Auburn is still basking in the glory of a thrilling November victory over two-time defending national champion Alabama and its ensuing SEC title game win. The Tigers' drastic 2013 turnaround has quickly translated into increased interest on the recruiting trail, and head coach Gus Malzahn aims to take advantage with another big weekend of prospect visits ahead.
The team is set to welcome a variety of impressive players from throughout the southeast region, reports 247Sports writer Keith Niebuhr (subscription required). The guest list ranges from top-ranked defenders to dynamic offensive playmakers, including several recruits who've received significant attention from Auburn's conference rivals.
The Tigers hold five commitments in a 2015 class that rates 19th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Auburn picked up a pair of pledges in February and landed Georgia linebacker Montavious Atkinson earlier this month.
Malzahn and his staff have a golden opportunity to make progress toward future commitments with many of the program's top targets this weekend. Here's a look at some of the stud recruits Auburn is set to host in the coming days.
5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson (Albany, Ga.)
Thompson, rated the nation's No. 1 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, returns to Auburn for the second straight month. He attended the Tigers' January junior day and heads back this weekend with his biggest fan.
The 6'4", 292-pound defensive tackle collected 83 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior at Westover High School. Auburn has been in the mix for his services since the start and climbed among his favorites with a strong 2013 campaign.
"I like Auburn a lot because Coach Malzahn put them back on the map," he told AL.com reporter Wesley Sinor this month. "They won the SEC championship. That meant a lot."
The Tigers must contend with fellow conference heavyweights Georgia and Alabama, while Clemson and Florida State have also emerged as contenders in the ACC. Thompson visited the Crimson Tide for a March junior day.
Offers continue to pour in for Thompson. He picked up scholarships from Penn State, Ohio State and Louisville last month.
5-star athlete Kerryon Johnson (Madison, Ala.)
The 6'0". 200-pound playmaker plans to announce his decision before summer arrives, per AL.com reporter Mike Herndon. Johnson is focused on his favorites—Florida State, Alabama and Auburn—and spent time in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago.
The Madison Academy standout surged to No. 3 nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings with an outstanding junior campaign. Johnson could possibly play safety or receiver at the next level but appears best suited for a collegiate career in the offensive backfield.
He attended Auburn's victory over Alabama last season, so sales pitches don't get much stronger than that. Johnson, an electric athlete in the open field, admits his intrigue for the Tigers' offensive attack.
"Auburn has a knack for getting its players the ball in space," he told AL.com.
4-star quarterback Jauan Jennings (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Auburn recently hosted 5-star Florida quarterback Torrance Gibson and already holds a commitment from 4-star Georgia passer Tyler Queen, but the Tigers continue to keep options open at the position. Jennings is certainly on the team's radar.
The 6'4", 185-pound prospect displays enough athleticism to carve out a role at receiver in college, but he told AL.com Auburn is recruiting him to line up behind center. Jennings led Blackman High School to a state championship last fall, earning postseason MVP honors along the way.
He passed for 1,465 yards and 15 touchdowns, per AL.com. Jennings also gained 815 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
Aside from the Tigers, his list of finalists features Mississippi State, Northwestern, Alabama, Tennessee and Ohio State. Jennings plans to announce his choice on April 7, so this trip to Auburn is key for the final stretch of his recruiting process.
"(Auburn) is a winning program," he told AL.com. "I like the way coaches have positive attitudes."
4-star offensive guard Javon Patterson (Petal, Miss.)
Ole Miss and Mississippi State are viewed as slight front-runners for Patterson, who has plenty of options beyond his home state. The 6'4", 290-pound road-grader sat in the stands during Auburn's Iron Bowl victory and returns to town this weekend with several new offers in his pocket.
Florida, North Carolina and Miami each presented scholarships in recent weeks. Still, Patterson appears likely to land in the SEC, with Alabama and LSU also giving chase.
He is rated No. 2 nationally among offensive guards in 247Sports' composite rankings, though Patterson is clearly capable of sliding outside to contribute at tackle in college. Patterson, a Petal High School product, visited both Mississippi State and Ole Miss last month, so Auburn may have work to do in order to make up ground in the race for his commitment.
4-star linebacker Leo Lewis (Brookhaven, Miss.)
Lewis is an instant-impact defender who projects as a leader in the heart of any defensive attack. He is rated America's No. 1 inside linebacker in 247Sports' composite rankings but is certainly athletic and long enough to excel along the outside edge.
The 6'3", 225-pound Brookhaven High School star exhibits elite instincts and punishing tackling technique. Lewis compiled 100 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception last fall, per MaxPreps.
“I’m very explosive,” Lewis told Bleacher Report last week. “My instincts are good. I know exactly where to go and when I need to be there.”
Teams across the country have identified his skill set, labeling Lewis a premier prospect to pursue. He holds offers from Ole Miss, Clemson, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Alabama, among others.
Auburn offered earlier this month and quickly lined up a visit with Lewis, who is also expected on campus at Ole Miss this weekend. He's eyed the Tigers as a top option for years.
2016 offensive tackle E.J. Price (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Price is a premier member of the 2016 recruiting class, viewed as one of the nation's most dominant underclassmen on the offensive line. Fresh off a visit to Georgia, he plans to spend time at Auburn, according to 247Sports reporter Steve Lorentz.
Standing at 6'5", 273 lbs, Price has the makings of a powerful tackle prospect with plenty of room to grow as he matures. His offer list continues to expand as a sophomore.
Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Florida State and Wisconsin are among his many offers. The Tigers extended a scholarship in December.
The Central Gwinnett High School standout gives Auburn an early opportunity to make a good impression.