7 Signing Day takeaways: Bryant caps another Top 10 recruiting class for Auburn

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For the fifth consecutive year, Auburn secured a Top 10 recruiting class. The Tigers finished fourth in the SEC on National Signing Day with the No. 9 class in the country, according to 247Sports.com.

The biggest news Wednesday involved Markaviest Bryant, a 4-star weakside defensive end prospect from Cordele, Ga., who committed to Auburn after being aggressively pursued by Georgia and LSU.

Because the Tigers have gone just 23-16 over the past three seasons while failing to reach the SEC Championship Game, this recruiting class is the most important one of Gus Malzahn’s Auburn career. Here are some immediate takeaways regarding the Tigers’ 2017 group:

1. Auburn filled its biggest area of need: The Tigers’ 35-19 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl indicated how badly they needed to upgrade at quarterback, and they have done that by landing Jarrett Stidham, the former Baylor QB.

Stidham, considered the nation’s top junior-college recruit in 2016 despite attending a school – McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas – that doesn’t have a football team, last played for Baylor in 2015, when he completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Stidham compiled his Baylor numbers against some of the worst Power 5 defenses in the country, but he will contend for Auburn’s starting job. Ex-JUCO QB John Franklin III has proven he can run but still hasn’t shown he can pass in the SEC.

Sean White is an accurate passer, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. The jury is still out on what Woody Barrett or Tyler Queen can do.

It remains to be seen how Auburn’s offense will change under new coordinator Chip Lindsey. But if Stidham ends up being the starter, you can be sure that the Tigers won’t throw the ball only 30 percent of the time like they did in 2016 under Malzahn and Lindsey’s predecessor, Rhett Lashlee.

2. The Tigers also addressed other major needs: In addition to quarterback, Auburn’s other positions of need are offensive line and defensive back, and Malzahn appears to have addressed them. On the offensive line, Auburn has brought in Calvin Ashley, Austin Troxell and Nick Brahms.

Safeties Carlito Gonzalez and Jordyn Peters, along with cornerback Traivon Leonard have also committed to the Tigers, who also need defensive line help following the departures of Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Maurice Swain and Devaroe Lawrence.

Three-star defensive tackle prospect Alec Jackson committed to AU on Christmas Day. Tyrone Truesdell made National Signing Day a happy holiday for Auburn by signing on Wednesday.

3. Grading the group: This year’s class looks potentially as strong as Auburn’s 2014 group, which included current starters Braden Smith, Kam Pettway and White. Here’s a breakdown of the 2017 class:

SEC class rank: 4
Overall class rank: 9
5-stars: 1
4-stars: 10
3-stars: 12

4. Ashley should make immediate impact: Auburn’s lone 5-star recruit is Calvin Ashley, an offensive tackle prospect who committed to the Tigers on May 30, 2015.

With AU losing offensive linemen Alex Kozan, Robert Leff and Xavier Dampeer, Ashley — a 6-6, 310-pounder out of Washington, D.C., — should get snaps right away. Look for him to potentially replace Leff at right tackle.

5. State’s best stay home: Auburn has reeled in nine of the top 76 recruits from the state of Alabama, including six of the top 15. Their 10 overall recruits from Alabama include the state’s No. 2 prospect – inside linebacker T.D. Moultry – and Troxell, who is ranked No. 5.

To put Auburn’s haul in perspective, Alabama’s class includes only six in-state recruits. But four are in the top 10.

6. Two groups stand out: Auburn’s crop of linebacking prospects looks good. Moultry is best prospect at that position in the state of Alabama, and Kenney Britt, a 6-foot, 232-pounder out of Oxford, ranks 11th.

At running back, recruits Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams might give Auburn some much needed depth behind Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. Octavius Matthews, one of the top JUCO recruits in country, was nearly part of that group, but he decommitted from Auburn last week before signing with Kansas.

7. Hello and goodbye: JaTarvious Whitlow, a 3-star instate prospect who played quarterback at Lafayette High, signed on Wednesday with Auburn, where he’s hoping to play wide receiver and return punts.

However, 4-star linebacker prospect Tyler Taylor picked LSU over Auburn and Oklahoma.

Malzahn sounded excited to get going.

“This is going to be a great class. We’re very excited,” Malzahn told ESPNU on Wednesday. “Our coaching staff has done a great job establishing relationships.

“This a going to be a great class for the Auburn Tigers. There’s a lot of excitement up and down the halls.

“This is going to be a very well-rounded class. I’m just excited about the overall class.”

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