AUBURN, Ala. -- It was a day filled with ups and downs, but in the end Auburn put the finishing touches on the nation’s No. 6 class Wednesday with the signing of 23 of the country’s top junior college and prep prospects.
Malzahn speaks with Andrew Williams/Lauren Barnard photo
“Very excited about this class,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We really feel like we filled our needs. Proud of our staff, they worked extremely hard to develop a relationship, and we really felt like they worked hard to bring the right-type guys for Auburn, hard-nosed, high-character, very talented young men.”
The Tigers added two big pickups on National Signing Day from 4-star offensive lineman Braden Smith from Olathe (Kan.) South and 4-star defensive end Andrew Williams from Eagle’s Landing Christian in McDonough, Ga.
But Auburn couldn’t make it a perfect three-for-three on its top remaining targets, however, when 5-star linebacker Rashaan Evans from Auburn (Ala.) High chose Alabama.
“We focus on the guys that are here and we've got one of the best classes in college football, not only talent-wise, but all the things that go with it,” Malzahn said.
Auburn beat Texas A&M and TCU for Smith, who announced his decision in ESPNU early Wednesday morning. Clemson and Georgia were the finalists for Williams, who announced on ESPN3 early Wednesday afternoon.
“These guys have worked extremely hard and anytime you get to Signing Day and you’ve worked an entire or a little over a year developing relationships, and you finally get that fax across and their hard work has paid off, and you know you’re going to get to coach a guy that you really, really want to coach – it was a real exciting time,” Malzahn said. “Like I’ve said, the future is very bright here, and on a day like this it even becomes more real and so we’re very excited as a staff.”
Auburn came into the day with 21 commitments, five of which had already enrolled. The group didn’t provide any drama as they were all signed, sealed and delivered before 11 a.m. CT.
“One of the big things for me, too, also, is I really appreciate the loyalty of our commitments,” Malzahn said. “In this day and time, that's very rare. We had guys that were committed to us, even before the season, that could have taken other trips, and they chose to stay very loyal, to help us recruit. Just very excited about that, and that will go a long way in the future.”
The group includes three 5-star prospects in wide receiver D’haquille Williams, who enrolled in January, running back Roc Thomas and linebacker Tre’ Williams.
All three have a chance to be early contributors at Auburn.
The class is heavy in Auburn’s two biggest needs -- defensive line and defensive back. The Tigers signed six defensive linemen including Andrew Williams, 4-star Justin Thornton, 4-star Dontavius Russell, 4-star DaVonte Lambert, 4-star Devaroe Lawrence and 3-star Raashed Kennion.
Lambert and Lawrence are two of the Tigers’ five signees from junior college.
“We definitely needed some help in the defensive backfield,” Malzahn said. “We lost three seniors. We were fairly thin anyway. We felt like we needed to get some guys that had a chance to help us this year. And we definitely got that.
“Defensive line, that was a strength of ours last year. We lost some seniors. We really feel like we've filled our needs there. We got some outstanding impact players that Coach Garner is really excited about.”
Rounding out the defensive signees is linebacker De’Shaun Davis, who was one of Auburn’s earliest commitments, choosing the Tigers in April.
On offense, Auburn landed 4-star quarterback Sean White, two running backs in Thomas and 3-star Kamryn Pettway, two tight ends in 3-stars Chris Laye and Jakell Mitchell, and two offensive linemen in Smith and 3-star center Xavier Dampeer.
D’haquille Williams, Truitt, Laye, Dampeer and Moncrief all joined the team in January. D’haquille Williams, Moncrief, Dampeer, Lambert and Lawrence are the Tigers’ five junior college signees.
The class was heavily centered in the states of Alabama with eight signees, and Georgia with nine. Auburn also signed two from Florida, and one each from Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Kansas.
Craig was the primary recruiter for D’haquille, Andrew and Tre’ Williams, Ruffin, Truitt, Davis, Burton and Pettway. Lashlee was the primary recruiter for Thomas, White, Roberts and Mitchell.
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