Is this heralded Auburn signing class the real thing?
Time will tell. But the newest Tigers look the part and sound the part, and they’re willing to fill in the gaps wherever necessary to make sure what happened a year ago doesn’t happen again.
Auburn ran out of gas (and players) last season and wound up losing five of its last six SEC games.
“That’s the plan, and that’s why they went out and signed us,” said freshman Jeffrey Whitaker, a highly rated tackle who hopes to add some muscle to the middle of the Tigers’ defensive line.
“We’re getting coached up and taking baby steps right now and learning a little about a little bit of everything. But we want to be there for this team any way we can. Basically, they’ve told us that they’re going to throw us into the fire, and we’re looking for big things.”
Whitaker is part of a class that was ranked No. 4 nationally last year by ESPN. He’s one of 11 four-star players or higher the Tigers signed, and all but one of their 32 signees qualified academically.
Everyone on the Plains has been eager to get a look at them since they arrived on campus. In addition to Whitaker, running back Michael Dyer, receiver Trovon Reed, defensive end Corey Lemonier and linebackers LaDarius Owens and Jake Holland are all guys who could be on the field early.
But after just one practice in shorts, Whitaker knows better than to make any bold predictions.
“You separate the men from the boys when the pads go on, when it gets hot, when you see who’s going to fold and who’s not,” said the 6-3, 310-pound Whitaker. “I’m as excited as anybody to see what this class can do, but I’m taking the approach that we really won’t know anything until we start rocking and rolling with the pads.”
That said, Whitaker said this freshman class has an abundance of leaders and the kind of standards that would make any Auburn fan proud.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who understand what it’s going to take and how to get there,” Whitaker said. “At the same time, we all came in ready to learn. Everybody’s not trying to be an All-American.
“This is a tight group, guys that are going to be there for each other when the going gets tough. We want this group to be legendary. We want the people here to say, ‘Ever since their freshman year, those guys gave us something special.’
“We know everybody’s not going to go pro and aren’t saying we’re just going to go out there and dominate. That’s not the way it works in this league. But at the end of the day, we want to be remembered as one of best classes to ever play at Auburn.”