Monday, April 27, 2009

Google surveys the recruits: Izauea Lanier

Because someone needs to do the work of plugging in a given Auburn signee's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries in this series here.

Gordo's Izauea Lanier set a couple of firsts with his Auburn commitment. One was that he became the first new commitment of the Gene Chizik era, forever becoming the answer to a trivia question in the world's most Auburn-centric game of trivia.

The second is that he's the first-ever "Google surveys the recruits" subject whose last name isn't even necessary for Google purposes. Like Tigger, Izauea (pronounced "Isaiah") is the only one.

Basics: From the ever-invaluable Auburn Signing Day information sheet:

Izauea Lanier
DB, 6-0, 185
Gordo, AL (Gordo HS)
High School Coach: David McKinney

HIGH SCHOOL: As a senior, rushed for 871 yards and had 870 yards receiving, while also recording 68 tackles with seven interceptions on defense ... Also returned one punt and one kickoff for scores ... Named Star of Alabama for his performance against West Blocton, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns and adding 89 returns yards, while also collecting 10 tackles and an interception ... As a junior, had 25 catches for 687 yards and eight touchdowns, returned one punt and one kickoff for scores, and had 38 tackles and five interceptions on defense
You can see that at 6-0 and 185, Lanier is like many of his fellow members of the Auburn recruiting class of 2009 in that he is small, fast, and athletic. Unlike LaVoyd James, Travante Stallworth, Demond Washington, etc., however, Lanier will be small, fast and athletic in the defensive backfield: he's been expected to be a DB (and probably a safety) since the day he committed.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Unfortunately, the gurus--as with James and Stallworth--aren't all that high on Lanier. The biggest pessimists are at Scout--they give Lanier just two stars and ranked him the No. 150 wide receiver.

Of course, maybe that's the problem--the other two services didn't peg Lanier as a WR and perhaps as a result were decidedly more enthusiastic. Not crazy enthusiastic, mind you, but ESPN does rate him as a 77 (their "run-of-the mill three-star" grade), rank him the No. 73 athlete, and have this to say:
Lanier is an impressive athlete with all the tools to develop into a good skill player at the next level. He has the size, speed, smooth hips and ball skills that should make him more coveted on the recruiting trail. ... Can change speeds and kick into a second gear when needing to pull away in the second level. Top-end play speed is very good ... Can change direction sharply with gearing down much ... Could get a look at safety with his good range, breaking quickness and long frame. Return skills add to his upside. Overall, Lanier is a very versatile athlete and a kid who could provide depth and a spark in all three phases of the game at the next level.
So there's some optimism there, though it seems to mostly be for Lanier's offensive potential rather than defensive.

Rivals is another small step up the approval ladder, calling Lanier the 19th-best prospect in the state, the nation's No. 54 athlete, and a three-star recruit with a grade of 5.7--a slight uptick from the 5.6's handed out to most of Auburn's three-stars. Somebody there thinks he's got at least a little upside.

Still: the consensus across the three services is that Lanier is an average-at-best recruit by Auburn's usual standards, and there's not a ton of help from the offer list. Kentucky was Auburn's biggest competitor for his signature, with Mississippi St. and Troy his only other confirmed suitors. Could be worse, but could be better. Perhaps it's also worth noting that the Tubby regime wasn't interested: he didn't get an offer until Chizik arrived and committed almost immediately.

Links of potential interest: No one's bothered to give the world any free Izauea Lanier highlight footage, and we're all the poorer for it.

I suspect Lanier is used to having his name mangled by now, but still, that the T-Town News video accompanying this rather well-done Signing Day story calls him "Ivauea Lenoir" had to bring a shake of the head. It's worth watching regardless, for both Lanier's and his coach's comments, the latter of which included a claim that Lanier would be "a four or five-star" if he wasn't going to a small school like Gordo. Not quite, I'm guessing, but certainly trying to draw attention to yourself from Gordo doesn't do you any favors.

You wouldn't think that there would be much of an Auburn legacy coming out of a Tide-centric area like Pickens County, but Courtney Taylor was apparently a pretty big role model for Lanier: he told Jay Tate as much ("I came down here with Courtney (Taylor) starting in ninth grade, so I've always been about Auburn ... he changed a lot of people's minds") and he made no doubt about it in that T-Town News story:
Lanier, a multi-purpose athlete for the Greenwave, said he expects to get a chance to play safety for the Tigers, but he also feels confident in his ability to play wide receiver.

"I've been going to Auburn on and off since my ninth-grade year, like when Courtney Taylor was there," Lanier said. "I used to go down there a lot. I just fell in love with it then, so me getting this opportunity to go to Auburn, I just took it the first chance I got."

Taylor, a former Auburn wide receiver, played for Carrollton High School. Lanier lived in Carrollton before moving to Gordo for his sophomore season.

Lanier said his love for Auburn didn't change, even when Gene Chizik replaced Tommy Tuberville as head coach. Lanier was the first high school senior to announce a verbal commitment to Auburn after Chizik got the job. Lanier said he got to know the new coaching staff when he went for a visit on Jan. 16.

"It really didn't change at all as far as what coach was there," he said. "It was more about me playing for Auburn.

"I knew a lot of people were happy that I decided to go to school. Nobody's been to college to play football (from Gordo) in 25 years, so it's really like a good thing for me to be the first one out of 25 years."
There's not a ton out there on Lanier, but there's some brief reports of his high school exploits here, here, and here--that last one is the huge game against West Blocton:
Lanier anchored a Greenwave rushing attack that piled up 276 yards.

He scored on runs of 38, 8, 10 and 64 yards. He also had 89 return yards and had three solo tackles, seven assists and one interception on defense.
Not a bad night's work.

Somebody at ESPN thought enough of Lanier to mention him as a reason Auburn's 2009 class stayed in their top 25:
Athlete Izauea Lanier (Gordo, Ala.) was Chizik's first commitment in his return to The Plains. Lanier's is an underrated skill player with the versatility to play both safety and receiver.

Apparently there was some doubt that Lanier might qualify. Jay Tate's post-Signing Day wrap on Lanier read like so:
Auburn's new coaching staff viewed film of Lanier's work at cornerback and soon made an offer to play defense. He's more raw on that side of the ball, which signals a longer learning curve. Lanier said recently that his grades have improved significantly since his junior year and he expects to qualify.
"Expects" in these parts = not guaranteed just yet. But it's hard to think of Lanier being in too much danger when TV station WCBI is citing him as some kind of nebulous example that "Athletics & Academics Go Hand In Hand," right?

Anyway, Tate also touches on another consensus opinion regarding Lanier: he's going to redshirt. Between Auburn's depth at safety and the inevitable adjustment period to becoming a defensive back full-time, it's hard to see Lanier contributing as a true freshman.

Hey, Lanier was voted Gordo's Class of 2009 Most Athletic! Sweet! Then again, it might have been a very, very bad sign if he wasn't voted Most Athletic in the senior class at Gordo.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Lanier's coming into a tough situation: sure, he's got some versatility to him, but that versatility allows him to play two positions--wide receiver and safety--that happen to be two of Auburn's most competitive on the roster. Combine that with Lanier's relatively substantial lack of guru approval, and it's hard to see him contributing any time soon.

Of course, with a late-offered three-star recruit like Lanier, no one's expecting a home-run: the question is whether he'll find his way onto the field at any point, and there's plenty of reasons to think he'll accomplish that. For starters, it really is easier for the services to overlook players from outposts like Gordo. He seems to have the athletic goods--would he have had that much success across his various high school positions if he didn't? With coaches of Thigpen's and Chizik's quality around, if that athleticism is there you would think they would find a way to sculpt it into a dependable player. Lanier will have his shot.

Lastly: you have to be feel good for a kid who's been holding down the Auburn fandom for years in an area that close to Tuscaloosa, right? He's got an uphill climb, but here's hoping for the best for him.


Deano "aka" Jimmy Joe Meeker "aka" Fat Elvis said...

This kid has big game player written all over him. I do not know about the scouting reports but I just have a god feeling about this kid and I see a little Junior Rosegreen in him. Just a feeling but I can't shake it!

Jerry Hinnen said...

I hope you're right, Deano.

Kristina said...

I have been an Auburn football fan for 14 years. I also happen to have grown up in Pickens County. I personally knew Courtney Taylor and watched him play football and basketball numerous times. Izauea Lanier, whom I have also seen play in person, has the pure talent that Courtney did when he was at Carrollton. Gordo's football team as a whole the past two years has been pretty weak, but they made it to the third round of play-offs this year and second round of play-offs the year before mainly because of this kid....He's FAST and while he is a little small, it actually makes him much harder to tackle...I firmly believe that he will have a great career at Auburn...Recruits from small schools are continually underestimated...Courtney was only given 2 stars by Rivals, and he turned out to be one of the best WR's ever to come out of Auburn....I think Deano has the right of it, we can expect great things from Izauea Lanier

Jerry Hinnen said...

Kristina, you're definitely right that small-school kids can be underrated. Certainly, we've heard a lot of good things about Izauea coming out of Gordo and I can easily see him being a big contributor down the road.

Thanks for stopping by!