After a 7-5 season that has Auburn heading to a Jan. 1 bowl game in Tampa, the focus for the past few weeks has been all recruiting.
Auburn is sitting in great shape with 22 commitments for the 2010 class, and four already signed back towards the 2009 class. The main focus of the staff now will be to maintain the commitments they have now, and close out strong with some big-time players left on the board.
Rivals.com and ESPN Scouts Inc. recruiting services both rank Auburn in the top 10 in the country in recruiting, and with the high profile prospects left on the board for Auburn, a top-five class nationally is very much in reach.
Former coach Tommy Tuberville didn't achieve a top-five class in 10 years at Auburn according to Rivals.com, and first year coach Gene Chizik has a chance to make that a reality in his first full recruiting season.
The headliners in the 2010 class begin with unanimous five-star running back Michael Dyer from Little Rock, Ark.. Dyer is rated the best back in the nation on ESPN, and the third-best on Rivals. He's a Maurice Jones-Drew/Ray Rice-type back with speed, power, and durability—the type of back needed in the SEC.
With senior Ben Tate headed to the NFL, Auburn has a big need for running back, and Dyer has a chance to be a major contributor next season as a true freshman.
Another big-time player committed is Rivals and ESPN Scouts Inc. four-star wide receiver Trovon Reed from Thibadoux, La. Reed is the No. 1 player in Louisiana according to Rivals, and is compared to Philadelphia Eagles standout Desean Jackson. Reed can provide the speed and playmaking ability Gus Malzahn is looking for in his versatile offense, and really fill a need for speed at that receiver position.
Auburn has also done a solid job so far of addressing needs.
Linebacker was a huge need, as shown by the Tigers' starting three scholarship linebackers against Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
So far, Auburn has four linebackers committed including Rivals.com four-star Ladarius Owens and three-star Jake Holland, both from Birmingham, Ala. They also have ESPN four-star linebacker Jawara White from Troy, Ala., and Rivals.com three-star Jessel Curry from Buford, Ga.
If Auburn had room to sign eight linebackers, they'd do it. It's that big a need and they have addressed it well with four players who will qualify and compete for playing time next season.
The other need was offensive line. With three high school linemen, including Rivals.com four-star linemen Shon Coleman from Olive Branch, Miss., and Ed Christian from Valdosta, Ga., Auburn has done well so far.
The biggest pickup so far though, along with Dyer, has to be junior college offensive tackle, and early signee, Roszell Gayden from Visalia, Calif. Gayden is a four-star acording to Rivals.com and Scout.com, and will be expected to start next season at the open tackle position and help solidify the Auburn offensive line in 2010 with four returning starters.
While Auburn already has a great class committed, they have a chance to close with a big bang.
The top target left on Auburn's board has to be unanimous five-star running back Marcus Lattimore from Duncan, S.C. Lattimore is a big, physical back that can pose a threat both running and catching the ball out of the backfield.
Most consider South Carolina the favorite to land Lattimore, but don't count out Auburn. Malzahn and Dyer have done a good job of selling to Lattimore the benefits of sharing carries similar to Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, and, more recently, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
The other big name that popped up on the Auburn board recently was Rivals.com five-star junior college quarterback Cameron Newton. Newton just got finished winning a junior college national championship at Blinn Community College in Texas, and is a physical freak. At 6'6", 240, he will remind many people of a Terrell Pryor/Vince Young-type quarterback.
There's a reason Florida signed the kid out of high school; he's talented.
The talk is that Auburn, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State are the three finalists for Newton, with Auburn and Mississippi State being the top two. Auburn has some nice pieces set for 2010, with quarterback being a position in question for next season.
Signing Newton could be huge for Auburn and their chances of contending for the SEC west next season.
Other blue chip players Auburn is heavily involved in are four-star defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker from Georgia, four-star defensive end Corey Lemonier from Florida, four-star defensive tackle Mike Thornton from Georgia, four-star defensive tackle Byran Jones from Arkansas, three-star JUCO defensive end Ken Adams, and four-star offensive tackle Eric Mack, a South Carolina commit from the state of South Carolina. All rankings according to Rivals.com.
So with a dead period upon us until the first of the year, and bowl practice about to kick in to high gear before the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, Auburn's coaches will take a small break from the recruiting trail.
Come Jan. 2 though, it's full throttle to the finish line on National Signing Day, Feb. 3, and I'd expect Auburn to close as well as anyone.