Maybe Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn can get more than four hours of sleep at night now that his first recruiting class is in the books.
Great day yesterday.No time to rest. Spring preparation and 2014 recruiting! #wareagle— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) February 7, 2013
Malzahn is already working on building his 2014 recruiting class. After all, national signing day 2014 (Feb. 5) will be here before you know it.
The 2013 recruiting class was, by all accounts, a home run for the Auburn coaching staff. After a 3-9 season, a coaching change and not having a full staff until January, the Tigers hauled in a borderline Top 10 class.
Auburn filled positions of need along the defensive front and running back and was able to land some dynamic playmakers at the skill positions.
“It’s been a great day," Malzahn said in his signing day press conference. "I’m very excited about this class. We’ve signed 23 so far in this class. I really feel like we filled our needs. We tried to address our immediate needs, and I really feel like that we accomplished that."
Auburn signed six junior college players and 17 players who will come in as freshmen. With a new coaching staff, all positions are up for grabs.
Here are five of those freshmen whom you may see in the starting lineup when toe meets leather on Aug. 31 against Washington State.
“Quarterback-wise, Jeremy Johnson...He was kind of one of the centerpieces offensively. Me and Coach (Rhett) Lashlee already had a relationship with him, but he really hung in there with us and helped us recruit and really provided a lot of stability on the offensive side. Once again, he loves Auburn." —Malzahn in Wednesday's press conference.
Just like every year since 2008, all eyes will be on the QB race when fall camp opens up in August. Auburn's QB struggles in 2012 were no secret, as three QBs took snaps as the Tigers starter.
Johnson will have an immediate impact on Auburn's QB race when he steps onto the Auburn campus. He will provide a big challenge to 2012's starters Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace.
His 6'5", 215-pound frame gives him a better ability to read defenders in the pocket and his ability to evade the pass rush will make him a contender for the starting role.
Johnson was the top-ranked QB in the state of Alabama. He threw for nearly 3,200 yards in 2013. With that came 31 passing TDs and only seven interceptions.
He has the ability to throw on the run but can also stand in and deliver accurately from the pocket.
Of the three QBs that Auburn signed in the 2013 recruiting class, he is the safest bet to be Auburn's starter in the fall.
“Montravius Adams is a defensive tackle. I think this is going to be my eighth year to coach college, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a bigger, more athletic guy than him. I really feel like the sky is the limit with him. Coach Rodney Garner had a great relationship with him that really helped get him here. He’s a very good person with a great family."—Malzahn in Wednesday's press conference.
Those are some big words from Auburn's head coach, considering he was around a guy named Nick Fairley during his time at Auburn. Fairley won the Lombardi Award as a defensive tackle at Auburn in 2010.
Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik thinks Adams has Fairley-like talent.
On ESPNU, Gene Chizik says Montravius Adams has "Nick Fairley potential." Big compliment.
— Ryan Wood (@AUBlog) February 6, 2013
Adams was probably the biggest signee for Auburn on national signing day who wasn't already committed. There are some who think that Adams may be better than the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, Robert Nkemdiche.
He was the best defensive tackle in the state of Georgia, and for the third time in four years, a DT with that honor will play his college ball at Auburn. Jeffrey Whitaker (2010) and Gabe Wright (2011) could also make that claim.
Adams will join Whitaker and Wright and try to shore up a defensive line that ranked 100th in the country in 2012 in rushing defense. Without blitzing, Auburn rarely was able to put pressure on the QB.
Adams will provide immediate help, and with a good camp, he will be in the starting lineup on Aug. 31.
“Our second of the day was Tony Stevens, a big, tall wide receiver. He has tremendous skills. He’s a kick returner. (Co-offensive coordinator) Dameyune Craig did a wonderful job with him; they had a previous relationship. He has a chance to be an impact player."—Malzahn in Wednesday's press conference.
If you like tall, rangy and athletic receivers, then you are going to love Stevens. The 6'3", 175-pound high school All-American is a dynamic playmaker who would be a good target for whoever lines up at quarterback for Auburn.
Auburn will need to find a way to replace the departed Emory Blake, who was the offense's main deep threat.
Watching film of Stevens, you can see where he has a great ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls, and he runs good routes and gets separation from defensive backs. When he has the ball in his hands, he can make people miss.
Without the ball, Stevens is a guy who blocks downfield well, helping spring running backs for big gains.
“I’m going to say this about Carl Lawson. I feel like he is one of the keys to this class. He hung in there with us when a lot of guys went south, went other ways, opened stuff up -- he hung in there with us. He provided the stability, I really feel like on the defensive side specifically, to have the class that we did. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s a phenomenal person. He is an Auburn person. He loves Auburn, and his family loves Auburn. I’m very excited to have him on board."—Malzahn in Wednesday's press conference
For many Auburn fans, Lawson is the favorite signee of this 2013 class.
Not just because he is the No. 1 weak-side defensive end in the country, but because he handled his recruitment in a refreshing manner. No drama, no big announcement.
Auburn had a hard time getting to the quarterback in 2012. The Tigers ranked No. 77 in the nation in sacks.
With Corey Lemonier departing early for the draft, Auburn needed to rebuild depth at the defensive end position to help DEs Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae. Auburn accomplished that by signing Lawson and DE Elijah Daniel.
Lawson's pass-rushing ability off the edge is as good as you will see from an incoming college freshman. The scary thing is that he will only get better.
“Jason Smith, a quarterback out of Mobile—he’s electric. I think he was the MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. He just has phenomenal skills. He can do a lot of different things. We’re very excited about Jason."—Malzahn in Wednesday's press conference.
Smith is a phenomenal talent who will get his first shot as a QB in the fall. He thinks he has a chance to come in and start at that position.
"I think I've got a good chance to maybe even start," Smith said Wednesday after signing with the Tigers. "Not putting the other guys down, but this is an offense that I love to run." (via Joel Erickson, al.com)
If things don't work out at the QB position, he has the potential to become a big-time wide receiver in Malzahn's offense.
He was named MVP of the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game as a WR. He caught six passes for 134 yards in the game.
He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field anytime the ball is in his hands.