Less than a month after national signing day for the 2013 recruiting class, the early part of the 2014 recruiting cycle is well under way at Auburn and throughout the country.
Teams are having junior days for their top targets in the 2014 class and hosting unofficial visitors to try and get a leg up on the competition before the focus turns more to current players when spring practice begins in a few weeks.
Auburn had its first junior day last weekend, so the first weekend of March saw Auburn hosting a number of top prospects.
The Tigers did not leave the weekend empty-handed.
After attending Auburn's junior day last weekend and unofficially visiting the Plains on Sunday, former Florida State commit and big 4-star RB Kamryn Pettway (Prattville, Ala./Prattville High School) became the first player in the 2014 class to commit to Auburn.
"I had a nice time there and I felt comfortable with the coaching staff and it’s close to home," Pettway said after committing. "I always wanted to play in the SEC. I like the spirit of Auburn." (via Matt Scalici, AL.com)
Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers was the first to report the news.
Both on the recruiting trail and on the field, Pettway is a big commitment for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and the Auburn coaching staff.
Malzahn did not have a full coaching staff hired until early January. Because of the coaching transition, most of the focus in January and February was on retaining current commitments and quickly building relationships with the 2013 class. Leaving the Tigers a little behind when it came to the 2014 class.
By all accounts, the Auburn coaching staff did a stellar job with the 2013 recruiting class, considering the circumstances. After a wave of decommitments, the staff sprinted to the finish line and reeled in a borderline top-10 class.
Momentum is very important in recruiting and with Pettway's commitment, it keeps Auburn hot on the recruiting trail. The Tigers now have an additional recruiter in Pettway to bring more prospects into the fold.
It's also a big win on the recruiting front because as a lot of Auburn fans know, the city of Prattville is a place where Auburn has had its struggles in landing top prospects. Auburn has not had a player from the city of Prattville since Justin Albert in the class of 2008.
Prattville, Ala., is a hotbed for high school prospects and a majority of the top prospects that go to the high school end up wearing crimson in their college years.
At places like Auburn, who has historically had some of the top running backs in college football (is this a good point to congratulate Bo Jackson, ESPN's greatest athlete of all time?), recruiting at that position will always be a focus. The Tigers took on three RBs in the 2013 recruiting class and will likely take at least two in the 2014 class.
Auburn is also heavily pursuing 4-star RB Racean Thomas from Oxford High School in Oxford, Ala.
Auburn fans should be excited to see what Pettway brings to Auburn in an on-the-field capacity.
Standing 6'0" and weighing in at 220-pounds, Pettway is the big, power back that Malzahn is looking for in his offense. Auburn signed two RBs of similar stature in the 2013 class in JUCO RB Cameron Artis-Payne (5'11", 210 pounds) and Peyton Barber (5'11", 215 pounds).
As we saw with Ben Tate and Michael Dyer, Malzahn loves using a big back like Pettway in his offense.
Pettway is rated the No. 30 RB in the country and the No. 16 player in the state of Alabama by 247Sports. He rushed for 1,126 yards and 12 TDs in his junior season.
When running the ball, Pettway looks to punish opposing tacklers for getting in his way. He is not a runner like former Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb who is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Pettway will be a runner that is most useful on the goal line and 3rd-and-short situations.
He has also shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
As far as depth is concerned, the Tigers will have three senior RBs departing when Pettway is a freshman. RBs Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne will all be in their senior seasons during Pettway's freshman season.
In an ideal world, Pettway will have a year to get his legs under him in the college game and allow the Tigers to not miss a beat when those three leave the Plains.
As Auburn fans know all too well, a verbal commitment means nothing in the grand scheme of things. The hardest part of the recruitment begins now, as the Tigers try to retain Pettway for another 340-plus days until national signing day in 2014.