Projecting Auburn's top recruiting needs heading into 2016
On paper, Auburn looked like a championship-caliber team back in August. They were ranked No. 6 in the country and picked by many to win the SEC.
Instead, the Tigers struggled to a 6-6 record and barely became bowl eligible. This recruiting season is going to be huge for Gus Malzahn and his staff because a second straight season like this certainly won’t be tolerated.
Here are Auburn’s top three needs in the current recruiting cycle:
Losing after 2015: Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost, Justin Garrett
Auburn might very well be losing the three most important pieces to their defense and they’ll need to be replaced. I
Frost and McKinzy were Auburn’s second- and third-leading tacklers this season, respectively. Frost and Garrett also had two interceptions each. Their departure, added to the departure of DB Blake Countess, takes away three of the five players who nabbed the most interceptions on the year.
In a conference full of relentless running backs, stopping the run up becomes critical. This is an area they need to fill with field-ready recruits.
Losing after 2015: Melvin Ray, Ricardo Louis, Jonathan Wallace
One of Auburn’s biggest needs on offense is at wide receiver, where the most heavily relied upon players are leaving after this season.
Louis was Auburn’s most-utilized wide receiver, finishing the year with 45 receptions and 699 yards. To put into perspective his importance, Ray had the second-highest number of receiving yards on the team at 228. That’s 471 yards less than Louis. Auburn will be losing them both.
It’s not all bad news at wide receiver. In an effort to add complexity to the offense, Malzahn used several eceivers on Auburn’s roster throughout the season, and some of them showed glimmers of promise. The challenge will be developing that core, coming up with a reliable group that a quarterback can always turn to.
Losing after 2015: Will Adams, Devonte Danzey, Xavier Dampeer
The need for offensive linemen isn’t immediate for Auburn, but it will be if time isn’t invested now in recruiting top quality players for the position.
Looking at Auburn’s 2015 roster, there are five offensive linemen who will be seniors next year and four who will be juniors. This bodes well for 2016. But unless Malzahn and the coaching staff commit time to recruiting more linemen now, Auburn will find themselves in the position of depending heavily on young, inexperienced players at one of the most important positions on the offense a year from now.
CURRENT RECRUITING CLASS
Auburn has done decently well so far with landing recruits in its most needed positions. On defense, five-star DE Marlon Davidson, four-star DT Antwuan Jackson, four-star DB John Broussard, and three-star LB Tre Threat have committed to Auburn, along with a few others. Four-star DE Paul James has also signed a letter of intent, which could be crucial for the Tigers if DE Carl Lawson declares for the NFL early.
On offense, Auburn is also making strides. Two four-star wide receivers have committed to the Tigers, as well as a four-star tight end. But offensive line commits are currently few and far between.
Should Auburn be worried about their next recruiting class after the season they just had?
The simple answer is no, and the number of quality recruits that have already committed to Auburn should prove that. The Tigers went through a rough patch in 2015, that’s undeniable. But Auburn is a program that will always have championship potential, and that lures recruits right in. Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that Auburn has more commits on defense than offense despite the pending change in defensive coordinator.