Auburn Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class
After securing another Top-10 class earlier this year, Gus Malzahn and his Auburn coaching staff have wasted no time in putting together another talented group of future Tigers from the class of 2015.
Auburn already has 14 commitments for its 2015 class, which is ranked No. 3 nationally by 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings. Ten of the Tigers' current commitments are 4-star or 5-star recruits, setting up this next year's class to be one of the most star-studded ones in recent seasons.
The Tigers are gearing up for "Big Cat Weekend," an invitation-only event for some of the Tigers' top targets and commitments for the upcoming recruiting class. The weekend, which is two weeks away, has been a summer staple on the Plains the last few years and usually ends with a high-caliber commitment or two.
While many Auburn fans are looking forward to what the coming months will hold for the Tigers' growing class of 2015, the start of the summer semester in Auburn is a good time to take a look at the defending SEC champions' commitments.
Here is a position-by-position report card of Auburn's current recruiting class. Grades are determined by the caliber of Auburn's commitments and their ability to fill team needs for the seasons ahead.
The Tigers have signed at least one quarterback in each of their last three classes, and 4-star Tyler Queen is currently the lone signal-caller commitment for the class of 2014.
Queen is a longtime Auburn commitment—he made his pledge to Malzahn's staff last July, before the start of his junior year of high school—and the Top-10 quarterback recruit has stayed true to the Tigers for almost an entire year.
The 6'2", 200-pound Queen is listed as a pro-style quarterback, but he made more than his fair share of plays with his feet last season. Queen ran for 925 yards and 20 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 2,600 yards, showing a bit of the versatility Auburn fans have been accustomed to seeing in quarterbacks like Nick Marshall and Cam Newton.
Queen suffered a partial tear of a ligament in his throwing elbow earlier this year, but he told 247Sports last week that he is back to throwing ahead of his senior season. He wants to be an early enrollee next year, which could give him a boost in a quarterback depth chart that will feature backup Jeremy Johnson and highly touted 2014 signee Sean White.
Auburn may still go after another quarterback in this year's class—5-star dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson has Auburn as one of his top teams—but Tigers fans should feel confident in the future of the position with a solid commitment like Queen.
Running Backs: A+
Auburn will lose two important running backs after the 2014 season in Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, the thunder-and-lightning combination that will most likely share the bulk of the carries.
Fortunately for Tigers fans, the future of the running back position is shining brightly.
In addition to redshirt freshman Peyton Barber and 2014 signees Racean "Roc" Thomas and Kamryn Pettway, Auburn currently has commitments from the No. 1 junior college player in the country and the No. 2 player in the state of Alabama.
Jovon Robinson is set to return to the Plains next year after two seasons at Georgia Military College, where he broke a NJCAA record for yards in a season. The former Auburn signee was ruled ineligible at the beginning of the 2012 season following an NCAA investigation into high-school grade changes, but the Tigers beat out archrival Alabama for the early commitment from an all-around back who could give Auburn much-needed experience at a young position for 2015.
Kerryon Johnson is a versatile athlete who can contribute on either side of the ball, but he will most likely come to Auburn as a speedy running back with a talent for making big plays in the open field.
While neither Robinson nor Johnson are sure locks to the Tigers at this point in the cycle, they currently give Auburn the best running back tandem in the class.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
McGriff plays quarterback for Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida, and Smith is gunning for the starting quarterback job at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where the Tigers signed D'haquille Williams and Derrick Moncrief for the 2014 class.
But recruiting experts expect these two athletes to play wide receiver in Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense.
McGriff runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and showed power when going up against defenders in his junior season at Leon, where he won the Tallahassee Charlie Ward Offensive Player of the Year award. Austin Penny of 247Sports (subscription required) said the smash-and-dash style of McGriff gives him the ability to play "multiple positions for the Tigers including slot receiver, H-back and wildcat."
Smith, who is also expected to move from speedy quarterback to versatile receiver, committed to Auburn out of high school in 2013 but failed to qualify academically. He was arrested in March for marijuana possession and attempting to evade police, and Malzahn told AL.com's Joel Erickson he would wait until he had "all the facts" before making a decision on Smith's status.
Auburn has had some success in moving quarterbacks to wide receiver such as Marcus Davis, who contributed as a reliable pass-catcher as a true freshman last season. Both McGriff and Smith would bring extra elements that would make them thrive in the Tigers' unique offense, should they stay true to their commitments.
Offensive Line: B
After taking Auburn's offensive line from the bottom of the SEC to the top in 2013, assistant coach J.B. Grimes' stock has soared in the offseason thanks to his work on the recruiting trail.
Kim received scholarship offers from 17 schools all across the United States, from defending national champions Florida State to Pac-12 school California. Standing at 6'4", Kim will most likely make the transition to guard in college, where he will be able to showcase his impressive burst off the snap.
Harrell also plays tackle in high school, but you will most likely see him at a guard spot on the Plains. Kipp Adams of 247Sports (subscription required) says Harrell "possesses some physical and technical upside" and "should push for starters reps in college."
The 6'5" Sharp will most likely stay at tackle for his college career, and he kick-started Auburn's impressive April haul with a verbal commitment right before Auburn's A-Day Game.
The Tigers are still recruiting bigger and more higher-rated offensive line prospects such as No. 1 overall tackle Martez Ivey, but this Georgia trio is the backbone of what Grimes and the rest of the Auburn staff hopes will be a big haul along the front five.
Defensive Line: N/A
Auburn has secured back-to-back monster defensive line classes filled with blue-chip prospects, but, right now, there is no defensive line commitments for the class of 2015.
The Tigers are still in second place for the two 5-star players, so they will have a lot of work to do throughout the summer and into the fall.
Linebacker has been a position of need in the last few seasons at Auburn, and the Tigers are already on the right track into addressing that area for the 2015 class.
Four-star outside linebacker Darrell Williams is currently the top linebacker commitment for the Tigers, who are in the hunt for three other top players in the position. Williams, who is an excellent all-around defensive playmaker, plays at Alabama powerhouse Hoover, a school known for putting out top Division I talent year after year.
Three-star Elijah Sullivan plays running back and linebacker for his high school, but he could become a standout in Auburn's linebacker/safety position known as the "Star." At 6'2" and 215 pounds, he is physical enough to play tough against both running backs and wide receivers, making him an flexible addition to the Tigers defense.
Fellow 3-star Montavius Atkinson also projects as a "Star" on the Plains, but he also could see work at outside linebacker. Austin Penny of 247Sports (subscription required) said in his analysis of Atkinson's highlight film that "the Tigers want players that fly around on the defensive side of the ball, which is what Atkinson brings to the table."
Auburn will probably want to secure a couple more linebacker signings, especially in the traditional inside and outside roles, for this upcoming class. Williams could see early playing time at Auburn, and the two 3-star "Stars" will provide an important amount of depth for a position that struggled to stay healthy last season.
The Tigers have already secured three 4-stars in the secondary, an area that can never have too many players with the way defensive Ellis Johnson rotates his 4-2-5 defense.
The top high school commitment in the defensive backfield is Jordan Colbert, another Georgia native who can play multiple positions in Auburn's flexible scheme. At 6'3", the physical Colbert projects to either be a strong safety who can mix it up with bigger receivers or a "Star" who can also make his mark in run support.
Jacksonville, Florida native Ben Edwards flipped his commitment from Ohio State to Auburn back at A-Day last month. Edwards has been described as a sure tackler who will bring the big hits into the Tigers secondary, if he sticks with his commitment for the rest of the current recruiting cycle.
Auburn also has the No. 1 junior college cornerback committed to its 2015 class. The Tigers went to their important pipeline at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and secured a pledge from Tony Bridges, another tall cornerback Auburn would love to have when it faces some of the more physical receivers in the SEC.
Auburn has a couple of targets left in the secondary, but, outside of the Robinson-Johnson tandem at running back, the secondary boasts the best group of commitments for the class of 2015.
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.
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