Any way you slice it, Auburn’s 2021 recruiting haul was not up to the lofty standard the program has set for itself following year after year of success on the recruiting trail.

The Tigers signed just 17 prospects in a 2021 recruiting cycle and the class ranked No. 10 in the SEC. The class also failed to rank in the top 25 nationally.

While some angst toward Bryan Harsin and his coaching staff has already been expressed by some members of the Auburn faithful, the program’s recruiting class was already near the bottom of the SEC recruiting standings under Gus Malzahn’s leadership and the program’s new coach didn’t arrive until after the Early Signing Period came and went.

During a recent appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show, Harsin was asked to share the recruiting philosophy for his program after nearly having the job for two months.

“Well, it’s in-state number one. So right here in the state of Alabama, that’s where it all starts,” Harsin answered on the show. “And then you do have, in a four-hour, five-hour radius, a lot of very good players, very good coaches, very good teams. And so a lot – you’re able to have the guys right around you. And then there are guys nationally, there are going to be players and families that want to be part of Auburn University.”

Location is always going to be Auburn’s No. 1 asset in recruiting as Alabama annually has SEC talent within state lines and talent-rich states of Georgia, Florida and Mississippi border the state.

Harsin made sure to reference the importance relationships will have when it comes to Auburn’s recruiting plan in the years to come. Being a touted prospect may not matter to Auburn if the fit isn’t ideal for a prospect or for Harsin’s staff.

“And so, as you get into your areas, as you get into connecting with coaches that are around here in Alabama and the surrounding areas, there’s also going to be relationships that we have and other places we’ve been,” Harsin continued. “And then really, it comes down to the right fit.

“Is this player family? Are they going to enjoy being here at Auburn? Is this going to be the right fit for this player, for the coaches that we have here on this staff and in that room, he’s coming into? But the philosophy starts right here in our backyard right here in Alabama, right here with the high school coaches, building those relationships and finding the players that are here in state.”

Now that Harsin and his staff actually have time to get to foster those relationships, look for Auburn’s recruiting rankings to improve drastically in the years to come.