Still waiting to hear from a couple, Tigers primed to have best signing class ever
by Charles Bennett
Star Sports Writer
Feb 02, 2011 | 3025 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — Auburn’s football recruiting class took a hit on the eve of National Signing Day when four-star defensive back Marcus Roberson backed off his commitment, but that won’t keep the Tigers from hauling in another highly-rated recruiting class.

Even with the defection, Auburn’s class is pegged nationally at third and sixth according to Scout.com and Rivals.com, respectively.

“When you’re talking about those top three or four classes, it’s really splitting hairs,” said Scott Kennedy, director of scouting for Scout.com. “Even with them losing Roberson, we felt there was enough separation that Auburn would remain third ahead of Ohio State for Scout.”

And consider Roberson only a prelude to the potential drama that’s in store.

The BCS national champion Tigers are the frontrunners to land a pair of four-star recruits in tackle Gabe Wright and safety Enrique Florence. In addition, defensive back Jermaine Whitehead, previously a Mississippi State commitment, is now strongly considering the Tigers after visiting Auburn last week.

And Auburn’s interest is mutual in light of Robertson’s change of heart.

Other highly-rated players still considering the Tigers include offensive linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Antonio Richardson, and defensive end LaMichael Fanning.

Kouandjio is rated as the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the nation. Alabama and Southern Cal are considered the front-runners for his services, although he visited Auburn last week.

But no matter how things play out with late commitments, Auburn is poised to sign its best class in years.

The most highly-regarded of the incoming players is quarterback Kiehl Frazier, the second-best quarterback in the nation according to ESPN, a four-star recruit according to Rivals and a five-star according to Scout.

“You look at the balance across the board and there are talented players at just about every position,” Kennedy said. “... They did an excellent job of addressing their needs.”

After offers a host of position at which players could get immediate playing time.

Auburn takes the hardest hit on offense line, where it lost four multi-year starters. On the defensive side of the ball, the linebacking corps and defensive secondary is thin, as well.

The Tigers did their best to address those needs in the current class. They expect to sign three offensive linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs.

And according to Kennedy, the player with possibly the biggest chance for impact could already be on campus.

Jonathan Rose, a four-star defensive back from Leeds, has already enrolled wasting no time after leading his Green Wave teammates to the Class 3A state title.

“I made the comment earlier that Jonathan Rose could have started for Auburn this year,” Kennedy said. “They needed another corner. The front four of that Auburn team covered up a lot of deficiencies on that Auburn defense.

“I think Rose is a guy who can play right away.”

The Tigers are hurting less in the offensive backfield. Michael Dyer all but solidified his role at running back as a freshman this past season, making playing time there limited at best.

Among Auburn’s class is key players under the recruiting moniker of athlete. Quan Bray made a name for himself at running back at Troup County in Georgia, but Kennedy said he could see time at safety. Tre Mason, who most all agree is a running back, could contribute at the role of slot receiver in Gus Malzahn’s spread offense.

And that could be where the Tigers will need the most help, as graduation and NFL early entries took its toll, too.

“If I was going to say who is missing in this class I would look to wide receiver and defensive tackle,” Kennedy said. “I think they aren’t quite as strong as some of the other positions.”

Despite the lofty rankings, Kennedy knows that ranking recruits is an inexact science at best.

“When you look back at a class, 50 percent of these guys are going to wash out,” he said. “That’s just the way it works in college football. It’s my job to figure out which of those guys it might be, but it’s still impossible.

Charles Bennett covers Auburn University for The Star.
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