Auburn is not short on young talent heading into 2013, but the team does lack developed players at key positions. There is a drop off in talent that is game-day ready, and that is why the Tigers pulled in a ton of JUCO transfers in this recruiting cycle.
The Tigers went through a tough coaching transition this winter when Gene Chizik was shown the door in favor of Gus Malzahn. A lot of changes came with the Malzahn staff, but the most obvious has been on the recruiting trail with the return of JUCO talent.
Gene Chizik won a national title in 2010 around JUCO athletes like Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, but the Tigers got away from prep and JUCO players later in his tenure. Malzahn brought back the strategy in full force, bringing in six transfers so far in the 2013 class.
Malzahn may not be finished as the Tigers are also in the running for a seventh JUCO transfer. Toby Johnson (No. 3 JUCO defensive tackle) is set to announce his decision on February 19 with Auburn being one of four finalists.
Here is a look at the six transfers that are expected to challenge for playing time immediately this fall.
Cameron Artis-Payne will step in and fill a major void on the Tigers roster. Auburn is very light at running back and needed to land at least one back that could play immediately in this class.
Artis-Payne is that player.
He is a very good downhill runner that shows good quickness and elite field vision. He is patient at the line and has proven his ability to be an every-down runner at the JUCO level.
Artis-Payne won’t be a home-run threat consistently, but he will be a player that will churn out a lot of yards. He needs to work on his lean when carrying the ball in traffic, but overall, his adjustments at this level will be minor.
This is a great snag for this class, and he should be able to make a splash for fans this spring during A-day.
According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Artis-Payne is the No. 4 JUCO running back and the No. 61 overall JUCO player in the country.
Nick Marshall is one of the best prospects that landed in this Tigers signing class from the JUCO ranks.
A former Georgia Bulldogs player, Marshall already understands what it takes to achieve success in the SEC. That will help his search for immediate playing time.
Marshall is a very talented athlete that could play quarterback, defensive back or receiver for the Tigers. At this point, he appears to be filling in at quarterback to start.
He is an explosive runner and is dangerous in space. He also has a very live arm and is very selective with his throws. He is a high touchdown-to-interception ratio player.
It won’t be surprising to see Marshall starting in the secondary or at quarterback for the next two years. His ceiling is very high, and his athleticism makes him an invaluable asset to this class.
The 247Sports Composite Rankings has Marshall rated as the No. 4 JUCO athlete and the No. 26 overall JUCO prospect in the country.
Devonte Danzey was an early enrollee for the Tigers this spring, bringing a 6’3”, 303-pound frame to the Auburn offensive line. The Tigers need some help in the middle, and Danzey is a player that should be a part of the rotation this fall.
He fits the Malzahn scheme as a downhill inside blocker that is nasty at the point of attack. Danzey is a head-hunter along the line that will always finish the play by engaging someone.
Danzey’s best trait is his aggressive attitude. He will need some solid instruction on footwork and some hand technique, but overall, he is a very talented prospect that brings a needed edginess to the Auburn offensive line.
Danzey is the No. 1 JUCO offensive guard and the No. 108 overall JUCO player in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
The Tigers needed an impact player at the safety position in this class, and they landed one in JUCO transfer Brandon King.
King will make it to Auburn this summer after playing two seasons at the JUCO level in the “star” position. It is the same third safety position that Ellis Johnson will employ in his 4-2-5 scheme.
This is a proven athlete at the position and a player that loves to hit. King is aggressive in zone coverage and has excellent ball-tracking skills. He closes space quickly and is a solid run-support guy.
He will remind Auburn fans of Daren Bates, playing in a position that is conducive to his talents and build. King was a huge pickup and should be a star defender for the Tigers over the next few years.
King is the No. 14 JUCO safety and the No. 177 overall JUCO player in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
Kenny Flowers is a very good linebacker pickup in this class for Auburn. The Tigers can use his athleticism at the position immediately.
Flowers is a 6’2”, 225-pound outside linebacker that excels in coverage. He is very good in both zone and man schemes for a linebacker. He is a consistent tackler, but he lacks the explosion that will create ‘wow’ plays.
Overall, he is a complete player that can also play well against the run. He is not strong against blocks and tends to use his speed to outmaneuver and out-leverage blockers. He has to be careful not to get flushed out of the play at the next level.
Linebacker was a need for the Tigers, and Flowers is a player that should be able to come in and earn some quality snaps by this fall.
The 247Sports Composite Rankings have Flowers as the No. 3 JUCO inside linebacker and the No. 68 overall JUCO player in the country.
Ben Bradley is one of the three early enrollees for the Tigers this fall, and the coaching staff has to be excited to have this all-star on campus. Bradley is a very talented inside man on the defensive front and will be a part of the Tigers efforts this fall.
Bradley is a disruptor and will be able to play that role immediately for Auburn. The motor that this guy has is very impressive for his 300-pound frame. He is quick off the ball and can make it into the gaps quickly on passing downs.
He is effective at collapsing the pocket in pass-rush situations and fills gaps well against the run. He is a classic defensive line prospect. The Tigers picked up a gem in Bradley. He will battle for a starting position this spring.
Bradley is rated as the No. 5 JUCO defensive tackle and the No. 15 overall JUCO player in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.