Auburn Football: Recent Wave of Decommitments Is No Cause for Alarm

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Auburn Football: Recent Wave of Decommitments Is No Cause for Alarm
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

There are many ripple effects that come along with coaching changes. The Auburn football program and its supporters have felt those ripple effects for the two weeks that Gus Malzahn has been the Tigers’ head football coach.

Some of those effects are good and some are bad. On the good side, you have a complete culture change with new faces; two things that were badly needed. With that comes a new sense of optimism for the upcoming year. 

On the bad side, you have coaching staff uncertainty and attrition on the football team and in the upcoming recruiting class.

photo via Opelika-Auburn News

Auburn has dealt with the latter of those negative consequences in recent days. There have been seven defections from the 2013 recruiting class that was ranked as high as No. 10 during the 2012 season. Reuben Foster, Trey Johnson, Jahmere Irvin-Sills, Jarrad Davis, JaQuay Williams, Lemond Johnson and Arshad Jackson have decommitted from Auburn since Gene Chizik was fired on November 25.

Auburn now has 12 commitments and is ranked No. 28, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.  

Despite the loss of top recruits, Auburn fans should not panic.

Decommitments are a price that is paid with coaching searches and Auburn has plenty of time to rebound before anyone can judge the quality of this recruiting class. 

National signing day is still nearly 50 days away (Wednesday, February 6). While that doesn't seem like a long time on the fan's calendar, it is an eternity in the world of 18-year-old kids and college recruiting. 

The NCAA-enforced dead period began on Monday, December 17. Coaches may not have face-to-face contact with recruits (unless the recruit is a mid-year enrollee), but coaches may still call prospective recruits as much as they would like. 

When the dead period ends on January 3, the Auburn coaching staff should be fully assembled and will be able to recruit full throttle for the home stretch of recruiting leading up to national signing day. By this time, the staff will have recruits they want to hone in on in an effort to get their signature on a national letter of intent. 

While it is always good to have top-tier talent on your sideline, there are many instances where the players that were committed to the previous staff do not fit the new staff's philosophy in recruiting or on the football field. Or both. Lemond Johnson is a prime example. He was looking to enroll early at Auburn, but that idea was shot down by Malzahn (via Matt Scalici, AL.com)

Johnson said that one major factor in his decision was his plan to enroll in school in January, something Johnson had planned to do at Auburn but was told by new head coach Gus Malzahn would not be an option.


“Coming in mid-year, that’s something I really wanted to do,” Johnson said.

Judging by Auburn's roster numbers, it appears that Malzahn was saying more along the lines of "No thanks," instead of "We don't have room," when he declined Johnson's offer to enroll at Auburn in January.

Like many others, I am of the belief that recruits should commit to a school and not a coach. Having said that, I do not blame any recruits for wanting to take a look at different schools if someone they have built a relationship with during the recruiting process will not be around for at least their first year of college football.

Relationships are built over time and if a recruit does not know anyone on the new staff or hasn't even heard of the new head coach, it should be expected that he may look around at other options.

In many cases, all the Auburn staff has to do is get a recruit on campus to become a serious contender in his recruitment.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

That is because Auburn recruits itself with its campus, athletic facilities and tradition. High school athletes want to play in a brand new 92,000 square-foot indoor practice facility and a stadium that fits nearly 90,000 screaming fans on a weekly basis. Having three Heisman Trophy winners, three undefeated seasons in the last 20 years and a recent BCS National Championship doesn't hurt either. 

In 2008, Chizik was hired at roughly the same time in the recruiting cycle to replace Tommy Tuberville. He rallied to accomplish a No. 19 ranking in the 2009 recruiting class. Sixteen of the 28 signees committed to Auburn after that year's dead period. It appears Malzahn will have to do the same for the 2013 recruiting class. 

The decommitments on the recruiting trail may continue before things get better, but Auburn fans should not panic. This recent wave of decommitments is like the metaphorical band-aid that was covering the Auburn football program being ripped off briskly. The defections are part of the consequences of a coaching change that had to happen and that so many Auburn supporters clamored for.  

 

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