The Auburn Football program is in a major rebuilding mode with the head coaching change that came at the end of the 2012 season.
One constant for this team has been recruiting over the past few seasons. While looking at the commits currently in the fold, a number have huge star potential.
Auburn targeted a number of big time defensive linemen, and with head coach Gus Malzahn returning to to JUCO recruiting, the Tigers have a number of top JUCO performers landing on the Plains this fall.
Here are the five recruits with the biggest star potential.
Cameron Artis-Payne lit up the JUCO ranks last season when he rushed for 2,048 yards and finished with 25 touchdowns. His performance for Allan Hancock was unbelievable, and he will bring his talents to the Plains this spring.
Artis-Payne steps into a light backfield with only Tre Mason returning with significant experience. Mike Blakely has some, but he brought a lot of fumbling issues to the field last year that could hurt his future stock.
The Tigers also return Corey Grant, but he had limited exposure through 12 games last year.
This is an open lineup for Artis-Payne to step into. It will be an open competition entering spring, and one that he could come out on top of. Mason and Artis-Payne could combine to make a dangerous one-two punch for the Tigers this fall.
Carl Lawson is a premier player in the 2013 recruiting class and is expected to sign with Auburn despite recent wavering comments. He has scheduled an official visit for early February, making the Auburn coaches confident in his commitment.
Lawson is the best defensive end in the 2013 recruiting class. He will be a player that has a solid shot of walking in and earning playing time consistently.
The Tigers struggled to find a consistent pass rush last year and Lawson could be a solid solution. It is rare for freshmen to walk in and make an immediate impact along the line, but Lawson’s blend of size and speed makes him a factor from day one.
The Tigers have focused on the defensive line in this recruiting cycle, and they have corralled an impressive collection of talent. Headlining the middle of the defensive line is Ben Bradley.
Bradley is a JUCO player who has great size, and is extremely quick off of the football. He will remind Auburn fans of Nick Fairley in body type and style of play.
This is the Tigers' shot to return to physical play on the defensive line. That was what kept them in games throughout the '80s and '90s, and what gave the Tigers an edge in the 2010 National Championship season.
This was a huge pickup for the Tigers, and Bradley should be a performer from day one.
Cameron Toney is not the most highly rated of the Tigers 2013 recruits, but the potential of this 6’3”, 225-pound linebacker is sky high.
Toney is a fast linebacker for his size, and will make a major impact for the Tigers defense down the line. He may not step into a starting role immediately, but he will be able to provide help along the special teams this coming fall.
Watch for Toney over the next few seasons as he steps into a starting role over time. He has the tenacity that Auburn needs from the position. It hasn’t had a nasty streak over the past four years.
Linebacker is where it starts.
Brandon King is another JUCO pickup for the Tigers who has the shot at making waves from day one. He is a hybrid safety/linebacker type who is coming to specifically fit into the "star" position in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense.
King is 6’2”, 210-pounds and plays every play with a vicious tenacity. He will bring a solid, experienced player to the outside perimeter for the defense. Auburn has struggled to seal the outside over the past few years, but King will provide the right fit.
This will be the steal of the 2013 class for Auburn. King flew under the radar at the JUCO ranks, but his production at that level is nothing short of amazing.
Look for King to make an impact immediately. His experience and leadership factor with the defense will be crucial to the successful implementation of the Johnson scheme this fall.