Monday, June 08, 2009

Krootin': Good, not great just yet

Courtesy the Pigskin Pathos, because references to Big Cats are still valid a week-plus after the event itself, right?

Even outside of the Richardson commitment, there's been a lot of Auburn recruiting news to trickle out over the last week or so. Most of it's been the unambiguously positive kind of news ... but not quite all of it. Still, the steps forward have outnumbered the steps backward, starting with ...

White's announcing. I suppose we could all receive a major shock at 5:30 today, but given that Jawara White a) sounded like a kid who'd already made up his mind in the wake of Big Cat b) spent last weekend on Auburn's campus c) hasn't been prominently connected with any other school that I'm aware of, it seems highly, highly unlikely that Auburn won't receive its sixth 2010 commitment this afternoon.

White would be a solid pick-up for Auburn, with his ranking in both Rivals' and Scouts' national top 30 for outside linebackers. Although ESPN doesn't have their position rankings finished yet, their low four-star/high three-starish grade of 79 should have White right in that same tier. In short: White would be a nice addition even if Auburn wasn't desperate for linebackers. Which they are, making this (probably) a big, big get for the Tigers.

More on the impact of White's commitment on Auburn's budding class after he actually, you know, commits.

Things that make you go Hmmmmmm. The hullabaloo surrounding Big Cat weekend focused primarily on two things: the favorable reaction from the recruits in attendance, and the potential-secondary-violations-and-their-impact-or-lack-thereof flap. So it was probably a useful bucket of cold water Jay Coulter threw at us last week, especially since I think he's dead on here:
By limiting the invitee list, Auburn has shown its hand and told everyone who they covet the most. If you were left off the invitee list how do you feel now? Chizik has clearly rolled the dice on this event and he may win big. All of those visiting seemed to be having a blast. There were video game tournaments, watermelon eating contests and the now infamous Toomer's Corner celebration. What was there not to like?

Plenty if you were left off the list.
Earlier in the post, Jay relates a first-hand example of this phenomenon in action:
Like they say, with big risks come big rewards. Or do they? The fallout from last weekend is quietly being felt by Auburn coaches this week. They have spent much of their time taking calls from other recruits who were not invited to the event or in some cases, just ignoring them.

I talked to a four-star recruit's father yesterday who's looking for answers as to why his son was not invited. The kid has offers from virtually every big school in the country including Auburn. Phone calls to assistants Tracy Rocker and Jay Boulware have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, Alabama has pounced on the opportunity and the kid now appears to be leaning toward Bama and LSU.
First off: Yikes. "They didn't bother to answer the phone" sounds a lot more like the kind of anecdote we'd hear about the Tubby regime's late-era recruiting efforts than the current staff's. Second, it's not like the staff could have been caught off guard by the griping from the uninvited and their parents--they're smart enough guys to know that the kids who weren't there wouldn't be happy about it. Making sure there weren't any bridges burned should have been a priority, not (as it seems to be in this case) an afterthought.

Now, here's the other thing ... I think we can make an educated guess at the recruit Jay's referring to. Now, this is just idle speculation and is not confirmed by anything other than my silly Internettin' suspicions ... but 1. It's never been a secret Jay lives in the Phenix City/Columbus area (his Dad's the mayor, you'll recall) 2. You'd have to think, then, that the recruit is from the same area 3. A search of Rivals' database for Phenix City and Columbus turns up several college prospects, but only one kid boasting offers from Auburn, Alabama, and LSU ... namely, Brian Vogler.

Again, this is just a guess. But Vogler wasn't on the Big Cat invite list and the last time he talked to the recruiting press, it was about the Tide. So he fits the description, certainly better than any other recruit in the Phenix/Columbus area. And if the disappointed mystery recruit is Vogler--hell, even if he isn't--you have to ask: why wasn't he at Big Cat? For all of the talk of the importance of in-state recruiting, Columbus is a ton more important for Auburn's recruiting purposes than, say, Muscle Shoals. And even if Vogler wasn't almost a "hometown kid," geez, he's got solid Alabama and LSU offers--seems pretty awful unlikely he can't play. It's also not like Auburn's stacked at tight end, not when the preliminary 2010 depth chart reads 1. Phil Lutzenkirchen 2. Bailey Woods 3. No one at all, assuming Vance Smith stays at tackle. When you look at all of those factors, it seems like Vogler should be the kind of recruit Auburn's all over, rather than a guy--I'm guessing--whose Dad has to ask for attention.

Now, with all that said, I'm sure Auburn's staff have their reasons for not inviting Vogler--or any other recruit--to Big Cat, and if they were able to come right out and offer them, they might even be convincing ones. But I also have a hard time figuring out what they might be in this particular case, and whether my suspicions about the identity of the mystery recruit are right or not, Jay's absolutely right that the pros of the event also came with some pretty serious cons.

Now, on the other hand ... As I said in its immediate wake, it was apparent from the Big Cat guest list that the two primary goals were 1. snagging the attention of some big-time recruits from out-of-state 2. firming up potential commitments from in-state kids that were on the verge of, uh, committing. Goal 1 was accomplished. And assuming White commits, Goal 2 will have seen Auburn grab two legit Alabama prospects in the space of a week afterwards.

So whatever the negatives might be, from a recruiting perspective the Big Cat glass is still very much past the half-full point. But don't just take my word for it ... ask nationally-renowned recruiting expert Tom Luginbill! (Actually, if you're a plugged-in Auburn fan, I think you could probably skip that column, which just rehashes the "Whoa, Gene Chizik is taking fox-approved crazy pills!" fluff that's been all over the place the last few weeks. Still, national press, no complaints.) You could also look over this free helpful wrap-up from Rivals. It's a little out-of-date with the Richardson commitment, but the optimism regarding Seastrunk, Lattimore, and especially LaDarius Owens is always fun to read. And then there's this ...

July, July. That Rivals link includes this little tidbit:
The coaches are also planning another big recruiting event in July, although details have yet to be disclosed.
Luper's already made a couple of veiled references to this. While I still kind of wish Big Cat hadn't been quite so out-of-hand, you can still consider my curiosity piqued.

Oh, and about Owens ... Auburn leads, as expected. Very nice to hear. Positive vibes on Seastrunk and Corey Grant at that link as well.

In the interest of accuracy. I stand by my claim from Friday that Jeremy Richardson was Auburn's biggest in-state recruit since the 2007 class--the closest contenders are guys like Cameron Henderson and Terrance Coleman, solid prospects but with nothing like Richardson's offer sheet or attention--but I probably should have made a note that Rivals' ranking and top-30 evaluation of him are something of an outlier. Scout has him rated a run-of-the-mill three-star, and while ESPN's grade of 78 is a little kinder, their scouting report suggests Richardson is "a great athlete that may need to switch positions for the next level to maximize his upside as a football player." Because both Rivals and the Auburn coaches--who by all accounts have made Richardson a priority from early on--seem to believe so strongly in him, I'm not sure it's something to worry about. But it does mean Richardson probably shouldn't be portrayed as a consensus slam dunk, not when there's that much dissent about him.

Money where their mouth is? A lot of coaches make noise about valuing academics, but Auburn's appear to actually be walking this particular walk. Their first commit for the 2010 class was Duke-and-Vandy-offered Jake Holland, their second was on-track-to-graduate early Shaun Kitchens, and one of their most recent offers went out to Florida's Tim Jackson, who boasts offers from virtually every academically-stringent school in the country: Northwestern, Wake Forest, Tulane, Vandy, Stanford. Me, I think this is a great development--if you're going to be taking on a sleeper, might as well make it a high-character guy who's not going to screw with your APR and who you know doesn't have a problem with dedicating himself. Yet another reason to give Auburn's staff a thumbs-up for their work so far this recruiting period.

Etc. Tyrone Cornileus is likely going to either Georgia Tech or Miami ... ESPN's J.C. Shurbutt reaffirms the Lache Seatrunk optimism, saying "it's hard to imagine the Temple (Texas) standout ending up anywhere else at this point" ... JUCO corner Dequan Minzie said that Big Cat wasn't any better than his experience in Hattiesburg.


OTS said...

As for the mystery recruit, it does not necessarily have to be Vogler. Off the top of my head, C.J. Mosley, Jarrick Williams, and Damien Robinson all fit that mold as well.

On the other hand, I'm not really sure either of them are good candidates. Robinson is thought to be an Alabama v. LSU battle, and though he has an Auburn offer, I'm not sure he's really considering the orange and blue Tigers. Likewise, while Williams has offers from all three, he is generally considered an Alabama lock.

All of that said, though, I'm not really sure Vogler fits the description either. He said in his most recent update a couple of days ago that he hadn't had any contact with the Auburn staff since early March. It's hard to see him getting upset about not being invited to the big weekend when he hadn't even talked to the staff in months.

I frankly don't have a clue who he is talking about. I could see someone getting offended a bit, but as far as specifics I have no clue who it would be.

tiger7_88 said...

The NEED positions for Auburn on offense this recruiting year are (in order) 1. OL, 2. RB, 3. WR, 4. QB, 5. TE.

That might be the reason that some Daddy's Best-Big-Boys weren't invited to 'Big Cat'.

Oh, and the fact that to make it a SPECIAL weekend between the "unofficial" visitors and the coaches you just can't manage having upward of 100 recruits there.

Ergo, the rumored "special event" in July.

And one more thing... there are plenty of recruits out there that know by the very nature of their offer that they are "ranked" behind the "Big Cats". (I.E. "Son, we'd love for you to come to Auburn and get your degree and play football... but be advised that this offer is not final until we get back to you.")

Happens all the time. And guess what? Nine times out of ten those recruits wait until the "Big Cats" walk and then are more than happy to take those "provisional" offers.

Its recruiting. You can't take everyone you offer and everyone you offer won't eventually get a scholarship.

Please, please... set aside the panic button.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Man, tiger7, we're just not seeing eye-to-eye much these days, are we? (Save on Franklin, I guess.) Trust me, my finger's nowhere near the panic button--as I said, things are going very, very well. Are the costs for an event like Big Cat worth the reward? I think we've seen the past few days exactly why they are.

Doesn't mean everything's perfect, or that I can't wonder why a recruit with serious 'Bama and LSU attention that's playing 30 minutes away from Auburn apparently hasn't been contacted since March. As I said, I have no doubt Auburn's staff has their reasons for backing off of Vogler; from here, though, I just can't fathom what they are.

I'm not trying to be confrontational here, I just want to ask: how do you see TE as less of a need than the logjam at QB? The way I see it, after this year, Lutzenkirchen will be the only TE on the roster who'll have ever taken a snap (again, assuming Smith stays on the OL, which seems likely). It wouldn't be a big deal if we were still running Spread Eagle 1.0, but my understanding is that the Malzahn version keeps at least one TE on the field at all times. I would think Auburn would want to take at least one in this class.

As always, though, your mileage may vary.

Comm'r of Flesh Wounds said...

Not pretending to be a recruiting expert, familiar at all with the Vogler situation, or have any guesses about the mystery non-invitee. But it seems to me that, given past events, one good reason not to invite a recruit that may be leaning to another school is his potential as a secret recruiter. I'm certain/all SEC coaches would never send a kid to whisper sweet nothings about a rival to rain on another school's big recruiting event, right?

I'm not suggesting the AU coaches are paranoid, I just think they may have reasons for not inviting certain kids because they're not convinced of a genuine interest in AU. That threatens to detract from the environment they are hoping to creat and one thing I suspect the coaches fervently hope to avoid. And, of course, you can't invite everyone every weekend.

tiger7_88 said...

Jerry, two reasons (and this is just my opinion) as to why TE is not a priority position in recruiting this year, (1) limited schollies and we darned sure need more OL and RB in this offense than we do TE, and (2) either one of both of 6-4/220 WR Jeremy Richardson and 6-4/215 WR Shaun Kitchens look like they would make IDEAL tight-ends in the Malzahn offense to me (which, from what I've seen, needs pass-catching TE's and not blocking TE's).


Jerry Hinnen said...

tiger7, those are good points. Richardson seems like enough of a burner that I would expect him to stay outside, but Kitchens may have the frame to bulk up to play TE for Malzahn.

I maybe should also point out Auburn has been connected to other TEs: Travis Dickson, Davis Dudchock. It's possible the staff just prefers them, simple as that.