For Gus Malzahn, it wasn't just about pure, raw talent.
It wasn't about seeing stars, or chasing them.
In a modern time where the entire outside world is obsessed with rankings and ratings, and bringing in immediate impact players for short-term solutions, Malzahn and his staff put together a recruiting class built to fit their team.
On one hand, Malzahn did bring in another consensus top-10 recruiting class. On the other hand—the hand with a bit more perspective—there are still a number of Southeastern Conference teams ahead of the Tigers in those same rankings by the recruiting services.
Still, it was never about going after the big names for the Auburn coaching staff. On the second national signing day of the Malzahn era, the Tigers coaches were able to gauge their team and use their first full recruiting cycle together to scout across the country, searching players best fit for their team.
Just as importantly, the coaching staff found a group of players that could prove to be the missing pieces to the puzzle—and help get a team that was 13 seconds from a national title over the hump, to become champions.
"We really feel like we filled our needs," Malzahn said Wednesday. "I'm proud of our staff. They worked extremely hard to develop a relationship, and we really felt like they worked hard to bring the right-type guys for Auburn—hard-nosed, high-character, very talented young men."
After national signing day, there are 23 newcomers set to join the Tigers, including 18 new signees to go along with five early enrollees from January.
"Each year you look at the seniors you're losing, you try to project depth and your needs," Malzahn said. "This is really the first year that our guys got a whole year to really go after the type of body type, the type of athleticism and everything that goes with that for each position. That's what's exciting for our coaches—they had a full year to not only identify it, but recruit the guys. It's very good."
Auburn added five defensive backs with this class—which was a pressing need for the Tigers after seniors Chris Davis, Ryan Smith and Ryan White left campus due to graduation.
"We definitely needed some help in the defensive backfield," Malzahn said. "We lost three seniors. We were fairly thin anyway. We felt like we needed to get some guys that had a chance to help us this year. And we definitely got that."
The Tigers also added depth to their strength—adding six talented defensive line prospects to a stout front four. With top prospects Andrew Williams, DaVonte Lambert, Justin Thornton and others now joining superstar prospects Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel from the 2013 signing class.
"Defensive line, that was a strength of ours last year," Malzahn said. "We lost some seniors. We really feel like we've filled our needs there. We got some outstanding impact players that Coach (Rodney) Garner is really excited about."
The Tigers also added five ready-made junior college talents with this signing class, each of whom should be ready to take the field and see significant action right away.
"Any time you go junior college, you think about filling an immediate need," Malzahn said. "Sometimes it's to start. Sometimes it's just for depth. So after you evaluate from year to year, you have to fill in the pieces. And we really feel like we've got some guys that can help us immediately—if not start, at least give us some depth."
With the 2014 recruiting class, Auburn and the coaching staff have just that—with plenty of developmental talent piping in to give the Tigers depth, and plenty of other big-name prospects who can plug into the successful system and contribute right away.
"Overall, we're very excited about this class," Malzahn said. "We did fill our needs. We got guys that can help us immediately, and also help us with depth. We had some depth issues this past year, and when you think about depth, it definitely carries over to special times. So, very excited about this class. It's been a very good day."
Justin Lee is the lead Auburn writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes are obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. All ratings via 247Sports' Composite ranking system.
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