Gene Chizik and his coaching staff are quickly gaining a reputation of being strong closers on the recruiting trail. For the third straight year, Auburn received commitments from some of the top prospects in America.
The Auburn football program is losing 24 seniors to graduation and 3 top juniors to the NFL draft after their national championship in 2010. Almost every position needed help in talent and depth. The 2011 recruiting class is a great step in that direction.
As Signing Day slows down this afternoon, Scout has Auburn's class ranked as the best in the country. ESPN has Auburn at Number 2. Rivals has the Tigers at 3. Obviously, class rankings don't mean very much in the grand scheme of things. These rankings may change over the next few days, and each class has busts and players that emerge as success stories from under the radar.
But it is clear that this class is loaded with potential. The future looks bright with the addition of 24 (currently) new letters of intent signed and delivered to the Athletics Department.
Here's a brief breakdown by position of all the new Auburn Tigers from the 2011 recruiting class.
See where all the Top 100 recruits are headed.
Kiehl Frazier from Springdale, Arkansas has been playing in a version of Gus Malzahn's offense throughout high school. He's rated as one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the country and has all the physical tools you could ask for in a quarterback.
He will have a chance to compete for the starting job as a freshman. Though it is probably Barrett Trotter's job to lose, Malzahn does like to have open competition, especially at the quarterback position. It will be very interesting to see how Frazier does when he arrives on campus this summer.
The depth at the running back position is a concern. Outside of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, there is a need for someone to step up. With the decommitment of Brent Calloway today, Tre Mason is the only running back in this class.
He's a shifty 5'10, 190 pound running back from Lake Worth, Florida. He gained over 1600 yards and ran for 24 touchdowns during his senior season. He will have a chance to acclimate to the program and contribute in the future.
Sammie Coates and Jaylon Denson provide size on the outside at wide receiver. Both are in state prospects who will have a chance to compete for playing time early in their career, due to the departure of Terrell Zachary, Darvin Adams, and Kodi Burns.
Brandon Fulse is one of the top tight ends in the country. He's mentioned that he liked the emergence of Philip Lutzenkirchen this season in Gus Malzahn's offense, and should have a chance to learn from 'Lutz' and settle into that position for the future.
This is the most impressive part of the recruiting class to me. Auburn had to place an emphasis on the offensive line after losing five seniors this year, and they came through with some big-time players.
Reese Dismukes is widely considered the top center in the country. He and highly-rated guard Thomas O'Reilly are already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice.
Christian Westerman was a long time Texas commitment, but was swayed to the Tigers late in the recruiting process. He's considered one of the top prospects overall nationally. Greg Robinson from Thibodaux, Louisiana is another big time lineman in this class.
Top offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio initially decided on Auburn, but hasn't yet sent in his letter of intent to Auburn. That commitment is tentative at best, right now. But with or without Kouandjio, Auburn has addressed the offensive line in a very effective way.
Don't be surprised to see this group turn out to be similar to the 2010 offensive line in a few years - experienced, talented, and used to playing together.
The defensive side of the line of scrimmage was also a big need after losing Antoine Carter, Mike Blanc, Nick Fairley, Michael Goggans, and Zach Clayton. Auburn was able to provide some incoming depth to a unit that will be very young next season.
The big catch is Gabe Wright from Columbus, Georgia. In announcing his commitment to the Tigers, he showed that he views himself as the man to come in and replace Nick Fairley as a playmaker on the defensive line.
Three Alabama prospects (Jabrian Niles, Devaunte Sigler, and Keymiya Harrell) all chose Auburn. Keep an eye on Delaware product Angelo Blackson, an under-recruited 6'5 295 pound beast. He may end up being a huge contributor on the defensive line in a couple years.
Justin Garrett and Chris Landrum are the two linebackers from the 2011 class. Landrum is a bigger, run-stuffing linebacker at 235 pounds, while Justin Garrett is a more typical Auburn linebacker, at 6'2, 200.
With Eltoro Freeman, Daren Bates, and a strong crop of linebackers from the 2010 class ready to contribute, these two prospects most likely will not contribute right away. However, they both have the skills to add value to the program.
The biggest complaint about the 2010 Auburn team was the secondary. Neiko Thorpe and T'Sharvan Bell are the likely starters, but fans called for an upgrade in talent and athleticism. This class provides just that.
Jonathan Rose and Jermaine Whitehead are the two corners that signed. Rose is already in school and is a top cornerback nationally. Jermaine Whitehead was committed to Mississippi State, but changed his mind to Auburn at the end of the process. He will provide more depth and raw talent to the cornerback position.
Safety is another area of need. Long-time Auburn lean Erique Florence finally committed to Auburn this morning. Anthony Swain from Gadsden, Alabama also sent in his letter of intent. There was some question about Robenson Therezie's commitment to Auburn, but he followed through as well.
All five secondary signees provide hope for the future of Auburn's back four. Hopefully for Auburn fans, most of these prospects pan out and develop nicely at the college level.
Quan Bray, Kris Frost, and CJ Uzomah are all highly rated athletes. Uzomah will likely end up at tight end after playing quarterback in high school. Kris Frost chose Auburn late in the recruiting season and will try wide receiver, but is likely to end up at linebacker. Quan Bray played at running back but will likely end up at receiver.
You never know what will happen when these kind of athletes get on campus. Much of their final positioning depends on the needs of the team and how well they adjust to the new system. But all three have the potential to be effective at multiple positions. That versatility is extremely valuable for today's college football program.