~2 minutes

One of Auburn’s most important commitments is officially a Tiger.

The Tigers are in need of help rushing the passer and Jamonta Waller is someone who can come in and immediately get after the quarterback. The Picayune, Mississippi native signed his national letter of intent with the Tigers on Wednesday, completing a critical recruitment for Ron Roberts and Jeremy Garrett.

Waller originally committed to the Florida Gators but Auburn kept recruiting him and were ultimately able to flip the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder. He is the No. 82 overall player and No. 6 edge in the 247Sports composite ranking. He is also the No. 2 player from Mississippi.

Expect him to push for immediate playing time at jack alongside Jalen McLeod once he arrives on the Plains. Stay up-to-date with the latest signing day news by checking out Auburn Wire’s early signing period tracker.

Quarterbacks beware 😈

𝐒𝐈𝐆𝐍𝐄𝐃 → @JamontaWaller
🏠 Picayune, Mississippi
💪 EDGE pic.twitter.com/INghjhI2MQ

— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) December 20, 2023

Contact/Follow us @TheAuburnWire on  X (Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Auburn news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow JD on Twitter @jdmccarthy15

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Auburn flips commitment of 4-star defensive lineman Amaris Williams

2–3 minutes

Auburn flipped a commitment on the defensive line as Amaris Williams, who had been committed to Florida since June 17, committed to the Tigers Wednesday.

Williams, a 4-star recruit according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, comes to the Tigers from Clifton, North Carolina. The 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound lineman is rated as the No. 79 recruit in the nation.

The Tigers beat out the Gators and Ohio State for Williams, who made his announcement during a ceremony at Clifton High School. His primary recruiters at Auburn were defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett and linebackers coach Josh Aldridge.

Williams’ commitment brings Auburn up to the No. 8 class in the nation, according to 247Sports. The Tigers currently rank fourth in the SEC, behind Georgia, Alabama and Texas.

Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.

Matthew Wallace | Assistant Sports Editor

Matthew is a senior from Huntsville, Alabama, majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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Hugh Freeze announces signing of transfer LB Dorian Mausi from Duke

Published: Dec. 20, 2023, 1:23 p.m.

~2 minutes

Auburn Football - Hugh Freeze Signing Day Presser

In a surprise announcement during his National Signing Day press conference, Hugh Freeze announced Auburn has landed the commitment of Duke transfer linebacker Dorian Mausi.

Mausi has been a consistent starter at Duke over the last three season, and has played 44 games over the last four seasons. He has 193 total tackles in four seasons and 8.5 for loss.

He is the third transfer of Auburn’s 2024 group after wide receiver Robert Lewis and defensive tackle Gage Keys.

Mausi, a Detroit native, has signed, according to Freeze, but Auburn has not officially announced his signing.

Auburn needed another middle linebacker even with the return of Eugene Asante, Austin Keys and Cam Riley. Larry Nixon II is the biggest loss from the positon group, but it is one without much depth.

Mausi, like Asante and Keys both did, will arrive at Auburn as a transfer already with a significant amount of experience.

Matt Cohen covers Auburn sports for AL.com. You can follow him on X at @Matt_Cohen_ or email him at mcohen@al.com

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National Signing Day 2023: DL Amaris Williams, top recruit in North Carolina, flips from Florida to Auburn

Dean Straka
5–6 minutes

Amaris Williams, one of the most touted defensive line prospects in the 2024 recruiting cycle, flipped his commitment from Florida to Auburn on Wednesday during the start of the early signing period. The high-profile flip is the latest blow for Gators' 2024 recruiting class, which began the day one spot ahead of the Tigers at No. 10 in the 247Sports Team Rankings but has since fallen out of the top 10. 

Williams is considered the No. 34 overall prospect in 2024 class, according to 247Sports, and holds a four-star rating in the 247Sports Composite. The Clinton, North Carolina, product committed to the Gators in June, doing so just one day after making an official visit. However, Williams visited both Auburn and Georgia earlier in December after Florida stumbled to a 5-7 finish in coach Billy Napier's second season, losing each of its final five games. Williams also visited and received an offer from Ohio State midseason, but it was coach Hugh Freeze and the Tigers who ultimately won the battle for his talents as the early signing period kicks off.

Although Williams checks in as a defensive line recruit, his versatility has been on full display at Clinton (North Carolina) High School, where he has flashed on both sides of the ball. Williams ended his senior year with 34 tackles, including 20 for loss and 11 sacks as Clinton went 15-1 and competed for a state title. He also saw action at running back with a four-touchdown performance against Northeastern High School in the state semifinals. 

The scouting report from 247Sports' Andrew Ivins has more on the two-way star, who has also competed in track and field events at Clinton: 

A twitched-up defensive lineman that initially billed himself as a running back. Not only owns strong testing numbers (4.7 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a 4.5 in the short shuttle), but is a decorated thrower having placed second at North Carolina 2A meet in the shot put as an 11th grader. Initial get-off and a nice forward lean tends to cause plenty of issues for blockers as he can win his fair share of battles with a simple bull rush. Anticipates the snap better than most and is quick to shoot gaps and work his way into the backfield. Likely to find more success as an interior rusher if he can improve his pad level and get better with his hands. Measured roughly 6-foot-3, 255 pounds spring before senior season and looks to have plenty of growth potential. Should be viewed as a future 3, 4i or 5-technique at the next level, but might also be able to add some value as an edge player depending on program needs. NFL upside with his explosive lower half, but must keep evolving as a defender, which should happen as he focuses strictly on that side of the ball.

Williams is not the first touted prospect to decommit from Florida this week. On Monday, the Gators watched safety Xavier Filsaime -- a five-star prospect, according to 247Sports -- flip his commitment to Texas after previously being committed to Florida since the spring. 

Napier, Gators losing recruiting momentum 

The loss of Williams and Filsaime to other SEC opponents in a span of three days (Texas joins the SEC ahead of the 2024 season) just about epitomizes the situation for Napier and his staff exiting Year 2, in which momentum has waned considerably on all fronts. For as bad as the Gators' second-half tailspin was, Florida still exited the regular season with a top-10 recruiting class intact for the 2024 cycle. It was enough to preserve some optimism over the program's long-term trajectory under Napier, even with an 11-14 record in two seasons guiding the program. 

That too has now fizzled as the Gators' class is down to No. 15 in the 247Sports Composite following several key decommitments. Napier and Florida have seen 10 prospects in the 2024 cycle decommit from the Gators, with seven occurring since the start of November, according to 247Sports. Seven of those players hold at least a four-star rating from 247Sports and five are considered top-100 prospects for the cycle. Adding to concerns, five-star quarterback commit DJ Lagway had not yet signed his National Letter of Intent as of Wednesday afternoon, prompting speculation that other schools could swoop in at the last minute for the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2024 cycle.

While it could be worse -- Florida still tracks to sign a class that most Power Five programs would take in a heartbeat -- the overall strength of the SEC doesn't help. The Gators' 2024 class ranks a pedestrian eighth in the conference, according to the 247Sports Composite. Combine that with 17 transfer portal departures -- running back Trevor Etienne and edge-rusher Princely Umanmielen among them -- and it could be an uphill battle for Napier to produce a winner in 2024, which is all but a must entering the third year of his tenure. 

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