If Gus Malzahn wants his first recruiting class as Auburn Tigers head coach to be a successful one, well, he's got his work cut out for him between now and national signing day.
Since Gene Chizik was let go by the school in November, Auburn has been hemorrhaging recruits. The Tigers have lost no fewer than eight recruits since Chizik's departure, including 4-star defensive tackle Dee Liner and 5-star linebacker Reuben Foster.
So where does Malzahn go from here? He has only three weeks before recruits put pen to paper on Feb. 6 for national signing day and his team looks more like a sinking ship each week.
Essentially, there is so little time to improve Auburn's reputation that there's only one quick fix possible: land a few high-profile recruits. With that in mind, here are a few future stars Malzahn should focus on landing between now and Feb. 6.
Montravius Adams (DT)
Perhaps the only way for Auburn to truly make up for Liner's decommitment is to land Adams, who is considered by most to be a superior prospect. Thrust to the back burner when the Tigers landed Liner, Adams should be atop Malzahn's wish list from now until national signing day.
One just has to wonder how much interest Adams has in coming to Auburn. He has a soft top-five schools that include Auburn, but also Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Clemson. All four of those programs are in a better place than the Tigers and arguably have a better track record of developing defensive line talent.
Nonetheless, Adams hasn't eliminated Auburn yet, so that means there has to be some level of interest. If Malzahn is able to pull off a caper and land Adams, it would be nothing short of a boon to his program.
A 5-star defensive tackle out of Dooly County High School in Georgia, Adams is arguably the most physically gifted lineman in the Class of 2013. Adams is listed at a hulking 6'4" and 310 pounds and is considered the 10th-best player in the country and second-best defensive tackle prospect, per 247 Sports.
Of almost equal importance, landing Adams may help persuade another 5-star recruit to keep his commitment.
When Malzahn lost Liner, his departure also made many wonder about the future of 5-star defensive end Carl Lawson. Though Lawson is technically still committed to Auburn, he's been wavering since Malzahn was hired and has been making visits to other campuses.
A commitment from Adams may just wind up being the thing that persuades Lawson to be good on his word.
Reuben Foster (LB)
While Adams may be instrumental to keeping one top prospect from decommitting, Foster's recruitment is about bringing back another prospect who already backed off his intent to attend Auburn.
Foster's story is actually rather interesting. A 5-star middle linebacker, Foster initially committed to Alabama, only to spurn the Crimson Tide for the Tigers last June. He then attended Auburn High School in—you guessed it—Alabama, where he seemed to be readying himself for a life in navy blue and orange.
However, it took exactly one ouster of a national championship-winning coach to make Foster once again balk at his commitment. His soft five schools include Auburn, but he also has Georgia playing the role of co-favorite, according to 247 Sports.
That undoubtedly at least keeps hope alive that Foster will recommit on national signing day. He visited the school earlier this month and seemed to come away with a positive impression of Malzahn's coaching staff.
Bringing Foster back into the fold would give Malzahn arguably the best linebacker in the class of 2013. He's considered the top player at his inside linebacker position and in the state of Alabama, along with a ranking of No. 15 in the nation, per 247 Sports.
Though Foster still has to prove his worth on the field, all signs point to him being an instant contributor. Listed at 6'1" and 240 pounds, Foster is a classic middle linebacker prospect—a guy whose run defense abilities and wrap-up tackling are superb, but lacks strong coverage skills.
Considering the Tigers' inability to stop the run last season, landing Foster would be huge.
Derrick Green (RB)
Struggling when he left for Arkansas State, Malzahn now inherits an offense in ruin heading into 2013. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier's progress took a long walk off a short cliff as a sophomore and Jonathan Wallace wasn't all that better in his stead.
Though Green won't help assuage those worries under center, he undoubtedly could help take the pressure off by running the ball. Tre Mason will be back next season and will undoubtedly take over the bulk of the workload, but Green is a workhorse who could make an interesting No. 2 as a freshman.
Considered a 4-star prospect by 247 Sports, Green is the eighth-best running back in the nation and fifth-ranked player in the state of Virginia. A tough, powerful runner, Green excelled during his time at Hermitage High School and recently put up a solid performance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Green put up 48 yards on eight carries, helping lead the East to a 15-8 victory over the West.
As for his recruitment, Green is down to three schools: Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee. Per 247 Sports, the Wolverines appear to be taking the lead at the moment. They obviously seem like a more stable program under Brady Hoke and Green himself has said Ann Arbor seems like his most likely destination.
Nevertheless, the Tigers still have time before Green makes his decision on Jan. 26. If Malzahn can convince him that he'll contribute and do so early in the offense, that may persuade Green to take a risk on Auburn.
If not, look for Mason to get a whole lot of work in 2013.