Auburn head coach Gene Chizik absorbed another haymaker to his chances of being retained beyond this season with a road loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. But the strength of his 2013 recruiting class should buy him one more year.
According to Rivals.com, the Tigers currently have the No. 9-ranked recruiting class for this upcoming season. Sitting at 1-6 is unacceptable for a program of Auburn's caliber, but that's more of a testament to the fine line in the SEC and how one down year can break a team.
Instead of starting out with cupcakes, too, Chizik's team immediately squared off against a ranked opponent in Clemson in the season opener. Also worth noting is that the team nearly beat LSU, a team that still lurks near the top of the BCS Standings at No. 6 even with one loss. Getting bested by a score of 12-10 is not shameful at all.
The "easiest" game Auburn had all season was against Louisiana-Monroe, which capitalized on a Tyler Wilson injury to beat then-No. 8 Arkansas in Week 1.
It simply hasn't been easy. This incoming recruiting class will fill in key positions to help soften the blow of a terrible season. Amongst the current commitments, there are three 5-star players: Linebacker Reuben Foster, and defensive ends Carl Lawson and the aptly-named Dee Liner.
Perhaps most importantly, help under center is on the way in the form of 4-star recruit Jeremy Johnson. While he has the definite capability to run, Johnson is a relatively polished, 6'6" passer with a very high release point.
His skill set has drawn comparisons to 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton.
According to a recent account of Johnson in action by AL.com's Josh Bean, Johnson was in the midst of a dominant high school performance when he celebrated a touchdown by doing Newton's patented Superman stretch in the end zone.
Judging from this game tape from the Carver High School prospect, he can just about do it all and would fit in nicely into a Newton-esque offensive scheme. It wouldn't be wise for Auburn to risk losing him by firing Chizik.
As respectable as the Tigers' defense has been this season, the addition of two 5-star defensive ends will only help matters. Barring a big jump by Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley, Johnson has a legitimate chance to start as a true freshman and make an immediate impact.
And through all these positive signs, that's only four of the recruits in this talented Tiger class. There is still plenty of time between now and the beginning of 2013.
There's no doubt that Auburn is suffering through its worst season in years, but help is definitely on the way. Chizik should be given one more season in the extremely competitive Southeastern Conference, because he has some big-time players who could make an instant impression on the college football landscape.
But for the program to retain these prized prospects, it will likely have to retain its current coach.