Reuben Foster and his Auburn tattoo are apparently headed to Alabama to play college football next season, meaning the Tigers lost their blue chip, and potential starting LB, to their biggest rival.
It makes national signing day even more important for returning coach Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers.
Foster was considered the school's best commitment, but had wavered several times during the recruiting process before sticking with Auburn. Until yesterday, that is, when Foster announced on FOX Sports that he would be joining Alabama and head coach Nick Saban's program instead (as reported by Kipp Adams of ESPN).
With less than a day before signings are official, it's possible Foster will return to the Tigers on a last-second flippity-flip (or something like that). However, this commitment to the Tide looks firm enough to start planning for contingency, and that's exactly what this situation is for Malzahn and his staff.
While Auburn could very well have a Top 10 class when recruits starting signing, it's also possible it could slip into the 20s or deeper if the Foster decommitment affects the rest of the current recruits slated to play in blue and orange next season.
Top to bottom, the Tigers have had a very successful recruiting period so far. If nothing other than verbal commitments and other recruits still considering, Auburn is right up there with the rest of the SEC.
The Tigers already have one solid verbal from DE Carl Lawson, but could add two more if CB Mackensie Alexander and DT Montravius Adams decide on Auburn. Throw in dual-threat QB Jeremy Johnson and WR Tony Stevens, and the Tigers are sitting pretty even after 2012 left plenty of doubt about the program's immediate future.
Considering the poor season Gene Chizik had before being fired at the end of the regular season, it wouldn't have been a stretch to put Auburn at the bottom of recruiting circles. It's a testament to both the brand that Auburn carries and how Malzahn's return excites commitments that Auburn is hovering anywhere near the Top 10.
Still, Wednesday's signing day is vastly important to the success of Auburn in the Malzahn era—especially when considering the Tigers won't be able to employ the services of Foster in Week 1 of the 2013 season.
As noted by B/R's own Brett Mixon, Foster's decommitment from the Tigers is the fourth major one in the past few seasons, highlighted by big names like T.J. Yeldon, Cyrus Kouandjio and Brent Calloway—all Crimson Tide players now.
Will Foster help recruit some of this year's class to Tuscaloosa? Here's Mixon's thoughts on that question:
Adams has noted on multiple occasions that he has a close relationship with Foster. Now, Foster could be in his ear as well as others about playing together at Alabama.
That's a disturbing question right now for Auburn fans of all ages, as Foster's decommitment comes at a poor time for morale. With signing day looming at some of the school's biggest recruits yet to sign on the dotted line, it's nothing but disheartening that Foster is going to a rival school.
Can Auburn crack the top 10 of recruiting boards with a big NSD?
One thing is clear—tomorrow is a big day for the Tigers.
Based on who signs and who doesn't, we could be placing Auburn right back in the mix with the rest of the SEC. We could also be placing the Tigers near the bottom, fighting for wins against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Recruiting, right? Can't deal with it, can't deal without it.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.