Auburn was a surprise team in football recruiting this past season. The Auburn staff and first-year coach Gene Chizik did some unorthodox things in 2010 and assembled the nation's No. 4 recruiting class while showing that the Tigers intend to be big-time recruiting players.
However, one great class does not an SEC champion make. Auburn's staff will need to keep thinking outside the box and focus not just on rival Alabama but also on building a team that can beat the Crimson Tide as well as the rest of the conference.
The new methods of Chizik & Co. helped spread the word about Auburn and gained traction among prospects and attention from the media.
First up was Tiger Prowl. This weeklong limousine road trip during the May evaluation period allowed Tigers coaches to barnstorm across Alabama, stopping at several high schools and introducing themselves to potential recruits.
Next up was Big Cat Weekend. This two-day event brought prospects to the Auburn campus and allowed for bonding time among players, coaches and recruits.
These two ideas were equally bold and simplistic in their approach and ultimately successful in helping the Tigers land their 2010 class.
Will the Tigers see the same success in February with their 2011 recruiting class?
Tiger Prowl has changed slightly to include traveling with the men's and women's basketball coaches, meeting with Auburn fans in Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville and visiting high schools along the way. Although the trip was shorter thanks to new NCAA rules, it was still successful.
Whom the Tigers have
The second Big Cat Weekend in May went over well. Forty recruits attended, nearly doubling last year's number of 22. It was at this event that the Tigers received their biggest 2011 commitment, from ESPNU 150 quarterback Kiehl Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Shiloh Christian). Rated as the No. 4 signal-caller in the nation, Frazier is the headliner of this Tigers contingent. He has good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and an accurate arm and is deceptively mobile. Frazier is also familiar with playing in a spread offense and threw for more than 3,800 yards with 48 scores as a junior.
Another big commit for the Tigers is ESPNU 150 center Reese Dismukes (Spanish Fort, Ala./Spanish Fort). At 6-3, 275 pounds, Dismukes is the nation's top center. He has shown good quickness in getting to the second level and the ability to finish off defenders with his athleticism and footwork.
Dismukes will pair with ESPNU 150 guard Thomas O'Reilly (Marietta, Ga./Pope), who is a dominant run-blocker with a good first step.
Defensively, the Tigers have five commitments. Up front, Auburn has landed speedy defensive end Jabrian Niles (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) and Angelo Blackson (Bear, Del./Red Lion Christian Academy), a big and versatile tackle prospect.
Another versatile talent is linebacker Chris Landrum (Sweet Water, Ala./Sweet Water). This three-star, aggressive prospect plays running back and returns punts. The 6-2, 215-pounder plays with a good motor and can get to the ball quickly.
Two safeties are headed to The Plains: three-star Anthony Swain (Gadsden, Ala./Gadsden) and Izauea Lanier, a junior college prospect from East Mississippi Community College. Swain, solid in run support, is a bigger defensive back at 6-2, 210 pounds.
Whom the Tigers still want
Auburn will look to load up with a full recruiting class in 2011. The Tigers' primary needs are offensive linemen, running backs, defensive linemen and defensive backs. With eight strong commitments, the Tigers are off to a very good start, especially in their need areas.
Running back will be another priority, and Auburn is after Demetrius Hart, Mike Blakely, Buck Allen or Isaiah Crowell. Hart, from Orlando, Fla., favors Auburn and Michigan. Allen (Tallahassee, Fla.) likes Alabama while Crowell (Columbus, Ga.) says Georgia and Alabama are his front-runners. Blakely (Bradenton, Fla.) has the Tigers, Florida and South Carolina among his favorites. Of those four prospects, the Tigers would love to land one.
The Tigers also would like to land a receiver or two. They could re-sign Jeremy Richardson, who is now playing at East Mississippi Community College. Two other names to watch are Tacoi Sumler (Miami/Columbus) and Joseph Morrow (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs). Meanwhile, the Tigers are also after Florida tight end Brandon Fulse.
Although Auburn has two very good offensive line prospects headed its way, it will want to sign a few more. The Tigers are co-leaders with LSU for offensive tackle Greg Robinson (Thibodaux, La./Thibodaux) and are playing catch=up with Alabama and Tennessee for tackle Antonio Richardson (Nashville/The Ensworth School). The Tigers are also battling the Crimson Tide hard for guard Spencer Region (Cullman, Ala./Cullman). Brandon Shell (Charleston, S.C./Goose Creek), Xzavier Ward (Moultrie, Ga./Colquitt County) and Davonta Rogers (Washington, Ga./Washington-Wilkes) are three more on the wish list.
On the other side of the ball, Auburn is hot after a host of prospects, including defensive ends Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central), Stephon Tuitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe Area), Giorgio Newberry (Ft. Pierce, Fla./Central), Xzavier Dickson (Griffin, Ga./Griffin), Jermauria Rasco (Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian) and Keymiya Harrell (Plantersville, Ala./Dallas County), defensive tackles Gabriel Wright (Columbus, Ga./Carver), Jonathan Jenkins (Perkinston, Miss.) and Bo Tillman (Meadville, Miss.), and linebackers LaTeek Townsend (Bennettsville, S.C./Marlboro County), Gionni Paul (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen), A.J. Johnson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville), Keith Lewis (Tampa, Fla./Freedom), Justin Garrett (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), Arrington Jenkins (Miami/Killian) and Devaunte Sigler (Mobile, Ala./B.C. Rain).
Auburn is the team to beat for defensive back Jonathan Rose (Leeds, Ala./Leeds), who could play cornerback or safety. Three other in-state players to watch for in the secondary are Enrique Florence (Valley, Ala./Valley), Bobby McCain (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) and Chris Jones (Adamsville, Ala./Minor). Other defensive backs to look for with Auburn are Alex Dixon (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside), Wayne Lyons (Oakland Park, Fla./Dillard), Bruce Dukes (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), Ronnie Harris (Atlanta/Westlake) and Kadetrix Marcus (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson).
In terms of athletes, Auburn is on to quite a few. Kris Frost (Matthews, N.C./Butler), Nickalos Brassell (Batesville, Miss./South Panola) and Demetrius Alston (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) are some names to watch.
With eight commitments in the fold, Auburn currently finds itself with a top-10 class (No. 9 in the ESPN team rankings) but has a long way to go. With 17 or so more commitments ahead, expect the Tigers to land one of the top classes in the SEC. That means they will have one of the better classes in the nation. If Auburn shows improvement on the field in the fall and sees some impact from freshmen in its 2010 class like running back Michael Dyer and wide receiver Trovon Reed, the Tigers will continue to climb up the recruiting charts.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.