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February 3, 2013

THEN AND NOW: How Auburn’s Class of 2013 recruits have evolved from Gene to Gus

BY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. – In the current landscape of college football recruiting, a healthy percentage of high school seniors will flip enough to make a gymnast blush.

Those insecurities are magnified even more when brand-new coaching faces enter the fray, with little choice but to convince the existing verbal commits to remember why they picked the school.

“Yeah, I think anytime a completely new staff comes in, you’re going to play catch-up,” first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Jan. 19. “But our coaching staff’s done a great job of identifying the guys and really recruiting them hard, so I’m very pleased with our staff.”

As soon as Gene Chizik, Malzahn’s predecessor and former boss, was fired Nov. 25, some pledges immediately bolted. Some took their time to check out the new staff, then decided to evaluate their options. Some stuck around through thick and thin (or Gene and Gus.)

How did the class look 10 weeks ago, compared to today? Have a look:

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Foster

THEN AND NOW

How Auburn’s class looked the morning of Nov. 25 (current commits in bold):

ESPN.com’s national class ranking: No. 7

5* DE Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga.)
4* WR Earnest Robinson (Pinson, Ala.)
4* LB Cameron Toney (Huntsville, Ala.)
4* QB Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Ala.)
4* DE Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J.)
4* ATH Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala.)
4* WR Ja’Quay Williams (Tyrone, Ga.)
4* LB Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
4* LB Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala.)
4* DT Dee Liner (Muscle Shoals, Ala.)
4* RB Jordan Wilkins (Cordova, Tenn.)
3* P Jimmy Hutchinson (Kennesaw, Ga.)
3* CB Kamryn Melton (Dothan, Ala.)
3* K Daniel Carlson (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3* CB Jahmere Irvin-Sills (Elkton, Md.)
3* LB Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, Ga.)
3* WR Lemond Johnson (Cooper City, Fla.)
3* TE Arshad Jackson (Lovejoy, Ga.)

*****************

Courtesy Allan Hancock College

How Auburn’s class looks the morning of Feb. 3 (new commits in bold):

ESPN.com’s national class ranking: No. 15

5* DE Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga.)
4* WR Earnest Robinson (Pinson, Ala.)
4* LB Cameron Toney (Huntsville, Ala.)
4* QB Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Ala.)
4* DE Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J.)
4* ATH Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala.)
4* juco RB Cameron Artis-Payne (Harrisburg, Pa.)
4* juco DT Ben Bradley (Norcross, Ga.)
4* juco LB Brandon King (Alabaster, Ala.)
4* juco QB Nick Marshall (Pineview, Ga.)
4* WR Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla.)
4* WR Dominic Walker (Orlando, Fla.)
3* P Jimmy Hutchinson (Kennesaw, Ga.)
3* CB Kamryn Melton (Dothan, Ala.)
3* K Daniel Carlson (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3* juco OG Devonte Danzey (Tampa, Fla.)
3* S Khari Harding (Edmond, Okla.)
3* juco LB Kenny Flowers (Lilburn, Ga.)
3* WR Marcus Davis (Delray Beach, Fla.)

*****************

Measurements, ratings from ESPNRecruiting

Commit date history from 247Sports.com

CHIZIK VERBALS WHO DECOMMITTED (post-firing)

4* WR Ja’Quay Williams (Tyrone, Ga.)
Fork Union Military Academy
6-3, 195
Commit date: June 1, 2012
Decommit date: Nov. 25
Signed with Texas A&M (Dec. 19)
Note: Adds to a top-flight WR class, giving Heisman winner Johnny Manziel more weapons

4* LB Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Central Gwinnett HS
6-1, 215
Commit date: Aug. 15, 2011
Decommit date: Nov. 27
Committed to Ohio State (Jan. 4)
Note: Made late visit to Tennessee last weekend, but still strong to Buckeyes

4* LB Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala.)
Auburn HS
6-2, 242
Commit date: July 12, 2012
Decommit date: Dec. 7
Announces decision Monday, still considering Auburn
Note: Original Alabama pledge, AU-tattooed star wants to stay close to home with mom and daughter. Former Troup County player

3* CB Jahmere Irvin-Sills (Elkton, Md.)
Eastern Christian Academy
5-9, 173
Commit date: June 1, 2012
Decommit date: Dec. 10
Undecided, no set announcement date
Note: In 2010-11, attended Red Lion Christian (Bear, Del.), same academy as Auburn DT Angelo Blackson

3* LB Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, Ga.)
Camden County HS
6-1, 210
Commit date: April 14, 2012
Decommit date: Dec. 15
Committed to Florida (Dec. 15)
Note: Became fourth player with Georgia ties to decommit from Tigers in three weeks

3* WR Lemond Johnson (Cooper City, Fla.)
Cooper City HS
6-0, 190
Commit date: June 13, 2012
Decommit date: Dec. 16
Signed with Tennessee (Dec. 16)
Note: Followed ex-Auburn DB coach Willie Martinez to Vols, enrolled for spring

3* TE Arshad Jackson (Lovejoy, Ga.)
Lovejoy HS
6-6, 235
Commit date: May 26, 2012
Decommit date: Dec. 18
Announces decision Wednesday, not considering Auburn
Note: Auburn’s tallest skill player in 2012, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, was 6-5

4* DT Dee Liner (Muscle Shoals, Ala.)
Muscle Shoals HS
6-3, 275
Commit date: June 11, 2011
Decommit date: Jan. 14
Announces decision Wednesday, not considering Auburn
Note: Picked Tigers at end of sophomore year, now appears headed to Alabama

4* RB Jordan Wilkins (Cordova, Tenn.)
St. Benedict School
6-2, 205
Commit date: July 18, 2012
Decommit date: Jan. 20
Committed to Ole Miss (Feb. 2)
Note: His late departure left Tigers coaches scrambling to woo more tailbacks

CHIZIK VERBALS WHO STAYED

3* P Jimmy Hutchinson (Kennesaw, Ga.)
Harrison HS
6-2, 175
Commit date: Feb. 21, 2012
Note: Named a first-team All-American by 247Sports.com, he should take over for Steven Clark in 2014

3* CB Kamryn Melton (Dothan, Ala.)
Dothan HS
5-10, 170
Commit date: Feb. 25, 2012
Note: A similar mold as Auburn rookie Jonathan Jones, perhaps a special teams contributor right away

4* WR Earnest Robinson (Pinson, Ala.)
Pinson Valley HS
6-2, 200
Commit date: Feb. 25, 2012
Note: Fielded offers from Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Florida State. Dameyune Craig was likely instrumental in keeping E-Rob’s word 

5* DE Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Milton HS
6-3, 251
Commit date: Mar. 24, 2012
Note: ESPN tabs him the No. 2 overall prospect in the country. Auburn’s projected to keep him on board over Clemson and Tennessee

4* LB Cameron Toney (Huntsville, Ala.)
Huntsville HS
6-2, 225
Commit date: Apr. 14, 2012
Note: Former DC Brian VanGorder always wanted a bigger, stronger defense. Toney will help that cause 

4* QB Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Ala.)
Carver HS
6-5, 215
Commit date: May 20, 2012
Note: The centerpiece of this class; maybe not the highest-rated, but the most valuable player recruiter and face of the future

4* DE Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J.)
Immaculata HS
6-5, 241
Commit date: June 12, 2012
Note: Bower would bolster a potentially star-studded class of defensive ends, become Auburn’s first Jersey signee in two decades 

3* K Daniel Carlson (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Classical Academy
6-5, 195
Commit date: July 1, 2012
Note: ESPN’s top-ranked kicker in the class, should take over for Cody Parkey in 2014

4* ATH Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala.)
McGill Toolen HS
6-1, 180
Commit date: July 9, 2012
Note: A standout quarterback in high school, but proved he’s got the hands of a receiver at the AL-MS All-Star Classic in December

MALZAHN COMMITS

SIGNED

4* RB Cameron Artis-Payne (Harrisburg, Pa.)
Allan Hancock CC (Calif.)
5-11, 215
Sign date: Dec. 19
Note: The No. 1 juco back in the country, per 247Sports, rushed for 2,048 yards and 25 TDs in 10 games last fall. Ideal Tre Mason complement

3* OG Devonte Danzey (Tampa, Fla.)
Hutchinson CC (Kan.)
6-3, 303
Sign date: Dec. 25
Note: The No. 1 juco guard in the country, per 247Sports, could compete right away for one open spot along the Tigers’ line

4* DT Ben Bradley (Norcross, Ga.)
Hutchinson CC (Kan.)
6-3, 310
Sign date: Jan. 8
Note: Followed Danzey to the Plains, where both are already enrolled and prepping for spring practice

EXPECTED TO SIGN WEDNESDAY

4* LB Brandon King (Alabaster, Ala.)
Highland CC (Kan.)
6-2, 215
Commit date: Jan. 4
Note: If he can prove a sticky tackler, King will make it difficult for coaches to keep him on the sideline

4* QB Nick Marshall (Pineview, Ga.)
Garden City CC (Kan.)
6-2, 210
Commit date: Jan. 13
Note: A major point of intrigue going into the spring. He swears the coaches have promised him a shot in the starting quarterback derby 

3* S Khari Harding (Edmond, Okla.)
Santa Fe HS
6-1, 205
Commit date: Jan. 20
Note: After committing to Arkansas, changed his mind following an official visit. DC Ellis Johnson needs more safety options

4* WR Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla.)
Evans HS
6-4, 184
Commit date: Jan. 20
Note: Receptions by Auburn receivers taller than 6-2 in 2012; one, by 6-3 Jaylon Denson. Previously a Florida State and Texas A&M verbal

4* WR Dominic Walker (Orlando, Fla.)
Evans HS
6-2, 194
Commit date: Jan. 25
Note: Flipping Stevens paved the way to pair him with Walker, giving the Tigers’ pass-catchers some much-needed depth

3* LB Kenny Flowers (Lilburn, Ga.)
Hutchinson CC (Kan.)
6-2, 228
Commit date: Jan. 25
Note: Count ‘em, the third Hutchinson alum and fifth overall commit from a Kansas junior college. Like King, must tackle well to play

3* WR Marcus Davis (Delray Beach, Fla.)
American Heritage HS
5-10, 175
Commit date: Jan. 27
Note: Once upon a time, Emory Blake was an under-the-radar slot receiver prospect. Davis looks to pave the same path

5 Comments

  1. Great info/update. Thanks & War Eagle.

    Comment by AUjewel — February 3, 2013 @ 9:12 am

  2. Thz AARON….good read.

    Comment by Eric — February 3, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  3. Good article Aaron. Solid summary of the evolution of this signing class after the coaching change. Couple issues though.

    First, you mention that Wilkins’ late departure left the coaches ‘scrambling.’ It’s been apparent for weeks that Wilkins was not going to be part of this class and it’s inaccurate to suggest his departure caught the staff off guard. Other backs were a better fit for Gus’ offense.

    Second, the comparison of Marcus Davis to Emory Blake is a stretch. Physically, Davis has more in common w/ Quan Bray than he does the 6’2″, 190 lb Blake. Also, Blake was a 4 star and the son of a former NFL QB. Not exactly under-the-radar.

    Comment by CAW — February 3, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  4. Great article, keep up the good work. I check this site, lately several times a day.

    Comment by David — February 3, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

  5. Great breakdown, thanks! I do agree with a previous poster in that there is every indication that Auburn’s new staff wasn’t interested in Wilkins. They stopped contacting him and after several weeks he took the hint and started looking around.

    Comment by MikeP — February 3, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

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