It’s the first day of the Early Signing Period, but as of midday Wednesday, Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers had already locked up most of their targets, climbing to a No. 7 national ranking (No. 5 in the SEC), according to Of course, time remains in the Early Signing Period and on into the official Signing Day, which is Feb. 5.

Here’s a look at the 5 most important storylines from Wednesday.

1. Malzahn has new life … again

I’ve lost count of how many lives Malzahn has used up during his time at Auburn, but the program’s top big cat is alive once again. Counted out for the umpteenth time, Malzahn’s Tigers roared back this season. They punctuated it with a thrilling Iron Bowl victory and are now piling on with a Top 10 recruiting class to add to it. Beating your archrival will certainly help in that endeavor.

2. Refilling the trenches

The biggest need for Auburn is refilling the trenches. On both sides of the football, the Tigers are losing a lot. It’s especially critical on the offensive side, where 4 of the 5 starters are seniors. That’s to say nothing of the elite defenders along the line of scrimmage, Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, who will leave gigantic shoes to fill after this season. Malzahn has signed 6 offensive linemen in this class, all 3-stars. He has added a 4- and a 3-star on defense, both ends, and is waiting on a signature from 4-star DT Jay Hardy to complete the haul in hopes of helping to reload along both lines.

3. Georgia remains fertile recruiting ground

Some of the best talent comes out of the Peach State, and Malzhan is taking full advantage. A total of 9 recruits from Auburn’s 23 targets in the Class of 2020 come from Georgia, 6 of whom are at least 4-star recruits. That’s a ton of talent balanced between both sides of the football — 5 on offense and 4 on defense in this year’s class. It’s nice to have good neighbors like that, and kudos to Malzahn for recognizing it and grabbing a share for Auburn.

4. Not tanking at RB

The Tigers haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Kerryon Johnson had 1,391 in 2017. They may have found their next one in 5-star recruit Tank Bigsby, one of those standouts from Georgia. Bigsby is 6-0 and 210 pounds; he’s big, he’s fast (4.5), and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s the complete package, ranked No. 4 in the nation at his position and No. 4 overall from Georgia. He’s one of those talents who could come in and contribute immediately.

5. Still losing the battle at home

While the 2020 class is among the best in the country, Malzahn and the Tigers are still losing the battle for the top talent right at home in Alabama. Auburn pulled just 1 of the top 10 players from the state, 4-star WR J.J. Evans. Alabama wrapped up 8 of those, and Clemson took the other. The Tigers lured only 2 of the top 20 players from Alabama to The Plains. They will need to improve on that number if they hope to supplant their archrival as the dominant program in the state.