It came as a surprise to no one on Monday evening when 5-star defensive end Dee Liner decommitted from Auburn's 2013 recruiting class. Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com was the first to break the news:
Liner had been committed to Auburn since June 11, 2011. He was the first commitment of the 2013 class. It has been a roller-coaster ride filled with twists and turns ever since.
Most recruiting analysts believe that he is leaning toward Tuscaloosa to join the Crimson Tide. Liner will announce on national signing day, Feb. 6.
Even though his decommitment was expected, it is still a big blow to a defensive line that needs all the help it can get after being pushed around in conference games in 2012.
In two categories that are usually good barometers of stout defensive lines, opponent rushing yards per game and sacks, Auburn finished at the bottom of the conference. In conference play, Auburn allowed an SEC-worst 222.63 yards rushing per game and only recorded 1.25 sacks per game against conferences foes.
Auburn currently has commitments on the defensive line from DE Tashawn Bower, 5-star DE Carl Lawson and JUCO DT Ben Bradley. Lawson's commitment can be characterized accurately as a "soft verbal." Bradley enrolled at Auburn on Monday.
So, where do Auburn and head coach Gus Malzahn turn to now to shore up a position of extreme importance?
The first thing Auburn needs to do is solidify Lawson's commitment. Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner has made an impression on Lawson in recent weeks. Lawson will make an official visit to Auburn on Feb. 1, according to Auburn Undercover's Bryan Matthews:
Feb. 1 is the last weekend before national signing day. Holding on to Lawson has to be priority No. 1 for Auburn.
Auburn has also turned the heat up on 5-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams. The Tigers were basically out of the running for Adams' signature before Garner accepted a position on Auburn's staff. The addition of Garner caught Adams' eye (via Chip Towers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
“I’m kind of surprised, but it helps Auburn,” Adams told 247Sports. “We have a great relationship. He’s a great guy. I know that he’s a guy that will get defensive linemen to the league. I wouldn’t mind him being a guy that coaches me for three or four years. He’s going to be a guy that I’m going to be with most of the time besides the weight-training guy.”
Auburn coaches visited Adams (via Michael Carvell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) at his high school in Dooley County, Ga. on Friday, Jan. 11.
Also on Auburn's radar is defensive end Ufomba Kamalu of Butler Community College in Kansas. He has an offer from Auburn but does not have an official visit set up at this time.
Liner did Auburn a favor by decommitting sooner rather than later.
As shaky as his commitment was, Auburn would have kept hanging on and could have been burned on national signing day if Liner had backed out then. By letting Auburn know it is out of the running for his services now, Malzahn and staff have some wiggle room to try to secure another signature.