War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 10 seconds. If not, visit
http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/wareagleextra
and update your bookmarks.

August 11, 2013

Auburn football: Ellis Johnson says Jake Holland has ‘edge’ over Kris Frost at middle linebacker

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. —There’s a new name at the top of Auburn’s middle linebacker depth chart, and he’s no stranger to the starting lineup.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Sunday that senior Jake Holland, who has started 16 games over the last two seasons, has vaulted past sophomore Kris Frost at the position.

Auburn senior Jake Holland has moved back to the top of the middle linebacker depth chart since  fall camp began. He excited the spring as the backup to Kris Frost at the position. (File photo)

Auburn senior Jake Holland has moved back to the top of the middle linebacker depth chart since fall camp began. He excited the spring as the backup to Kris Frost at the position. (File photo)

“I feel like Jake Holland has had two really good scrimmages,” Johnson said. “Everybody else has been inconsistent. He’s certainly right now got an edge on that starting spot, but it’s still a very good competition between him and Kris.”

Frost’s level of play hasn’t dropped since the spring, heading into the offseason as the No. 1 “Mike” linebacker. Johnson said the bigger factor has been Holland’s improvement.

“Jake’s better than he was in the spring,” he said. “He’s making plays. He’s the most consistent linebacker I’ve got, but he’s also making tackles and he’s done a lot of good things.”

There hasn’t been any change at the weakside spot, though, as Johnson said Cassanova McKinzy remains the starter. But his day-to-day form during fall camp has fluctuated far too much for Johnson.

“(McKinzy) continues to make the best linebacker plays and do some things that you really can’t coach,” he said. “The outstanding physicality, technique and those type of things (are there), but he’s been very inconsistent. Got to get more consistent in assignments and run fits, coverages, all of the above.”

Johnson’s biggest concern with the linebacker corps is finding players to fill out the rotation, ideally identifying four or five who will challenge for playing time.

“Because it’s very seldom that you get through the season with all of them healthy, he said. “Right now, it’s still a little bit muddled.”

There are a few players trying to work their way into the argument, with Johnson mentioning that Kenny Flowers, LaDarius Owens and Javiere Mitchell have been “doing some pretty good things” since fall camp started. They’re still well behind McKinzy, however, and Johnson said it’s the same story at middle linebacker, where Anthony Swain is still far outpaced by Holland and Frost.

Johnson said that inexperience doesn’t excuse some lapses, though.

“I think a little bit of the over-installation has created some of the mental mistakes,but we’re not tackling as well as we should,” he said. “I don’t think we’re doing a lot of things in a lot of areas as well as we should.”

August 6, 2013

Tigers still trying to sort out playing time at linebacker

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s veteran linebackers put the summer to good use.

Sophomore weakside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is one player who likely won't have to worry about his playing time this fall. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson wasn't nearly as certain about the rest of the positional depth chart. (File photo)

Sophomore weakside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is one player who likely won’t have to worry about his playing time this fall. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson wasn’t nearly as certain about the rest of the positional depth chart. (File photo)

It didn’t take long for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to notice, either.

Every player picked up fall camp right where they left off in the spring — if not a tick better, Johnson said. From the weight they’ve lost in offseason workouts to the retention of coverage assignments, Johnson couldn’t be more pleased.

Now, the next test waits.

“The physicality of it, we don’t know,” Johnson said. “We’ve been running around with shorts, so we really don’t know. We’ll start to find out more in the next few days.”

The Tigers will don full pads for the first time this fall during Tuesday’s practice. And that’s when Johnson and the rest of the defensive coaching staff will weed out those who are merely workout warriors.

“Sometimes a player that doesn’t look real cute in a drill, he’s just a good natural player,” Johnson said. “Sometimes (you have) a player that can do all the things when you walk through the barrels and go out and run it five minutes later and he’s good, but when you run it five days later, he can’t remember. We’ll just have to see who surfaces.”

Like nearly every other position on the team, Johnson said he hasn’t begun to put together any semblance of a depth chart.

“I feel like there’s a few guys that have an edge on other guys but it’s certainly too early to say that a player has not played his way into contention or doesn’t have a chance,” he said. “We haven’t done enough at this point for me to tell you if a guy can play linebacker or not.”

Johnson had no worries about three of his most experienced players. With Kris Frost and Jake Holland battling for supremacy in the middle and Cassanova McKinzy on the weakside, Johnson was confident the Tigers wouldn’t lack for leadership.

McKinzy, in particular, has impressed Johnson with the gains he made in the offseason.

“He’s lost some weight and his change of direction — redirect on counters, coming out of your break when you drop in zone and those types of things, just acceleration and explosion to the point of attack — he’s gotten better and he can practice longer at a high tempo,” Johnson said. “He would not finish a practice and I felt like he was too heavy and out of shape. He did a good job of dropping some pounds and I think it really shows.”

Another pair of linebackers have made their presence known, too.

Anthony Swain has improved,” Johnson said. “Swain has moved into the Mike (middle) linebacker and LaDarius Owens has moved out to the Will (weakside). That took them a couple of days. They were a little out of sorts but they’ve started to pick things up.”

Owens has been moving between back and forth, though Johnson said his preference is to keep him at weakside for now. And Owens isn’t the only one cross-training at the two positions. To keep his options open, Johnson said there are multiple players learning both the Mike’s and Will’s responsibilities.

One player who may work his way into that rotation before fall camp concludes is Kenny Flowers.

Johnson couldn’t heap enough praise on the junior college transfer, enamored with his size and physical tools.

All Flowers has to do now is learn the defense.

“Physically, he’s in the right company. He belongs right where he is in the SEC,” Johnson said. “I think he’s going to give us some good plays this year. Everything right now is sort of a crystal ball. I don’t know that he is (going to be good), but I think he will.”

March 21, 2013

Positional battles to watch: Linebackers

This is the second of an 8-day series previewing each Auburn position leading into spring football. Tomorrow: defensive line.

Photo by Todd Van Emst

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – It’ll take just two to tango – two linebackers, that is, in Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 defensive playbook.

In a way, Auburn’s already used to it, at least from a personnel perspective. While the official starting base package in 2012 was a 4-3, Jonathan Evans was commonly subbed out in favor of a nickelback – usually a complement of corners Chris Davis and Jonathan Mincy.

However, Johnson’s fifth defensive back is labeled a “star” safety/linebacker hybrid. We didn’t discuss that enough in yesterday’s debut of this series, but potential candidates to play ‘star’ depend on who’s sleek, strong and smart enough to man the position.

As for the two pure linebackers, the breakdown’s pretty simple. There’s some returning experience in Jake Holland and Cassanova McKinzy, dripping-with-potential Kris Frost or Justin Garrett, and junior college transfer Kenny Flowers.

All in all, there’s only eight scholarship linebackers in camp. Good news for 61-year-old Ellis Johnson, who won’t need to massage a horde of individuals as he parlays his linebacker duties with serving as the overall defensive coordinator.

Auburn Vanderbilt FootballHere’s a look at Auburn’s linebacking crew, leading into spring football scrimmages:

Who’s been playing: Jake Holland (sr.), Cassanova McKinzy (so.)

Who’s in waiting: Kris Frost (so.), Justin Garrett (jr.), JaViere Mitchell (r-fr.), Anthony Swain (so.)

Who’s out the door: Daren Bates, Jonathan Evans, Ashton Richardson

Who’s in the door: Kenny Flowers (Lilburn, Ga.), Cameron Toney (Huntsville, Ala.)

Who’s coaching ‘em up: Ellis Johnson, 31st season (16th in SEC)

Who’d he replace, where is he now: Tommy Thigpen, Tennessee

Thoughts and musings:

- Jake Holland is the only returning linebacker who was on the team for the national championship season. He’s got 16 career starts – 31 total games – over a three-year career.

- Cassanova McKinzy got his chance against Vanderbilt, and also started against Georgia when Holland was hobbled with an ankle injury. It’s not inconceivable Holland and McKinzy are your starting linebackers in the opener against Washington State – otherwise, they’ll wage war for a starting spot in the middle.

Photo by Todd Van Emst

- Kris Frost and Justin Garrett each got some reps last year when the season went awry, but they struggled with Brian VanGorder’s complex system. Ellis Johnson won’t make it easy on these guys as they learn another new playbook.

- Kenny Flowers was the No. 2-rated junior college ILB prospect by 247Sports.com out of Hutchinson CC, and will arrive in the fall. Hailing from northeast Atlanta, his dad, Kenny Flowers Sr., played running back at Clemson and three seasons for the Atlanta Falcons.

Statistically speaking:

Tiger Track Classic on Saturday, April 7, 2012 in Auburn, AL.Missy Hazeldine73 – Tackles by Jake Holland in 2012.

40 – Tackles by every other returning linebacker in 2012. That includes 12 by Cassanova McKinzy in his starting debut at Vanderbilt.

2.5 – Years Holland went in between haircuts, growing out his locks before shearing them during Auburn’s first 2012 bye week. Holland donated a hefty head of curly hair to Wigs for Kids.JakeHollandShortHair

148 – the number of days Reuben Foster was verbally committed to the Tigers. Foster, the blue-chip linebacker recruit with an AU tattoo and played his senior year at Auburn High, signed his national letter of intent with Alabama.

Good Twitter follows: Jake Holland @JTSAU5 (3,089 followers) doesn’t say much on Twitter, but he’s put out some entertaining photos with his roommates, kicker Cody Parkey and former defensive end Corey Lemonier. Kris Frost @Frost4Life (5,539) is happy to dish on basketball, and @JustinGarrett26 (1,093) has himself superimposed onto the EASports NCAA Football video game cover as his background photo.

February 19, 2013

Official: Hutchinson DT picks Georgia

AUBURN, Ala. – Defensive tackle prospect Toby Johnson was thought to be deciding between Auburn and Mississippi State today. But at the last minute, he selected Georgia, first reported by the Hutchinson (Kan.) News and later confirmed by the Blue Dragons’ official Twitter account.

A four-star recruit, Johnson is rated the No. 8 overall junior college recruit, and No. 3 defensive tackle, by 247Sports.com. He entered the 2012 season as the top prospect overall, but tore his ACL and MCL near the end of Hutchinson’s 9-3 season, and his status for 2013 is in doubt.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Johnson was named second-team NJCAA All-American, tallying 37 tackles (12 solo), including 6.5 for a loss and four passes defended.

Other Hutchinson products who did sign with Auburn this year were defensive tackle Ben Bradley, offensive lineman Devonte Danzey and linebacker Kenny Flowers. Former quarterback Chris Todd also came to Auburn via Hutchinson.

February 18, 2013

Decision Day for Hutchinson D-lineman

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn has already signed three players who spent the 2012 season at Hutchinson (Kan.) CC, a highly-successful junior college program.

The Tigers hope to make it four Tuesday afternoon, when four-star defensive tackle recruit Toby Johnson is expected to announce his decision between Auburn and Mississippi State. Johnson previously told AuburnUndercover.com he would make his decision Feb. 19, and the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder tweeted he will live-stream his announcement via a Hutchinson video service.

He visited Starkville this past weekend, after spending time at Auburn two weeks ago as part of the Tigers’ star-studded group of visitors. Johnson also has interest in Georgia and Oklahoma.

If Johnson picks Auburn, he’ll join three other Hutchinson products in this class – offensive lineman Devonte Danzey, defensive tackle Ben Bradley and linebacker Kenny Flowers.

February 6, 2013

The Class of 2013: Auburn signees list, with stories, Twitter handles and game tape … plus what Gus Malzahn said about each player

AUBURN FOOTBALL

GUS MALZAHN Opening Statement, Feb. 6:

“It’s been a great day. I’m very excited about this class. We’ve signed 23 so far in this class. Really feel like we accomplished that. Really like to compliment our staff; they did a wonderful job on a short period of time. A new staff coming in – we had a lot of obstacles as far as trying to develop relationships and a lot of different things. Anytime you come in and you don’t retain anybody from the previous staff and you have a lot of commitments, there’s a lot of things that go with that and I’m extremely excited and pleased with our staff.”

AUBURN CLASS OF 2013 SIGNEES (all star ratings via Fox Sports/Scout.com)

Early Enrollees

4* RB Cameron Artis-Payne (Harrisburg, Pa.) | Allan Hancock CC | 5-11, 215
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
Story: Tigers ink top JUCO RB Cameron Artis-Payne
Twitter: @ThaRealKillaCam
Malzahn says: “A big, physical runner. Really think he’s going to provide some very good depth, and I think he’ll be a very good player for us.”

**********

3* OG Devonte Danzey (Tampa, Fla.) | Hutchinson CC (Kan.) | 6-3, 303
The No. 1 juco guard in the country, per 247Sports, could compete right away for one open spot along the Tigers’ line
Story: Tigers unwrap another junior college present; Devonte Danzey, the nation’s top available OG
Malzahn says: “We needed some help at center and at guard, and I feel like he’ll have a chance to help us immediately.”

**********

4* DT Ben Bradley (Norcross, Ga.) | Hutchinson CC (Kan.) | 6-3, 310
Followed Danzey to the Plains, where both are already enrolled and prepping for spring practice
Brief: Defensive tackle Ben Bradley gives Auburn a third juco prospect
Twitter: @IamAmbition98
Malzahn says: “We needed depth up front, and this guy is very athletic and very strong.”

Wednesday signees, listed in chronological order of received national letter of intent

4* DE Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind.) | Avon HS | 6-4, 250
Flipped from Ole Miss to Auburn, the Tigers’ first fax Wednesday
Story: Elijah Daniel, Tony Stevens first to fax signed letters to Auburn
Twitter: @ElijahDaniel6
Malzahn says: “He was our first commit of the day. Pass rushing was one of our big needs and this guy can really do it. Had a relationship with Rodney Garner that goes way back. He signed this morning and we’re tickled to death to have him.”

**********

4* WR Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla.) | Evans HS | 6-4, 184
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
Story: Auburn snatches two verbal commits from SEC rivals, loses RB
Twitter: @TS8_NewEra
Malzahn says: “He’s a big, tall wide receiver. He’s got tremendous skills, he’s s kick returner. Dameyune Craig did a wonderful job with him – had a previous relationship, and he has a chance to be an impact player.”

**********

3* WR Dominic Walker (Orlando, Fla.) | Evans HS | 6-2, 194
Flipping Stevens paved the way to pair him with Walker, giving the Tigers’ pass-catchers some much-needed depth
Story: Auburn beefs up WR depth, flipping its second Orlando Evans prospect
Twitter: @DW_SHOWTIME4
Malzahn says: “(Tony’s) teammate. 6-2, 195, a big, physical, fast guy that really feel like he’ll have a chance to be that special type player and once again Dameyune recruited him also.”

**********

3* WR Marcus Davis (Delray Beach, Fla.) | American Heritage HS | 5-10, 175
Once upon a time, Emory Blake was an underrated slot receiver prospect. Davis looks to pave the same path
Story: 3-star Marcus Davis on board
Twitter: @Marcus_davis1
Malzahn says: “He is a quarterback from Delray Beach, Florida and he is going to play like a slot receiver for us. We’ve had a lot of success with former quarterbacks. He has running back skills and he’s a really good kid, smart kid. We’re excited about him.”

**********

3* CB Kamryn Melton (Dothan, Ala.) | Dothan HS | 5-10, 170
A similar mold as Auburn rookie Jonathan Jones, perhaps a special teams contributor right away
Story: Auburn adds fifth commitment for the 2013 recruiting class
Twitter: @_NoFlyZoneMelt
Malzahn says: “I want to say this about all of the guys that hung in there with us, specifically the defensive guys, because we didn’t have great relationships. We knew a lot of the offensive guys because I was here before and some of our staff, but really appreciate Kamryn, he’s got a wonderful family and really think he’ll be a very good player for us.”

**********

3* RB Peyton Barber (Alpharetta, Ga.) | Milton HS | 5-10, 210
Flipped to Auburn from Ole Miss during the Super Bowl, making two poaches from the Rebels today
Story: Super seal: RB Peyton Barber to Auburn
Malzahn says: “He’s a guy that we started recruiting when we first got here. He was committed to another school, he got hurt his junior year and this past year has a phenomenal year and I really feel like if he hasn’t got hurt his junior year he’d be one of those top-type guys. He is a very strong, fast individual. We’re very excited about Peyton.”

**********

3* QB Nick Marshall (Pineview, Ga.) | Garden City CC (Kan.) | 6-2, 210
A major point of intrigue going into the spring. He swears the coaches have promised him a shot in the starting quarterback derby
Story: “The best athlete I’ve ever seen”: ex-Georgia CB Nick Marshall plans to sign as Auburn QB
Twitter: @NicMarshall7
Malzahn says: “He is one of three quarterbacks that we took. We felt like that was definitely a need as far as depth was concerned. He’s a great athlete. He’s one of those impact players, throws the ball extremely well, has a very strong arm, feel like he can come in here and give us a chance right of the bat.”

**********

5* DE Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga.) | Milton HS | 6-3, 251
ESPN tabs him the No. 2 overall prospect in the country. Auburn kept him on board over Clemson and Tennessee
Story: Carl Lawson tweet: “I am an Auburn Tiger”
Twitter: @CarlCarltp (protected account)
Malzahn says: “I really felt like he’s one of the keys to this class. H hung in there with us. When a lot of guys went South, or went other ways, opened stuff up, he hung in there with us and he provided the stability I really feel like on the defensive side specifically, to have the class that we did. He’s a phenomenal player, a phenomenal person. He’s an Auburn person, he loves Auburn and his family loves Auburn.”

**********

3* S Khari Harding (Edmond, Okla.) | Santa Fe HS | 6-1, 205
After committing to Arkansas, changed his mind following an official visit. DC Ellis Johnson needs more safety options
Story: Auburn snatches two verbal commits from SEC rivals, loses RB
Twitter: @5numerocinco5
Malzahn says: “A safety from Oklahoma. One of the bigger hitting safeties I’ve seen come out of high school. He’s vicious guy, we need some depth at safety. He’ll have a chance to come in and contribute early.”

**********

4* QB Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Ala.) | Carver HS | 6-5, 215
The centerpiece of this class; maybe not the highest-rated, but the most valuable player recruiter and face of the future
Story: Four-star quarterback Jeremy Johnson commits to Auburn for the 2013 class
Twitter: @MRSUPER6A
Malzahn says: “I’m going to say the same thing about Jeremy as I did Carl. He was kind of one of the centerpieces offensively. Me and coach Lashlee already had a relationship with him but you really hung in there with us. He helped us recruit and really provided a lot of stability on the offensive side. Once again, he loves Auburn.”

**********

4* WR Earnest Robinson (Pinson, Ala.) | Pinson Valley HS | 6-2, 200
Fielded offers from Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Florida State. Dameyune Craig was likely instrumental in keeping E-Rob’s word
Story: Four-star receiver Earnest Robinson commits to Auburn for the 2013 class
Malzahn says: “He’s been committed to us a long time. I actually recruited him when he was a sophomore and have a great relationship with him. Think the world of Earnest; he hung in there with us too during the change.”

**********

3* LB Kenny Flowers (Lilburn, Ga.) | Hutchinson CC (Kan.) | 6-2, 228
Count ‘em, the third Hutchinson alum and fifth overall commit from a Kansas junior college. Must tackle well to play
Story: Six-pack of jucos committed to Tigers
Malzahn says: “We felt like we needed some depth at linebacker that could come in immediately and help. This guy is a very physical, hard-nosed type player and coach Johnson did a great job recruiting him.”

**********

3* LB Cameron Toney (Huntsville, Ala.) | Huntsville HS | 6-2, 225
Former DC Brian VanGorder always wanted a bigger, stronger defense. Toney will help that cause
Story: Huntsville linebacker Cameron Toney commits to Auburn on A-Day
Twitter: @CToney47
Malzahn says: “He was committed before, very good kid, he hung in there with us, and I think he’ll have a chance to be a really good player.”

**********

4* QB Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala.) | McGill Toolen HS | 6-1, 180
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
Story: Quarterback, 4-star athlete Jason Smith commits to Auburn
Twitter: @JasonQB_7
Malzahn says: “He’s electric. MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He’s got phenomenal skills. He can do a lot of different things. We’re very excited about Jason.”

**********

4* OL Deon Mix (Batesville, Miss.) | South Panola HS | 6-4, 315
HS coach says his best football is yet to come; the only high school offensive lineman in this class so far
Malzahn says: “An offensive lineman we really just started recruiting seriously about a week ago. Coach Melvin Smith had a great relationship with him. He was the only offensive lineman we took today other than junior college. He is a big, road-grating type of offensive lineman that coach Grimes likes to have.”

**********

3* S Mackenro Alexander (Immokalee, Fla.) | Immokalee HS | 6-0, 195
Auburn couldn’t quite land the two-man brother package of Mackenro and 5-star Mackensie, who’s off to Clemson
Malzahn says: “A DB from Florida. This is a kid we feel like has very big upside. He is a tough, smart kid that can run. He’s a very good tackler we think he will definitely provide us some help in the secondary.”

**********

3* S Brandon King (Alabaster, Ala.) | Highland CC (Kan.) | 6-2, 215
If he can prove a sticky tackler, King will make it difficult for coaches to keep him on the sideline
Twitter: @_KING205
Malzahn says: “We felt like we needed some depth at safety, some guys that can come in immediately and play. He’s a very hard-nosed, physical type of player, so we’re excited about him.”

**********

5* DT Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga.) | Dooly County HS | 6-4, 310
The surprise coup of the class, pairs with Lawson to make a beastly defensive front of the future
Story: Adams down to final four
Malzahn says: “I think this is going to be is my eighth year to coach college – I don’t know if I’ve seen a bigger, athletic guy than him. I really feel like the sky’s the limit with him. Coach Rodney Garner had a great relationship with him, that really helped get him here. He’s a very good person with a great family.”

**********

3* K Daniel Carlson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Classical Academy | 6-5, 195
ESPN’s top-ranked kicker in the class, should take over for Cody Parkey in 2014
Story: Tigers land second top-flight kicker for the 2013 class in Daniel Carlson
Malzahn says: “He hung in there with us through two special teams coaches. Really appreciate him doing that. He’s got a very big leg, and he’ll be a very good kicker for us.”

**********

4* RB Johnathan Ford (New Hope, Ala.) | New Hope HS | 5-11, 190
All of a sudden, Auburn is positively LOADED at running back
Twitter: @rudythebeast5
Malzahn says: “Very good running back. He’s got a lot of different skills. He’s not only a good runner, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he loves Auburn. His family loves Auburn, so we’re very excited to have him.”

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:

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

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

January 25, 2013

Auburn notes: Loeffler, Grimes still owed buyout money; another juco commits to Tigers

AUBURN, Ala. — Virginia Tech released its salaries Friday for newly-hired coaches Scot Loeffler and Jeff Grimes, still receiving monthly paychecks from Auburn after being fired at the end of the 2012 season.

Andy Bitter of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot divulged Loeffler’s eventual annual salary will reach $400,000 and Grimes will be paid $265,000. However, each man will make $150,000 annually from their new employer until their Auburn contracts expire.

Since Grimes’ deal ends June 30 of this year, and Loeffler’s on June 30, 2014, that means Auburn can deduct approximately $300,000 from its original buyout for its former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

Loeffler’s Auburn salary was half a million dollars, while Grimes’ had been $400,000.

Six-pack of jucos

Reports surfaced Friday that linebacker Kenny Flowers will give Auburn a third commitment this offseason from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades told multiple outlets of Flowers’ decision, which would have him joining former teammates Devonte Danzey and Ben Bradley on their way to the Plains.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Flowers is a three-star prospect and 247sports.com’s No. 3-rated inside linebacker. Originally from Lilburn, Ga., he previously committed to Texas A&M in November, but backed out when he could not enroll early.

Danzey, an offensive guard, and Bradley, a defensive tackle, are already enrolled at Auburn and ready for spring practices.

Flowers would be Auburn’s sixth commitment from a junior college player.