Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google surveys the recruits signees: Dontae Aycock

What, you thought because we'd gone past Signing Day this series was over? Please: we still need to know what we can about the guys who are going to start wearing burnt orange and navy blue this fall, right? Besides, if you've got some other great idea for Auburn football content to stretch out over the next several months, I'd love to hear it. So, yes, I'm still plugging a given Auburn signee's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries here.

Aycock was the first signal we had that Auburn's coaching staff might have a few recruiting surprises down the stretch for us. Just a day before his visit no one (well, no one in the free-information world-at-large) even knew he was coming, and by the end of the long weekend the AJC had reported he was in the bag for Auburn. Sometimes--as in "those times your principal competitor for a kid's signature decides to yank his scholarship offer on a hypocritical whim"--it's just that easy, I guess.

But what's Auburn gotten in Aycock besides yet more proof that nothing's done until Signing Day (or, in someone like David Oku's case, a couple of weeks after Signing Day)? Let's see.

Basics: Doing this section of these posts is going to be a lot easier than before Signing Day, since the good people in the Auburn sports information department so helpfully pulled together their annual list of signee bios. Your relevant tidbits from Aycock's:

Dontae Aycock
RB, 5-10, 216
Tampa, FL (Chamberlain HS)

Rushed for 1,406 yards and 28 scores and completed 77-of-152 passes for 1,491 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior ... Received the Guy Toph Award as Hillsborough County's top football player ... Led his team to an 11-2 record, a district championship and a Class 5A region finals appearance while leading the county in rushing yards and scoring ... Named to the Class 5A All-State first team and the All-Hillsborough County first team by the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune ... Rushed for 1,110 yards and 22 touchdowns while passing for 950 yards and five scores as a junior ... Class 5A all-state honorable mention in 2007 ... Finished his career with 57 rushing touchdowns, a Hillsborough County record, and 6,000 total yards ... Named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100 ... Brother, Dwight Smith, is a safety for the Detroit Lions and has played eight seasons in the NFL with Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Minnesota and Detroit.
The one other piece of information you might want: his listed 40 time is 4.5. This is surely a rank exaggeration, but particularly for a kid carrying 215 pounds on a 5-10 frame, it's still pretty quick, no?

Recruitnik hoo-ha: For a guy who Auburn picked up at the tail end of the recruiting process, who seriously considered Duke, and who wasn't greeted with nearly so many hosannas as other equally-rated players in Auburn's class, Aycock's got the guru-approval goods. Along with giving him four stars, Rivals rated him a 5.9--only McCalebb and Rollison rated higher--and called him the No. 16 running back, the No. 32 prospect in Florida, and the No. 165 prospect overall in the country. Scout was less enthusiastic--three stars, No. 45 RB--but ESPN gave him a solidly four-starrific 80 and said this:
Aycock is a great athlete and an intriguing prospect ... Hits the hole fast and is a sharp, decisive cutter through traffic. Shows deceptively good stop-start and jump-cut skill making the first defender miss through the hole but its his yards after contact that may be most impressive. Consistently finishes runs and shows great leg drive and balance spinning and breaking out of tackles. Feet never stop on contact and while he runs a bit upright, he is always going forward with good momentum to assist his power ... Not a fluid pick and slide zone cutback type runner and might be limited to downhill, power-running schemes ... That said, Aycock could continue to get stronger and physically develop into a high-carry, slashing-type runner with the strength to carry the load, wear down a defense and still pop off a big run with his good initial burst.
That's two out of three services saying Aycock has bona fide SEC potential. I'll take those odds.

Links of potential interest: This isn't an Aycock highlight film--it's a video report done, I think, by the Chamberlain student paper--but at the 1:10 mark you can nonetheless get a taste of Aycock's ability to absorb contact and run through arm tackles as described by ESPN above:

Now, if you'd like a whole helping of Aycock rather than just a taste, the best free video out there is this lengthy highlight reel on the team website. There's only so much to really glean from these videos, but it's nonetheless easy to see why Georgia Tech was so interested in him: a quick and powerful kid who already looks pretty comfortable running the option and has a passable (if not better) arm? Man, no wonder Johnson went grape-nuts when Aycock wanted to take a look around. (And as a pointless aside: I find myself agreeing with ESPN that Aycock looks a little bit taller than 5-10. Why on earth would he be listed shorter than his actual height?)

Aycock's one of your prototypical feel-good stories, as detailed in this St. Petersburg Times story:
Born in Stone Mountain, Ga., Aycock spent his childhood on the move, living with his parents, then just his mother, then father, then grandparents, then step­father, then cousin.

His parents were never together. Times were tough. Rufus Aycock didn't make enough money, never even owned a car. Veronica Smith moved back to Detroit. Aycock shuttled back and forth.

When he was 9, Veronica died of a brain aneurism, he was no longer talking to Rufus and he started spinning out of control.

"I didn't take it that well,'' Aycock said. "I didn't care about anything anymore. I hardly went to school and when I did, I didn't do anything.''

His grandparents couldn't control him. "I was a handful.''

He was sent to live with his step­father, Darren Armstrong, in Chicago.

His new house had strict rules.

The first one: no C's.

"I think that's why to this day I still don't get C's,'' Aycock said.
More of the same sentiment here and here, that one a freebie from Phillip Marshall. Judging by the interest from Duke and Tech and the 3.2 GPA, I'm guessing that "no C's" claim isn't much of a stretch. And coming out of a home situation as screwed-up as Aycock's has been, that's even more impressive. I think it's fairly safe to assume Auburn's getting one of the good apples.

Which makes it all the more confusing to read Terrence Moore try to paint Aycock's decision to visit Auburn as some kind of deceitful slap in Johnson's face. It's not like Aycock didn't tell Johnson what he was thinking, or that anyone's really pretending that a recruit's "commitment" is anything more than a kind of reservation of the scholarship they've been offered. Moore can praise Johnson's principles all he wants, but the fact of the matter is that Johnson had a recruit that couldn't be more perfect for what we wants to do on the line, tried to hardball the kid in an overly-desperate attempt to keep him, had his bluff called, and lost him. Like Johnson would have a problem with kids committed to other schools taking a look at Tech? Besides, Aycock's essential point is correct: if your goal is becoming an NFL running back, being a running back at Auburn is going to get you a lot closer to it than being an option quarterback at Georgia Tech. (To be fair, Johnson does say he holds no hard feelings for Aycock.)

What conclusions we can draw, if any: McCalebb has the speed and Brandon Jacobs has the size, but Aycock's the recruit that has the combination of both. Because McCalebb has so much speed in a speed-reliant scheme and is a year older, he's got to be seen as the more likely immediate contributor and, yes, future starter. If Oku commits, the depth chart is going to be plenty crowded even for a recruit with as much talent as Aycock seems to possess.

But who knows? Aycock seems a much better fit for the Spread Eagle better than the fullback-esque Jacobs, and if Oku signs elsewhere and McCalebb gets hurt or busts, it'll be very easy to see Aycock as the best RB of this class and an eventual Auburn starter someday. As anyone who watched Brandon Bolden beat out Enrique Davis at Ole Miss this past season can tell you, sometimes the point isn't to sign the highest-rated running back you can: the point's to sign enough high-quality guys that one of them will be the right answer. There's no reason to think Auburn's answer couldn't be Aycock someday.


Anonymous said...

Jerry, last year Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech recruited, got a commitment from, and later signed Jaybo Shaw. Why is this unusual? Because Shaw had previously committed to Middle Tennessee State. Sounds like Paul Johnson, Terrence Moore (god, he's awful), and all the hypocrite Georgia Tech fans are all about “do as I say, not as I do”.

Here's a link...

Please note in the middle of the page the headline "Middle Tennessee gets First Commit for 2008". Then note (by the dates) that AFTER that, the headline is "Jaybo is First Commit for New GT Coach".

How could this be? If a commitment is so important to Paul Johnson, Terrence Moore, and the Georgia Tech fans, how come they didn’t INSIST at the time that Jaybo Shaw follow through on his commitment to Middle Tennessee?

Well… we all know the answer to that, don’t we?


jd said...

I can see why Paul Johnson wanted him!

Jerry Hinnen said...

Anon., thanks for the specifics. I agree, wholeheartedly. I have to say to say I was surprised at how many Tech fans cast stones at Aycock rather than the coach who tried to bully the kid into coming to Tech and fumbled him away. Here's to hoping Chizik's aware honey really does catch more flies than vinegar.