Thursday, April 09, 2009

Google surveys the signees: Jamar Travis

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.

Much like offensive lineman John Sullen, Jamar Travis had an interesting recruitment. Despite relatively enthusiastic guru reviews, Travis was a Southern Miss commitment without an SEC offer as late as two weeks before Signing Day. At that point the Chizik staff (most likely led by Tracy Rocker, realizing Auburn would have to swell its defensive line class if he actually wanted enough guys to coach a full two-deep) finally came across with an offer. Travis was a Tiger within the weekend, signed without too much further incident, and thanks to being a defensive tackle will probably be no worse than third-string the moment he steps on campus.

So, yeah, it's been a quick climb for the Brewton product.

Basics: Here ya go:

Jamar Travis
DL, 6-1, 298
Brewton, AL (W.S. Neal HS)
High School Coach: Blaine Hathcock

HIGH SCHOOL: As a junior, had 60 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and four sacks ... First Team All-State as a junior by the Alabama Sports Writers Association ... Named honorable mention Class 4A All-State by the ASWA as a senior ... Named a PrepStar All-American
Just over 6 feet and almost 300 pounds, huh? I suspect he's sticking at tackle. Um ... why did Auburn's SID not include his senior season stats? 70 tackles in an injury-shortened season for a DT is nothing to be ashamed of.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: As mentioned, Travis got more guru respect than you'd expect for a guy headed to Southern Miss until Auburn swooped in. Rivals placed him just inside the top-30 of their defensive tackle rankings, complete with a fourth star and 5.8 grade. ESPN was even more enthusiastic, giving him a solidly four-star rating of 80 and ranking him the No. 11 (!) DT in the country, one spot behind Alabama commit Chris Bonds and just in front of North Carolina and Texas recruits. From their evaluation:
Travis is a handful in the defensive trenches. He is a bit of a compact powerkeg. [awesome sic--ed.] He lacks ideal height, but he ... can quick off the ball and explosive on contact. He can quickly get into a blocker, stay low, generate power from his lower body, and knock a blocker on his heels. He is active and violent with his hands ... Has adequate speed, but he is working and giving what he has to get to the ball. He can be a productive rusher because he can stay low and bull rush his way in. ... He may not be able rack up big sack numbers, but he can create pressure and cause some hurries ... He can be quick and physical and can be a disruptive player at the college level.
Scout is a little less positive about Travis's chances, but not by a lot: he's got three stars and lands at No. 32 in their DT rankings, but that's fairly close to their four-star tackles (the last four-star senior is at No. 25) and their scouting report doesn't read any differently than ESPN's:
A fireplug of a defensive tackle prospect, Travis shows an incredible amount of effort on the field ... He has a great first step and is outstanding sideline to sideline. With his lack of height, he'll need to learn to play with a little better leverage and occupy a double team without moving backwards, but that's a minor critique. Great Motor.
Looking at just his guru evaluations, you'd think Auburn fans would be more excited about this kid--there's not any difference there, really, between Travis and, say, Terrance Coleman.

But then you look at Travis's offers and ... yeah. No disrespect to Southern Miss, but stealing one of the Golden Eagles' recruits away isn't going to set Auburn fans' pulses racing. There's a consensus that Georgia Tech and Clemson had also offered, so Auburn wasn't the only BCS-level program interested, but that every other staff in the SEC passed has to be seen as something of a red flag.

Links of potential interest: Sadly, no free video out there for Mr. Travis. Though you can watch his high school band perform Boston's classic "More Than a Feeling", so that's something.

The state's newspaper-affiliated gurus were relatively high on Travis: he ranked No. 18 in the state according to Andrew Bone (who added he "moves extremely well" for someone with Travis's powerkeg body type) and No. 22 on the B'ham News's Super Seniors list ... though both of those positions represent slight slides from earlier rankings. Boo.

According to a local Brewton blogger Travis was pulling a 3.5 GPA heading into his senior season (the same number Rivals reported at the end of that year), so academics shouldn't be a concern.

Couldn't find a nice fluffy feature on Travis in the Brewton Standard archives--more's the pity--but there's plenty there on his recruiting process. Here's a huge commitment to Southern Miss piece, the "nope, committed to Auburn instead" piece, and then finally the "it's official" Signing Day story. Reading over them, a couple of reactions:

1) If Travis was still describing himself as a "lean" to Auburn even while committed to Southern Miss, you have to think this was a case of Travis hoping an Auburn offer came through while reserving his spot in Hattiesburg if it didn't. (This is made even more clear by his reaction to Jay Tate when he did get the Auburn offer.)

2) Hard to tell exactly what the status of his Auburn (and maybe Alabama?) offer was before Chizik handed him one. Travis seems to be saying the Tuberville regime had offered him, only for him to lose that offer when Tuberville left, then (obviously) regaining it when he visited with Chizik. At least, I think I've got that straight. For whatever it's worth.

As for Alabama, Scout lists a Tide offer and last summer/fall you could find Tide fans who were openly hoping Travis ended up in T-Town. But I don't get the sense Alabama was ever really a serious factor in Travis's recruitment.

Lastly, in his quick take on the defensive line signees, Rocker said Travis had "great upside early and hopefully in the future."

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Well, first off, late or not Travis's commitment has to be seen as a big, big get for Auburn. We're in fairly desperate need of defensive tackle depth, and here's a defensive tackle prospect that's not going to miss academically, by all accounts works his rear end off on the field, and according to the gurus has at least starter-level talent. This is a guy Auburn needed to make sure the depth chart stays relatively intact over the next couple of seasons. Especially if Terrance Coleman slides over to end, Travis will in all likelihood be one injury away from a spot on the two-deep as soon as this fall. As Acid Reign pointed out in Signing Day's wake, "somehow, some way, Auburn needs to put a 4th capable tackle on the field, next fall," and that guy could very well be Travis.

Now, can Travis be more than a hardworking plugger, the stereotypical hardnosed space-eater? Not right away, I don't think, not when you consider that he was a week away from going to Southern Miss ... and how much upside a 6-foot guy whose best asset is his motor really has is, at least, debatable. But I'd be willing to wager Travis will find his way to the field sooner rather than later thanks to that motor and the thinness of the depth chart, and even if his first few seasons are spent mostly spelling more talented starters, there's no reason he can't follow the example of someone like Tez Doolittle and (fingers crossed) Jake Ricks and become a highly-productive member of the Auburn first team later in his career.

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