There were lots of surprises during the stretch run of Auburn's 2009 recruiting season, and Bates was right up there with the biggest of them: one day, Auburn fans find out a two-star Arkansas St. commit we haven't heard of is coming for an official visit; the next, he's signed up and ready to go. DeAngelo Benton's commitment might have been the bigger shock, but only Josh Jackson went from as off-the-radar to "commited" as suddenly as Bates.
Since then, Bates has unsurprisingly gone back under the radar as Auburn fans daydream of signees who either have already proven themselves in spring practice (Freeman, McCalebb) or boast high-end guru approval (Benton, Lutzenkirchen). It's possible he'll stay there even after arriving at Auburn--but there's also some evidence he'll be much more than his sudden commitment or recruitnik rankings might suggest.
Basics: They go like so:
Daren BatesThat's everything, save for the personal info ... and yes, that's the shortest list of "basics" we've had for any player yet in this series. You'll notice there's no reference to Bates's junior year--because, by basically everyone's account, he waited until his senior season to blow up. Just kind of interesting to see it reflected here.
DB, 5-11, 195
Olive Branch, MS (Olive Branch HS)
High School Coach: Scott Samsel
HIGH SCHOOL: Collected 90 tackles and four interceptions and had nearly 900 yards of total offense as a senior ... Named to the MHSAA All-Region 1 Class 5A team ... Selected for the Commercial Appeal Shelby Metro All-Suburban team ... Named the BankPlus Player of the Week by the DeSoto Times following a 49-22 victory over Horn Lake in which he had 107 total yards and three touchdowns, 10 tackles and an interception.
Recruitnik hoo-ha: If you're looking at exclusively the Rivals/Scout axis ... well, it's not pretty. Between those two, Bates is the lowest-ranked member of Auburn's 2009 class. Rivals gives him two stars and a grade of 5.4, the next-lowest grade in the class next to Jackson; Scout likewise hands out two stars. Neither one bothers to include him in their rankings.
ESPN is a little more enthusiastic--a three-starish grade of 77, a ranking as the No. 59 safety, and the following scouting report:
Bates is a versatile athlete that has the physical build to be a strong safety. He has good size and runs well. Very aggressive on run support and does an excellent job of getting off blocks to get to the ball carrier. Must be careful to not cut tackle too much; needs to drive up through the ball carrier when possible. Shows some vision and cutting ability as a running back along with having good ball skills catching passes out of the backfield. Bates should also be a major producer on special teams.I think the important thing there is "physical build to be a strong safety"--if that's there, then you'd think there would be a decent shot at Thigpen and Lolley turning Bates into a useful player. Also worth noting: despite that whole "committed to Arkansas St. thing until the last second" thing, Auburn wasn't the only SEC team to hop on the Bates bandwagon as it pulled out of the ... uh ... bandwagon station? Anyway, Tennessee offered according to both major services and the Tide were involved on some level--Rivals doesn't list an offer, but Scout does. It's probably fair to assume the Tide weren't giving Bates a full, no-strings-attached offer at that late stage of the game, but that were talking to him at all at that point is a positive sign.
So, two stars or not, Red Wolves commitment or not, it's not all doom and gloom here.
Links of potential interest: OK, so these aren't really so much "Daren Bates" highlights as "Olive Branch highlights that usually have Bates involved somehow," but keep an eye on No. 3, be patient, and you'll get your fill:
The form tackle at 3:40 is nice to see. Maybe even nicer is the effusive praise from his former head coach:
Olive Branch (Miss.) High School coach Scott Samsel said Auburn struck gold when it got a commitment from defensive back Daren Bates ...I know, I know, what coach doesn't rave about his players, but "guarantee" is still mighty strong language. And it's not like Bates was a kid Samsel had groomed for years to get to this point: as Samsel himself said, he only had the one year with him. On top of that, it's not like Samsel doesn't know from D-I players: four different Conquistadores (how kick-ass a nickname is that?) committed to either SEC schools or Florida St. (Incidentally, that teammate that went to FSU was Aubrey Phillips--who looked like he might heading to Auburn for a minute, thanks in part to the Bates commitment, before heading to Tallahassee.) Current 2010 Auburn commitment Shon Coleman is also an Olive Branch product ... just as an FYI, I guess.
“You are going to look back on him in two years and see he was the steal in the state of Mississippi,” Samsel said. “I guarantee you.”
Bates transferred last summer from Christian Brothers in Memphis to Olive Branch. As a result, Samsel said he didn’t get a lot of recruiting attention.
“This day and time, with all the recruiting services, a lot of kids are made and broken prior to their senior year,” Samsel said. “He moved to our school in July. I couldn’t put my name on him until I’d seen him practice and play.”
You can read about that game the "Basics" mentioned against Horn Lake here. Player of the Week award write-up here.
One last note: to hear Bates tell it, Auburn's coaches didn't exactly half-ass their recruitment of him ... except maybe for the part where they waited until right before Signing Day. Still, seems like they legitimately wanted him.
What conclusions we can draw, if any: OK, so this has to be said: the odds, as we should all know by now, are not in Bates's favor. There's probably--though certainly not definitely--a reason that he was an Arkansas St. commit before Chizik and Co. swooped in. There's probably a reason he was rated at two stars, and not necessarily because he was an unknown entering his senior year--unknown or not, Olive Branch is a high-profile school outside of Memphis with major prospects coming out its ears. It's not easy to fly under the radar there. And if the ratings are at all accurate, Bates isn't an SEC-caliber player.
All that said ... of course Bates also does have plenty of reasons he might be a genuine sleeper. I think the praise from Samsel is honestly encouraging. Late as they may have come, the offer list is much stronger than you'd expect for an unranked two-star. Transferring after a junior season and apparently making huge strides during his senior season could certainly throw the gurus off. And, most of all, any player who the Auburn coaching staff thinks is worth a shot is worth a shot, always.
Looking at the pool of Auburn's potential "sleepers"--Jackson, Izauea Lanier, Clint Moseley, Nosa Eguae, etc.--there's reasons to think every one might wind up something special, even if the likelihood of all of them contributing is pretty much zero. Even if Bates is as deep a sleeper as Auburn has in this class, it's no different for him.