We're not sure that Aairon Savage will miss the season, but what we are sure of is that Savage was already recovering from a horrific knee injury with tears to two different ligaments and has now suffered some second, new, additional injury to recover from on top of that. In short: a 100 percent Aairon Savage looks less likely than ever.
Meaning that immediate help in the secondary would be, um, helpful, particularly if the likes of T'Sharvan Bell and D'Antoine Hood aren't ready for the increased responsibilities. Meaning that with Demond Washington supposedly ticketed for the offense, Reggie Taylor a non-qualifier, and players like Daren Bates and Izauea Lanier likely to need need a year of seasoning (and land at safety anyway), late-committing JUCO corner Taikwon Paige is suddenly an important member of Auburn's 2009 class.
Here's what Google spat out about him.
Basics: You know the drill by now:
Taikwon PaigeSo, things to note:
DB, 5-10, 175
Aiken, SC (Aiken HS/Georgia Military College)
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Had over 40 tackles and six interceptions during his freshman season ... Had 20 tackles during his sophomore campaign ... Ranked 25th among junior college prospects by Rivals.com ... Ranked as the nation's No. 36 junior college prospect by SuperPrep.
HIGH SCHOOL: Selected to play in the 2006 Shrine Bowl ... One of 25 players named 2006 Palmetto Champions All-Stars by the South Carolina Football Coaches Association ... Was named all-region and all-state in both his junior and senior years ... Was the track team's most valuable player his junior year ... Placed seventh in the 100-meter dash and sixth in the 200-meter dash at the 2007 state qualifier before suffering an injury at the state finals.
1. Paige is not big: when you're listed at 5-10, 175, you're going to be facing some size deficits against SEC wideouts (not that those can't be overcome, of course).
2. Paige is fast: track background, listed 4.4.
3. Paige earned a reputation: the drop in picks from six to (I'm assuming) zero in his second year at Georgia Military College (Character Above All!) is a little surprising, I guess, but the drop in tackles is actually a positive sign--most likely, it means opponents quit throwing to Paige's side of the field his sophomore season.
Paige's size and speed probably helps explain why Washington is ticketed for offensive duties--if you've got one mighty-mite track-star JUCO corner you feel confident in, what's the point of having two?
One other note: unlike fellow JUCOs Nick Fairley or "The Toro" Freeman, Paige has used two years of eligibility and will have three years to play two at Auburn--though with Savage out, I'll be surprised if he redshirts this season.
Recruitnik hoo-ha: Another similarity to Washington: before heading off to GMC (Duty, Honor, Country), Paige was a complete non-entity to the gurus. Nobody bothered to rank or rate him at all coming out of Aiken (though he was at least in the Rivals database), and since ESPN doesn't rate JUCO prospects, they don't have any opinion to offer on him.
As for Scout and Rivals, unlike the rest of Auburn's JUCO brigade--whom Scout universally raved over while Rivals universally yawned--it's Rivals who's the higher of the two on Paige. They give him four stars and ranked him the No. 25 JUCO prospect in the country, some 65 places ahead of Auburn's next-best JUCO signee (Washington). Scout, however, gives Paige three stars and ranks him just outside their top 100 JUCOs.
Paige's offer sheet doesn't offer a whole lot of a clue as to who's right: Paige committed to Minnesota at the request of Ted Roof over offers from Oklahoma State, Kentucky, East Carolina, and a whole bunch of lesser schools. So four BCS-level schools were interested, but only two that weren't involved solely due to the approval of Ted Roof, and neither of those are exactly recruiting powers. So it could be worse, but it could be better, too. And even with Roof around, Auburn waited until the last possible moment to extend Paige an offer. Only Josh Jackson was offered any later.
Links of potential interest: Watch your ears:
As you can see, Paige plays cornerback and can catch balls that hit him in the hands. Not sure there's really too many other conclusions to be drawn from that film. (To be fair, Paige did make a couple of nice-looking plays on the ball.) Still, if you'd like the extended version, GMC ("an environment conducive to the holistic development of the intellect and character of its students") where they was nice enough to post a lengthy clip of Paige highlights here.
If you'd like some of the tidbits from the Auburn Signing Day info sheet--track injury, selection to the South Carolina-North Carolina Shrine Bowl, etc.--presented in article form, click here. Worth noting that Paige made a couple of those South Carolina All-Star-type selections. And speaking of track, here's some numbers for you; a 10.84 personal-best in the 100 meters isn't too shabby.
Also mentioned in the above article and recapped in more detail here was Paige's performance for Aiken in a matchup against then-No. 1 Georgia team Camden County. His totals: four receptions, 94 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions in a 20-19 win. Not a bad night's work.
There's a Q&A with Minnesota site GopherHole available here. There's not really any great insights into Paige available there, but there's some confirmation of how Roof's defense operates:
GH: What do you think about the Minnesota defense and how you can fit in?Of course, putting those corners on those islands has a lot to do with why Roof's run defenses have always been much stronger than his pass defenses, but I can see why it would appeal to the corners themselves. (And why Paigem entions it repeatedly.)
TP: I really feel that I can come in and help them at the defensive back position. I like the way they put the corners on the island, and try to lock things down.
When Auburn plays against La. Tech to open the season, Paige will be on the opposite sideline from his cousin Olajuwan, a Tech cornerback. Expect to hear more about this in the "Notes" section of the Alabama press as the game approaches.
What conclusions we can draw, if any: Well ... I dunno. Scout's seemed to do a better job of scouting JUCOs than Rivals has (witness their takes on both The Toro Freeman, poised to take over Auburn's starting weakside LB spot after not even making Rivals' top 100 JUCOs list, and Scout's much more enthusiastic review of Terrence Cody, famously a three-star to Rivals), so that's one strike against Paige. The relative lack of interest from BCS-caliber schools--who you would think could use an experienced, fully ready-to-play corner--seems to me like another. Put them together, and I think there's ample reason for skepticism.
Then again, Ted Roof obviously sees something worthwhile in Paige or he hardly would have gone to the effort of first giving him an early offer at Minnesota an then re-recruiting him at Auburn. If Roof--who knows as well as we do his system needs quality corners--feels that strongly about him, it stands to reason Paige can play. And hey, Rivals or no, a four-star rating from a major service is still miles better than no four-star rating from a major service.
So the guess here is that Paige isn't going to set the world on fire--he'd have more offers if he had that kind of potential. But that with his experience and Roof's seal of approval, it's also easy to see him filling in that third corner/fourth corner nickel/dime role alongside the likes of Bell and Hood and holding his own. And after Savage's injury, that kind of player is all the more welcome.