Auburn football: Key takeaways from the Tigers' 2020 recruiting class
The Auburn Tigers ended the 2019 season on a down note with an Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota, but the coaching staff still felt like the holiday period was a good one — as they locked down a strong 2020 recruiting class.
Ranked 7th in the 247Sports.com national rankings entering Wednesday’s Signing Day, Auburn is the No. 5 school in the SEC. The No. 7 national ranking is up from 11th in 2019.
Here are 4 elements of the Tigers’ 2020 recruiting class that we will remember the most …
4. Double digits on campus already
Led by 4-star running back Tank Bigsby, defensive end Zykeivous Walker and wide receiver Kobe Hudson, Auburn already has 10 of its 25 players on campus.
Bigsby, who is coming off 2 ultra-productive seasons and is capable of scoring any time he touches the football, picked Auburn over Georgia.
“Tank was on our board as the No. 1 running back for a long time,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said to 247Sports.com. “Coach Cadillac Williams did a super job with him recruiting him. He’s a 1-play drive type of guy. I mean, from anywhere on the field he can take it to the house. He’s got receiver-type skills with his hands. Very excited about Tank. We think he’s an impact player. We think he could help us immediately and he’ll be getting here early too.”
Walker might be the biggest surprise get, as he was thought to not only be a strong lean to Georgia but a virtual lock — a huge get for defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
“You know, he reminds us of Marlon (Davidson) and Derrick (Brown) at that age,” Malzahn said. “I know that’s big shoes to fill but at this point, he’s got the skill set. He is a wonderful person, has got a great personality. He really fits Auburn. And so we’re very excited about Zykeivous.”
Hudson was Auburn’s first 2020 commit, and he played quarterback the past 2 seasons to help his team — leading many to forget how good he is as a receiver.
“I’ve been recruiting this guy since 8th grade,” Malzahn said. “Really think he’s got a chance to be special. Plays quarterback, which he could also get some snaps at from time to time. He’s been committed to us a long time. Really, I think he’s the guy that really kept this class together through some of the ups and downs that goes with it. He’s been very loyal to us. Very excited about Kobe. Really feel like he’s going to be an outstanding player for us.”
Joining Bigsby, Walker and Hudson is athlete Ladarius Tennison, safety Chris Thompson Jr., outside linebacker Romello Height, offensive tackle Kilian Zierer, offensive guards Avery Jernigan and Tate Johnson, and quarterback Chayil Garnett.
Simply put, more time inside the program — eating right, working out with Ryan Russell and the Tigers’ strength and conditioning staff, getting acclimated to the nuances of college life — means a faster maturation process. And that means a leg up on the rest of the recruiting class, many of whom they will be competing against for starting spots down the road.
3. Recruiting Georgia hard
Auburn went hard, as it always does, in neighboring Georgia — and it panned out with 10 players from the Peach State.
Joining Bigsby (Callaway HS, Hogansville, Ga.), Walker (Schley County HS, Ellaville, Ga.), Hudson (Troup County HS, Lagrange, Ga.), Height (Dublin, Ga., HS), Jernigan (Pierce County HS, Blackshear, Ga.) and Johnson (Callaway HS, Hogansville, Ga.) are 3 more signees — inside linebackers Wesley Steiner (Houston County HS, Warner Robins, Ga.) and Desmond Tisdol (Wilcox County HS, Rochelle, Ga.) and wide receiver Ze’Vian Capers (Denmark HS, Alpharetta, Ga.).
The Tigers beat out Georgia for Bigsby, Walker and safety Eric Reed (Calvary Baptist Academy, Shreveport, La.)
2. Where are the 5-stars?
Unlike 2019, when Auburn lured 5-star linebacker Owen Pappoe and 5-star quarterback Bo Nix … or 2018, there are precisely zero 5-star players headed to The Plains in 2020.
That’s not to say the Auburn recruiting class is bad, necessarily. A No. 7 national ranking is nothing to sneeze at — especially when the 2019 class with Pappoe and Nix only garnered a No. 11 national ranking.
Keep an eye on JuCo transfer defensive back Marco Domio (Blinn College, Brenham, Texas), a 4-star corner who has the ability to push for a starting spot at a key position of need in the 2020 cycle.
1. Flipping Tennison, losing Walker
Tennison, like Height, is a former Miami Hurricanes commitment. And he has difference-maker written all over him. A 4-star nickel/star with 5-star skills, the only thing that keeps his ranking low is that he is 5-9 instead of 6-foot.
Conversely, Auburn lost out on a potential flip — as defensive tackle Dallas Walker was close to turning away from his Texas A&M pledge to become a Tiger. Auburn worked hard to flip Walker, getting him on campus 3 times during a 4-week period in November and December. But it wasn’t enough to bring him on board, leaving the Tigers with one key spot on the defensive line still left to fill.