Gus Malzahn stepped into a program that had been shattered to pieces over the past few years just after reaching the highest point in college football. Auburn needed discipline, but it needed immediate playmakers in this recruiting class.
The Malzahn staff did an amazing job landing a highly-rated class, and this group will bring a lot of high expectations with it to the Plains.
Taking a look at the current incoming recruiting class, here is a look at the high hopes that Auburn fans carry for this new group of Tigers.
The Tigers took the JUCO route this recruiting cycle when looking for playmakers at a few key positions. The new “star” position in the Ellis Johnson 4-2-5 is one of the positions that needed an immediate playmaker.
Auburn reached out to JUCO safety Brandon King and got a signature in early February, landing the Tigers a player that has filled that role over the past two years for Highland Community College.
King finished his JUCO career with 148 total tackles. He is a solid run support player and is quick enough to cover in both man and zone schemes.
As the Tigers look to transition into the new 4-2-5 having players with experience in the system is a huge plus. King will fill the “star” role for the next two years for Auburn.
Montravius Adams, DT
Another huge JUCO get for Malzahn and the Tigers staff was Ben Bradley along the defensive line. The last time the Tigers landed a player of this caliber from the JUCO ranks along the line he turned into an All-American.
Expect the same from Bradley.
Bradley is a huge body—6’2”, 315 pounds—and is game ready right now. He is in school for spring and will create waves as he battles for a starting job before summer.
Auburn also pulled in Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel along the line. All three are highly regarded incoming freshmen that could challenge for time this year.
Over the next four seasons the Tigers have reloaded at defensive line and should produce at least two All-Americans from this group of four in the 2013 class.
Early in the tenure of Gene Chizik, JUCO players were a major focus on the recruiting trail.
Guys like Cam Newton and Nick Fairley helped this program climb to national title-winning heights. Using JUCO talent to fill out needs has always been a tradition for the Tigers.
Rudi Johnson and Chris Todd are some other names that have had success in the past decade.
Gus Malzahn saw needs along the Tigers roster, and he scooped up talent that could help the program hit the national stage as soon as possible. This team can challenge for the SEC and BCS with the talent on roster, and the addition of the key JUCO playmakers in this class.
Players like Cameron Artis-Payne, Ben Bradley, Brandon King and Nick Marshall will help this program turn from 3-9 to a bowl winner overnight.
Utilizing the JUCO ranks is a smart strategy, and it returned with the 2013 class. Malzahn knows how to get Auburn an edge back, and JUCO is a part of that plan.
Peyton Barber may have been the steal of the Tigers class this past recruiting cycle.
A very under-the-radar type talent, Barber has the running style and intangibles to be the next great back from Auburn and in the SEC. He has a great one-cut style and is a bruiser when he engages a defender.
His junior season ended with an injury, which limited his exposure until this past season.
As the Tigers return to the downhill rushing attack that is the Malzahn offense, there will be a need for additional playmakers from the backfield.
Barber may take a redshirt this fall, but as he hits the stride of his career, he will become a solid leader from the backfield and will be the feature back in the future.
The Tigers went into Milton High School and scored big this cycle when Carl Lawson signed with the Tigers. Getting both Lawson and Peyton Barber was huge and will provide this team with two stud playmakers for the future.
Lawson is stepping into a talented lineup right now, but most of the Tigers defensive ends are rising seniors. Auburn needed a player that has the aggressive attitude and relentless work ethic of Lawson at the defensive end position.
As the future brings playing time for Lawson, he will become a mainstay in national award discussions. He has the talent to finish his career as an All-American and to break a lot of records at Auburn.
Don’t be surprised if Lawson finishes his career as the Tigers' sack leader.
The Tigers are looking for a leader to emerge in the quarterback race this spring, but there are only two scholarship signal-callers that are currently on campus. That is an issue that is tough to ignore for this squad.
The good news is that the summer will bring three new bodies to the race. Jeremy Johnson, Jason Smith and Nick Marshall are the three newcomers.
All of them have the talent to challenge for the quarterback job, but Jeremy Johnson is the favorite to be the next rising star at the position on the Plains. He is a 6’5”, 215-pound gunslinger that has the wheels to avoid pressure and create plays with his feet.
He is a pass first type guy, and that will make him very dangerous in the Malzahn offense.
Auburn may not find another Cam Newton, but Johnson has the ability to perform at that level and finish his career in the Heisman discussion.