Thursday, February 05, 2009

Recruiting wrap: Defense


C'mon, you know you wanted to check out eight minutes of Eltoro "The Toro" Freeman highlights again.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Currently on roster: 10 (Blanc, Clayton, Henderson, Lykes, Ricks, Savage, Wadley, Carter, Coleman, Goggans)
Needs: With both starting DTs moving on and the no-huddle approach likely meaning a deeper rotation, quality depth behind Blanc, Ricks, and Clayton in the middle was essential. Adding a speed rusher to groom behind Coleman and Carter would be nice, too.

Signed: Nick Fairley (Googled), Terrance Coleman, Nosa Eguae, Dee Ford (Googled), Jamar Travis.
Needs met? More or less. Between Coleman, Travis, and Fairley--all of which have at least one four-star rating from somebody--there should be at least one if not two guys who will leave their mark at Auburn before all is said and done. Eguae seems the slow-developing but hard-working type who could pay off big-time at either end or tackle. And in Ford, Auburn seems to have a second edition of Carter who'll be able to explode off the edge after some time in the gym. At the same time, none of these guys save maybe maybe Fairley seems to have the guru consensus or physical profile that suggests the immediate impact that might be needed at DT. To boot, if Ford winds up at linebacker (a definite possibility) and Eguae and Coleman get too big for the outside, the class will end up not having a defensive end in it.

So, happy? For the most part. Losing Pilson to JUCO hurt, taking the group from "definitely a lot of potential" to "probably a lot of potential." But with a guy like Rocker at the controls, exchanging a little bit of certainty and readiness now for the kind of upside exhibited in guys like Ford, Coleman, or Eguae is probably worth it. Ask me again in a couple of years.

LINEBACKERS

Currently on roster: 5 (Barnes, Bynes, Herring, Pybus, Stevens)
Needs: For starters, re-signing Eltoro Freeman after his sojourn to JUCO. After that, bringing in as much depth as possible, preferably guys who could handle at least a few snaps as a freshman if need be.

Signed: Eltoro Freeman (Googled), Harris Gaston, Jonathan Evans.
Needs met? In terms of strict numbers ... maybe not. But I can't help think that given his original recruitnik pedigree and Tubby's dedication to him, Freeman is ready to come in and start every game for the next two years alongside Bynes and Stevens if the three of them stay healthy. Behind them for 2009 it's pretty much just Pybus, the two incoming freshmen, and a couple of guys Pybus passed on the depth chart last year. That's a little scary, but there's probably a couple of guys hanging around the roster somewhere that Roof could turn into competent 'backers if he had to. And long-term, Gaston and Evans are "Tubby's Own" Brand Hand-Selected Linebackers. You know what that means.

So, happy? "Satisfied" is probably closer to it. Finding a second prospect behind Freeman who's a little more prepared to be immediately thrown into the fire than Gaston and Evans allegedly are would have been nice, what with Adam Herring occupying a spot on the two-deep by default. But without Saban-style roster puppeteering it's sort of impossible to have depth everywhere, and I'd just assume have it at a position where I feel confident things will "work out" with Roof on the job.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Currently on roster: 12 (Etheridge, McNeil, Slade, H. Adams, Bell, Cole, Hood, Jemison, McFadden, Savage, Thompson, Thorpe)
Needs: Much like the wideouts and TEs, the size of this group sort of belies how deep it appeared to be last year. (The size coming in part, I suspect, because Auburn's roster lists whatever athletes it doesn't have a secure spot for in the secondary. I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of these guys made their way to linebacker, for instance.) At corner, Thorpe and Hood saw extensive action as true freshmen. McNeil and Etheridge saw all the action at safety--Mike Slade took to the field only a handful of times, and didn't look particularly ready when he did. So deep as it may be on paper and as easily identifiable as the starters are--McNeil/Etheridge at safety, some combination of McFadden, Thorpe, and Savage at the corner spots and the nickel--the secondary still needed to be a point of emphasis, so the staff could feel comfortable putting somebody out there long enough to give the starters a blow.

Signed: Daren Bates, Izauea Lanier, Taikwon Paige, Reggie Taylor, Demond Washington.
Needs met? Occasionally I'll see fans griping about JUCO offers, but in the right situation, they can be a boon--sure, Paige isn't likely to set the world on fire given that his fallback was UAB, but if Roof was willing to drag him from Minnesota to Auburn he can probably play a little. Likewise, Washington's Ole Miss commitment and rave reviews from Scout mean that he's a likely first-day contributor as well. If that's the case, Savage could conceivably slide back to safety and every one of the kids that needs the extra year of seasoning--Slade, Hood, Bell, the freshmen--will be able to get it before being tossed into the fire. Add that fact to the potential allegedly possessed by Taylor, Lanier, and even the two-star Bates (who may have had reasons for sliding under the radar), and this group looks capable of providing real depth both immediately and in the long-term ...

So, happy? ... probably. Raven Gray says counting JUCOs before they've hatched isn't always the best idea, and none of the freshmen save possibly Taylor (a four-star to Rivals but a two-star to Scout, the only incoming freshman in the class to have a two-star difference in grade) appear to have the play-right-away goods. Plus, it's possible Washington or Lanier will end up being the mystery breakout guy at slot receiver. As with the d-linemen, it looks like a boom-or-bust bunch that offers a lot of reasons to think "boom"--so, yes, I'm glad with what Auburn's done here--but also isn't a lead-pipe cinch to be an upgrade the way the running backs or receivers appear to be.

CONCLUSION

For all that gibbering, the bottom line is that unlike the offensive class--a combination of Franklin/Malzahn spread weapons and late additions from the Luper/Taylor connections--the defensive class still has a lot of Tubby's fingerprints on it. And as much respect as I generally give the recruitniks, they were never very good at pegging how good Tubby's defenders were going to become. Likewise, superstuds or no, this class doesn't offer much reason, if any, to think Auburn's going to see a drop-off in its traditional defensive talent levels any time soon.

4 comments:

easyedwin said...

Remember.....DEFENCE wins football games..........HEART wins championships!

WDE

jrsuicide said...

I'm hoping that Chizik & Roof are planning on recruiting some linebackers with size the next few years. As much as I understood why Tubs was more interested in speed, it always seemed to kill us in games when the other team had a big strong runningback.

Grotus' Acorn said...

Thanks for the wrap ups, Jerry. Puts everything into context nicely.

jrs,

A certain Mr. Karlos Dansby might disagree with you there.

jrsuicide said...

Dansby is not the norm for the typical Auburn LB this last decade.