In the coming weeks, SDS will grade each team’s current state of recruiting based upon the factors listed below. We continue the series with one of the SEC’s longtime powers, the Auburn Tigers.



Alabama isn’t Texas or Florida or California in terms of in-state recruiting talent, but it is still one of the more fertile recruiting territories embedded in SEC country. In the last three years alone, there have been 36 prospects from the state of Alabama rated four stars or higher, and all but five of those 36 players signed with either Alabama or Auburn out of high school. Auburn claimed five of the state’s top 10 players this year, and in years prior it nabbed the likes of Jeremy Johnson, Roc Thomas, Rudy Ford and others from the state of Alabama. But, while the state has plenty of talent, it also contains one of the nation’s most dominant recruiting factories in Alabama. The Tide have claimed 16 players ranked among the top 10 talents in the state in their class from 2013-15; Auburn has signed 11 such players, and the two teams have won the last two SEC championships as a result.

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Since his first recruiting cycle in 2013, head coach Gus Malzahn has produced three straight classes ranked in the top 13 in the nation while coaching at Auburn. That may be more or less on par with the rest of the conference’s top-tier programs, but it’s especially impressive considering Malzahn amassed the No. 13 class in the nation mere months removed from a 2-10 season in 2012, Auburn’s last season under head coach Gene Chizik. To put together a top-15 class without coaching a game for a program that just lost 10 games is remarkable. And considering that No. 13 class is Auburn’s worst since 2009, I’d say that constitutes plenty of recent success.


Fans have to be satisfied with the work Malzahn has done since arriving at Auburn. He replaced a coach in Chizik who, outside of his lone year with Cam Newton, was more or less a bust as the Tigers head coach. As noted earlier, he finished with a woeful 2-10 record in 2012, and Malzahn came in with limited head coaching experience in the FBS and led Auburn to an SEC title in his first year on campus. He’s brought in nothing but elite recruiting classes ranked among the top 10 percent of the nation, and he’s translated that talent into victories in the nation’s toughest conference, something Chizik only did with Newton onboard. And, most importantly, Malzahn has played Alabama competitively twice in his first two years, splitting those two games in 2013-14. There’s certainly not a national perception that Alabama is better than Auburn; instead the two are linked as co-powers sharing in a classic SEC rivalry. Recruits will appreciate that, and Tigers fans can, too.


After leading Auburn to an SEC championship and a berth in the last-ever BCS championship game all in his first year on campus, Malzahn earned himself plenty of job security on the plains. He’s produced the SEC’s leading rusher in each of the last two years, and did more with an unorthodox quarterback in Nick Marshall than any other head coach in the league could have. The reason this grade is not an A is because of defense. However, Malzahn and the Tigers made a home-run hire in bringing on Will Muschamp as the team’s new defensive coordinator this season. Give him a year to establish his system on that side of the ball, and this grade will be an A in 2016.

SUM IT UP: Auburn has become entrenched as an annual contender in the SEC, and considering how the SEC already dominates on the recruiting trail, being a regular threat in the conference only makes recruiting top talent that much easier. Malzahn has taken advantage of that perk since winning the conference title game in 2013, and we’re already beginning to see his recruiting elevate the team he’s putting on the field each week. As he enters Year 3 on the plains, he’s finally brought in enough of his own talent to put together the kind of team he thinks can succeed in the SEC. If he can return the Tigers to the 10-win plateau in 2015, the recruiting situation he’s created in Auburn will only grow stronger.

Editor’s note: Any reference to recruiting ratings in this series–team or individual–are to’s industry composite ranking.