We’ll know soon just how National Signing Day will end for first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff. If all the pieces fall into place that could fall into place, it will spark widespread celebration among Auburn folks. But regardless, Malzahn and his men have spoken loudly and clearly.
On Dec. 4, when Malzahn was named head coach, not many people would have expected there would even be discussion today of the possibility of Auburn having a top 10 class. And why would they have?
Malzahn took over a program that had just gone 3-9. Soon, all the coaches who were part of that season were gone and with them went all the connections to recruits who had committed to Auburn or were considering Auburn.
As Malzahn hired coaches, including renowned recruiters like Rodney Garner and Dameyune Craig, the recruiting effort picked up steam. Some decided to go elsewhere, but most were replaced by prospects of a caliber as high or better. As Signing Day dawns, some of the top prospects in the South and the country have Auburn on their short lists.
Auburn coaches had some help. In late December, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee convinced quarterback Jeremy Johnson that Auburn was the place for him. Huntsville High linebacker Cameron Toney bought in early. Together, they spread their belief that Auburn is in on the fast track back.
I won’t predict who will sign with Auburn today and who won’t. I’ll leave that to resident expert Bryan Matthews. But what happens today is only part of the story.
Despite all kinds of obstacles, Auburn worked its way back into the collective consciousness of the top prospects in the country. Coaches have a full year now to establish the relationships that mean so much in the recruiting game. There’s no reason to believe that Auburn won’t be a major factor as we head toward another year and another Signing Day.
The recruiting race never ends, but when today is over, the focus will start to shift. Spring practice is just more than a month away and A-Day just more than 2 1/2 months away. Soon enough, it will be August and then another season will arrive with all its sound and fury.
But first there is today, a unique day in all of American sports. The NFL draft is similar, but those players have nothing to say about where who picks them or when. Only in college football sports do the players have a say. And when it’s college football players making their choices, millions stop to watch, read or listen.
Let the fun begin.