Auburn Football: 4 Recruits Auburn Must Hold on to During Coaching Search
Other than the firing of Gene Chizik on Sunday, the second biggest story surrounding Auburn this week has been about recruiting.
Stories have centered around assistant coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper or around Auburn's highly-touted 2013 recruiting class. Or both.
Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper have stayed around the program to help hold the recruiting class together while Auburn searches for its next head coach.
Those two, as we know, were at the center of last week's report from Yahoo! Sports that said the NCAA was still looking into Auburn's recruiting in Memphis of Jovon Robinson and possibly other areas. We talked about what message Auburn was sending by keeping Taylor and Luper around on Monday.
Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com reported on Tuesday (subscription required) that Taylor, Luper and defensive line coach Mike Pelton are now back on the road recruiting for Auburn, instead of just making calls to recruits.
Since the firing of Chizik, Auburn has had a few defections from its 11th-ranked recruiting class (according to Rivals).
Monday, 4-star WR JaQuay Williams was the first to officially decommit from Auburn's recruiting class. Williams was a 2012 signee that did not qualify academically. He has spent the last year in preparatory school.
On Tuesday, 4-star LB Trey Johnson decommitted from Auburn.
Decommitments during a coaching change should be expected. Especially when Auburn has a very highly-regarded class committed for 2013. Rival schools have probably been in recruits' ears since it became inevitable earlier this season that Chizik was not going to be on the Auburn sidelines in 2013.
There are some recruits in this class that can Auburn can absolutely not afford to lose. Auburn fans would like to see all of them stay, but that is not likely to happen with a new coach coming in. Here are four current Auburn commitments that the Tigers must retain commitments from until signing day in February.
Reuben Foster, LB
A common saying around Auburn this year was, "The team's best LB is playing at Auburn High School." Those people were referring to 5-star LB Reuben Foster, who switched his commitment from Alabama to Auburn this past summer.
We saw all of Auburn's struggles this year at LB and Foster is expected to come in and compete for playing time immediately.
Foster has been calling fellow Auburn commits since Chizik's firing to convince them to keep their pledge to Auburn.
Auburn fans would feel a lot better about commitments before signing day if every one got Auburn tattoos after they committed to the Tigers.
Jeremy Johnson, QB
During the season, 4-star QB Jeremy Johnson made news when he said that he would decommit from Auburn if Gene Chizik was dismissed.
There hasn't been an official decommitment from Johnson yet. That is because he is not talking to the media while his season is still going on.
Carver QB Jeremy Johnsonsays he's "not even thinking about" Auburn/recruiting/coach search until after his season. twitter.com/jeff_shearer/s…— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) November 27, 2012
Everyone saw the struggles that Auburn had at QB during the 2012 season. It is not known whether Johnson has the ability to come in and play right away, but it certainly would help Auburn if Johnson can come in and push QBs Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley for a starting position.
Auburn also has a commitment from 4-star QB Jason Smith.
Dee Liner, DE
Dee Liner is one of Auburn's three 5-star recruits. He spent time in the news this past fall, and it wasn't due to his play on the field.
Regardless of the off-the-field issues that Liner has faced this summer, most teams will be able to find a spot for him if his commitment waivers from Auburn. This past weekend, he was a visitor of Alabama, where he saw the Tide trounce the Tigers, 49-0.
Liner is one that Auburn cannot afford to lose like so many other recruiting battles that the Tigers have to their in-state rival.
Auburn has a need for a powerful, speedy DE, and Liner fits that description perfectly. DE Corey Lemonier is draft-eligible this season, but after a poor 2012 season, he would be wise to come back in 2013 to increase his draft stock.
Auburn also has a commitment from 5-star DE Carl Lawson. Auburn does not want to lose either one, but it's believed that if Lawson does not commit to Auburn, he will take his talents to Clemson. Auburn would much rather have that happen than one of its top targets flip to Alabama.
Jordan Wilkins, RB
Last July 4-star RB Jordan Wilkins committed to Auburn after being committed to Vanderbilt. Wilkins can come in and help the Tigers' RB depth immediately, especially with the loss of speedster RB Onterio McCalebb.
Wilkins brings more size (6'1", 210 lbs) than Auburn's current RB Tre Mason (5'10", 198 lbs) and should be able to have more success between the tackles than Mason did this season.
Auburn's coaching change has Wilkins looking around, according to Barton Simmons (subscription required) of 247sports.com.
Auburn's other RB commit, Cameron Artis-Payne, a commitment from the junior college route, is also looking around.
It is also unknown, if not doubtful, that 2012 RB signee Jovon Robinson will return to Auburn next year. As most know, he was declared academically ineligible after his transcripts at Wooddale High School in Memphis were found to be falsified.
Auburn had a hard time establishing a running game all year due to poor play on the offensive line and lack of a true power back. While Mason opened eyes with his ability and gives Auburn hope for 2013, he is not the prototypical power back that Auburn needs. Expect Mason to fill McCalebb's role more than an every-down RB in 2013.
Losing Wilkins would hurt Auburn's severely hurt Auburn's chances at having the strong running game that has become expected from Auburn over the years.
The attrition of Auburn's recruiting class is not over by any means. But If Auburn can keep these four commitments, it would go a long way to help getting Auburn's next head coach off on the right foot.
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