Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Signing Day: Tracking ...

What yours truly feels are the biggest developments to watch during tomorrow's EXCITING liveblog ...

Phillips, Phillips, Phillips. Durstgate aside, Chizik and crew are pretty much bulletproof as far as criticism goes for this recruiting cycle--salvaging a top-20 class out of the morass of the Franklin firing and Tubby's departure would be quite the feat, actually--but if there's one thing we might end up pointing to as a failing when all is said and done, it's arriving to find a program with lonely Andre Harris standing by as the only offensive line commitment over two classes ... and then, amidst all the other successes of all stripes, adding just a single lightly-regarded hometown prospect to keep him company.

Viewed on his own, out of context, Aubrey Phillips isn't exactly a make-or-break guy: sure, lots of shiny offers and four stars from Rivals, but Scout's more excited about Harris and ESPN barely keeps him out of the tackle ratings' triple digits. Plus, like both Harris and John Sullen, Phillips is a behemoth who might not adapt very quickly to Malzahn's preferred offensive tempo.

But we have to look at things in context, and that context is entering this season without a single underclassman capable of seeing the field on the offensive line. Phillips might be able to change that. We need him, and if I'm not mistaken (I always could be) we need him bad.

Numbers. Things might not be as tight as they looked a couple of days ago--according to Philip Marshall (and on a link outside the paywall), Jamontay Pilson has joined the ranks of the signed-and-placed, and Charles Goldberg is confirming previous reports that Brandon Heavens is likely to either go the JUCO route or decommit entirely. Subtract the always-subtractable Tyler Knight, and that leaves Auburn's commitment total at 22.

Dontae Aycock should be No. 23, but unless Auburn pulls in Blake and Phillips and David Oku or some other surprise commitment and no one decommits and everybody qualifies--whew!--surprise grayshirts aren't going to be an issue. (Oh, that everyone could say the same.)

Blake, Blake, Blake. I'm not as worried about the receiving class as some. Guys like Travante Stallworth and LaVoyd James are always going to be undervalued by the gurus because of their size, and Lutzenkirchen's likely to do a lot more pass-catching than run-blocking in Spread Eagle 2.0. Besides, with Trooper Taylor aboard, it's quite possible guys like Hawthorne, Zachery, Billings, etc. will finally start playing up to their physical potential and give Auburn the threats we're convinced we don't have.

Nonetheless, grabbing at least one prospect with both the size and speed to be a deep threat on the outside would be a huge help. Who knows if Emory Blake could be that guy, but at least he'd give Auburn a shot at "that guy" in this class, whereas the current chances are ... zero.

'Backers. Greg King is all but gone to Tennessee, Harris Gaston is at least considering Mississippi St., and Jonathan Evans, family connections and all, at least listened to what Tennessee had to say last weekend. With Freeman on campus already, a couple of prospects in the class (Dee Ford, Brandon Jacobs) who could switch to LB if necessary, and a reasonable amount of depth returning, Auburn could absorb one whiff/decommit, maybe even two. But striking out on all three of those guys would leave things perilously thin at LB going into next year, particularly if some of the younger guys--Adam Herring, Da'Shaun Barnes--just aren't up to playing at this level.

Tubby. I don't have ESPNU and so won't watch the all-day coverage--holy hell, I think I'd have to dip myself in a vat of Purell before and after to pull that off--but if he makes it on to ESPN2, I'm curious to get my own first impression of his mad TV skillz.

That's it. See you at around 9 (central!) tomorrow and we'll go to work putting all of this rotten business behind us.

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