For most of the past thirty years, Auburn has been a major player in the SEC. One has to wonder with the great recruiting classes Gene Chizik and staff have brought to Auburn, how have they fallen so hard and so fast.
Looking at the previous three years of recruiting under former coach Tommy Tuberville helps to answer the question.
Each of these three classes were full of signed players that never qualified, were dismissed from the team, never met academic standards or essentially never contributed much on the field. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the defensive side of the ball.
Make no mistake, there was enough talent for the current staff to assemble a national champion, with help from some key recruits from the Gene Chizik era, but there was little depth behind that Auburn starting lineup in 2010.
Perhaps the worst recruiting class of the bunch was the 2008 class. As bad as Tuberville’s 2008 team played on the field, his 2008 recruiting class was equally as bad. This class should be providing upperclassmen leadership during the 2011 season, but for reasons cited above, the holes are large. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Gene Chizik had less than a month to assemble his 2009 class.
Here’s an in-depth look at that 2008 class, and why Auburn is such a young team this year. Star ratings are provided from Rivals.com.
Darvin Adams (3-Star WR) – One of the best receivers in the conference last year, and is now with the Carolina Panthers.
Harry Adams (3-Star WR) – Played some as a reserve CB, and on special teams, before being dismissed from the team in 2009 for “unspecified rules violations”.
Ken Adams (2-Star TE/DE) – Failed to qualify and Coach Chizik and staff didn’t offer him a scholarship when he finally gained his eligibility.
Da’Shaun Barnes (2-Star LB) – never played a snap for Auburn, and was given a medical hardship .
T’Sharvin Bell (4-Star ATH) – Has developed into a leader in the Auburn secondary .
Drew Cole (3-Star DB) – Has seen very limited action for Auburn. As a senior this year, he is listed at third team on the depth chart.
Dax Dellenbach (2-Star Deep Snapper) – Never played a down for Auburn. He left the team in the Summer of 2008, before the start of football.
DeRon Furr (4-Star ATH) – He was recruited as a QB, but was given the opportunity to try DB when he was deep on the depth chart at QB. Although the details are sketchy, there seems to have been a brawl on the practice field, and he was the target because of his lack of intensity during practice. He left school shortly after this incident and transferred to Memphis. This incident also cost Auburn several other players from his high school, Carver High in Columbus, Georgia. Once a hotbed of talent for the Tigers, Auburn had been pretty much shut out of this area recently until the signing of Gabe Wright this year.
Raven Gray (5-Star DE) – Struggled with injuries and never played a down for Auburn. He transferred to Division II Delta State, with the hopes of getting more playing time.
Cameron Henderson (4-Star DE) – Was suspended for the entire 2009 season, and left the team before the 2010 season.
D’Antoine Hood (3-Star DB) – D’Antoine saw very little playing time in his backup role at CB, and transferred to Alabama State just weeks before the 2010 season.
Reggie Hunt (3-Star RB) – Failed to qualify academically, and began his career at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. He was not offered by Auburn after JUCO, and signed with Southern Miss.
Marcus Jemison (3-Star ATH) – Was being worked as possible DB or LB before being dismissed from the team in June of 2009.
Jermaine Johnson (5-Star OL) – Jermaine was supposed to be a building block for future Auburn offensive lines. He never qualified and ended up at Miami.
Philip Pierre-Louis (3-Star ATH) – Often injured during his time at Auburn, he never caught a pass in three seasons. He left the team this Spring.
Spencer Pybus (2-Star LB) – Spencer made Feshman All-American in his first season at Auburn, but a recurring issue with concussions caused him to give up football.
Derrick Lykes (2-Star DE) – Redshirted in 2008, and played sparingly in 2009 and 2010. He was dismissed from the team in August for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Onterio McCalebb (4-Star RB) – Onterio is an integral part of the Auburn offense. He has breakaway speed to the outside, but has not shown the ability to run inside.
Jamorcus Savage (3-Star DT) – Was redshirted in 2008 and dismissed from the team June, 2009 for classroom disruptions, and missing some workouts.
Brandon Smith (2-Star ATH) – Brandon was a sign and place player for Auburn. He was never offered another scholarship from Auburn after JUCO.
Eric Smith (3-Star RB) – Was a contrinutor on the 2010 national championship squad, but was dismissed this Spring for an unspecified violation of team rules. Whether it was part of the reason he was dismissed or not, he settled an assault lawsuit out of court in May of this year.
Vance Smith (3-Star TE) – Moved to tackle but eventually quit football because of injuries.
Freddie Smooth (3-Star OL) – Never qualified. He was charged with 1st degree murder in December, 2010.
Christian Thompson (3-Star S) – Played sparingly as a freshman, and received a lot of playing time during the Spring practice of 2009. Thompson had a good deal of potential, but was off the team by June of 2009.
Nieko Thorpe (3-Star CB) – Currently a starting safety for Auburn.
Chris Todd (3-Star QB) – After joining the team as a JUCO transfer, his junior year was a disaster. However, he excelled under the tutelage of Gus malzahn in 2009, breaking several Auburn records.
Barrett Trotter (3-Star QB) – Auburn’s current starting QB, he’s battled back from a torn ACL, which has limited his experience before taking the reins this season.
Andre Wadley (3-Star DE) – Moved to OL, but never played before ending his career in July, 2009 for health problems.
Derrick Winter (2-Star WR) – A success story off the field, though he didn’t contribute much on the field. he got his degree early and left the team in Spring, 2011 to pursue a career in accounting.
This class was mediocre at best, with very few star players, but the attrition from the players that were signed made this essentially a lost class. Though Chizik signed a better class in 2009, it was nowhere near good enough to replace the players lost from Tuberville’s last few recruiting classes.
If you look at the defense for Auburn in 2011, you’ll see very few upperclassmen, rather many freshmen and sophomores. This was not by design, but out of necessity. There is very little senior leadership, and this causes Auburn to miss a lot of assignments or get caught in the wrong coverage.
Clemson is probably not the last of the embarrassing losses for Auburn in 2011, but they have to overcome a class that should be there, but isn’t. This problem should work itself out as these young players mature, and could actually make Auburn a much stronger team in 2012 and beyond.
As Auburn fans, we can only hope for the best each week, and accept what happens on the field. It’s like a virus, and we’re suffering through the final stages of the poor decisions and recruiting that plagued the last few years of the Tuberville era.