Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Krootin' talk

Not much in the way of actual developments since the weekend, I guess, but there's enough chatter out there to put together a post, so here we go ...

Where no Auburn coach has gone before. Writing as much as I have about Chizik and Co.'s recruiting efforts the last few weeks sometimes seems like so much useless creepy blithering ... but then again, as K-Scar points out today, we are talking about some unprecedented developments for Auburn in the, uh, "modern" era for recruiting:
Look at the biggest of the big cats who visited Auburn over the weekend. Rivals.com ranks running back Lache Seastrunk, running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Trovon Reed as the Nos. 2, 4 and 15 players in the nation in the class of 2010.

If just one of them inks with Auburn next February, he'll be ranked higher than any recruit who signed during the entire Tommy Tuberville era.
Scarbinsky points out that the "highest-ranked" record holder for the Tubby era was Tray Blackmon at No. 17, which isn't going to do much to win over any Auburn fans dedicated to their skepticism of recruiting rankings. But when gauging the impact of what landing a Seastrunk or Lattimore might be, it might be more instructional--painful as it might be--to look at the Tide, who saw Andre Smith (No. 2 overall) and No. 4 Julio Jones live up to the hype and then some. K-Scar also mentions Cadillac, ranked No. 24 in his class, as evidence that the gurus can underrate players sometimes ... but I think that only undermines that point, since it hardly seems a coincidence that the highest-rated running back Tubby ever signed wound up being every bit the stud he was supposed to be. (And before you say "Ronnie Brown," I'll respond that the other architects of 2004 were mostly of the guru-approved variety: Jason Campbell was viewed as a huge recruiting coup for Tubby, Marcus McNeill was a four-star, and both Ben Obamanu and Devin Aromashadu came in for similar praise.)

The point is this: getting the attention of the likes of Seastrunk, Lattimore, and Reed is a big deal. Getting a commitment from them obviously would be a much bigger deal, and I don't blame any Auburn fan who just wants to ignore the whole thing, but when we're talking about recruits the caliber of those guys or going head-to-head with the Tide for the likes of LaDarius Owens or Jeremy Richardson, I also don't think you can blame the Auburn fan who gets a bit obsessive about it.

(One other note about that Scarbinsky column, which I thought hit the target squarely: he's absolutely right that as much as we remember Dye as a dogged old Southern throwback of a coach and Tubby for how closely he played it to the vest in his final years, both arrived on campus more than willing to ruffle the necessary feathers and maintained that edge through their best years. Chizik doesn't seem to have quite that same edge, but perhaps he's made up for it by hiring a staff that sure as hell does.)

Seastrunk. We mentioned yesterday that Seastrunk's coachbot-taunting was a positive sign, since you wouldn't think he'd say things like "wait 'til we get here," if, you know, he wasn't at least considering getting to here in the first place. But even that tidbit probably isn't as encouraging as the following quote, dropped by Bruce Feldman in his blog:
"I can't reveal all the information, but you guys will be surprised when I commit [in early January]. And I think y'all might like where I choose," he told Auburnundercover.com. "This is the best ever," Seastrunk continued. "They just welcome you in. I feel the warmth of everyone. I love the environment here and I feel at home."
I'll just come right out and say this: I think if Seastrunk had to commit today, he'd be on his way to Auburn. I'm not the only one who feels that way, either. ESPN guru J.C. Shurbutt says Seastrunk "should be classified as a heavy Auburn lean." Seriously plugged-in Texas blog and Seastrunk coveters Burnt Orange Nation admit that "Auburn may now lead for Seastrunk."

That BON post drops the knowledge that Seastrunk's mother came to Auburn with him--another good omen, that--but is also an interesting (and, OK, fun) read from the Auburn perspective, thanks to the writer's concessions that what he once referred to as a "dalliance" for Seastrunk has reached this point. But he also sagely reminds us all that 1. Seastrunk immediately followed the above comments with "I don't have a favorite" qualifications and disclaimers 2. it's a long way to January 3. Seastrunk is "known for playing it coy with his real thoughts." The Trovon Reed situation complicates things--while Auburn fans are lovin' the dream of Seastrunk bringing his good buddy with him to the Plains, it's also possible that Reed could help Seastrunk settle on LSU. So while, yes, he's a 'Bama fan commenting on a guy who just made enemies all over Tuscaloosa, I'm not dismissing OTS's contention that Seastrunk will end up in Baton Rouge out of hand.

So: I think we've reached the point where Auburn fans can feel good about our chances. But anything more than that is counting chickens.

Lattimore. Not long after declaring .. wait, you know what? There's no point in me paraphrasing what Lattimore wrote in a public blog post when you can read what he said yourself:
Auburn is no longer my leader. After the visit I thought about it. I have no leader right now, but I have narrowed it down to eight schools. My final eight schools are Auburn, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida State, Alabama, Penn State, Clemson and Maryland.

It was hard to cut schools. It really was, but I needed to start. Georgia was one of my leaders, but they didn’t make it. When I went down there I just couldn’t see myself living there.
Wow, dude, even I happen to think Athens is a hell of a town (don't excommunicate me, please), but good to hear. Less good to hear that he's backed off of the "Auburn leads" talk, but hey, it's early June: for a prospect of Lattimore's stature, there's nothing wrong with playing it slow. Auburn's still the last known leader, Rivals's Jamie Newberg has predicted Lattimore ends up at Auburn, so things are still much more positive than not.

Steel yourself, Auburn fans. Later this week, we'll have the pleasure of a wide round of "While Auburn's busy clowning around, Alabama's getting the results"-type articles and trash talk, because all signs are that when Demarcus Milliner announces his college choice Thursday afternoon, the state's top prospect is going to choose the Tide. There's not much drama when you read this ...
“He is just tired of the process already. He is tired of the calls and the hoopla surrounding his recruitment,” Foshee told BamaOnLine.com. “He has made his decision and he doesn’t want to waste anyone else’s time by dragging it out longer.”
... and realize you're reading a high school coach who played for 'Bama talking to a 'Bama recruiting site about a player who's been considered a heavy 'Bama lean for weeks. Seriously, if you can find a bookie who'll give you odds on Schmaul Schmineschmaum writing a column along the lines of "Chizik can rent all the limos he wants, but Saban's still got the keys to the state" or some such, bet the mortgage.

Etc. Any positive news on upright, breathing offensive linemen is most welcome, so this header claiming that Springville's Chase Hughes shares teammate Jeremy Richardson's enthusiasm for Auburn was, well, welcome ... other assorted tidbits here, here, and here.


OTS said...

I didn't understand the Ronnie Brown reference. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall it Brown was actually a pretty highly-touted recruit.

As best I remember it, he was the star at Cartersville, and led them to a state title. It seems like he even made one of the high school All-America teams, and I remember him as being the top RB prospect in the state of Georgia. He might not have been a five-star, but if I'm remembering things correctly, he was a pretty highly-touted player in his own right.

OTS said...

Good write-up and summary of things.

Anyway, I did want to add that the main reason I said Seastrunk will end up at LSU is largely because of Reed, and early on in the battle most thought it was a Texas v. LSU battle, and the 'Horns have seemingly moved on a bit. And personally, I figure his LSU background was just as big of a reason for his anti-Saban comments as anything else. Regardless of where he goes, he's not going to be on the same sideline as Saban.

Personally, I think Auburn has a much better shot with Lattimore. I've talked about this before, and the thing is that Lattimore has no natural school in a sense. He's not going to stay in-state because South Carolina and Clemson aren't good enough to keep him, and despite his comments about Athens, take one look at the RB's UGA has signed the past three years and you'll quickly see why he's not going there. Furthermore, both Tennessee and Alabama are loaded with tailbacks, so that just makes for a weird case. He's a guy who admittedly is going to have to go a pretty good ways from home, and guys like that are just inherently hard to predict because location becomes a complete and total non-factor.

I think the chances are much better with Lattimore than Seastrunk. I'll be honest, Seastrunk just seems like a diva to me who is milking the recruiting hype for all that its worth. I mean, when you see a guy ought here already promising to shock the world with his announcement a full six months before it happens, that ought to tell you all you need to know. I think he's just looking to create noise for himself, but will end up where most expected him all along.

Anyway, I'll close by saying that, all in all, you certainly cannot blame Auburn fans for being excited about these two. However, with that said, I do that the enthusiasm ought to be tempered a bit, lest people just outright set themselves up for disappointment. Regardless of what these kids say now, it's going to be six months until they decide anything, and admittedly both still have a lot of schools in the running, and most of those schools will likely have a much better season in 2009 than Auburn will. I don't mean to come off sounding like I'm trying to rain on a parade here, but in all honesty the focus probably needs to be more on the class as a whole more than anything else. Auburn is a team with a lot of problems and a lot of needs right now, and just adding one hotshot tailback to the mix is not really going to fix much of anything. Adding one star tailback to an offense with a bad line and a bad passing game isn't going to have much of an effect. Regardless of whether or not Auburn nabs a guy like Seastrunk or Lattimore, the real focus needs to be on the rest of the recruiting class, and whether or not those guys put Auburn closer to the top of the SEC, or whether they just further signal the turn for the worse that we've seen at Auburn the past couple of years.

Brent VK said...

With the lack of in-state talent on campus this past weekend (either by means of declining an invite, or not being invited at all), is it resonable to assume there will be an "Alabama Only Big Cat Weekend"? With the commitment to recruiting close to home, it did seem strange that this group included players from Texas, South Carolina, and Conneticut.

jrsuicide said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jrsuicide said...

i mean i don't blame Lattimore for not being into Athens. unless you're a music loving geek who likes indie rock or a rich fratboy/sorority girl there isn't a whole lot for a kid to do here. Athens has changed a lot in the last 5 years. the awesome is def on the decline. it's one of the reasons i've never understood why Ga Tech can't recruit better. who wouldn't wanna live in ATL?

just sayin'.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Brent, I addressed the in-state factor to a certain extent in the Monday post, but just to reiterate: yeah, it would have been nice to see a stronger in-state focus, but the Alabama kids who Auburn seems to have a decent shot with--Owens, Richardson, White, Terrell, etc.--were there. It looked to me more like the staff was reserving those in-state spots for kids who they wanted to build a lead with rather than kids who they think (or know) they've got an uphill battle on. Whether that's the right strategy or not, we'll find out, but I'm not in a position to say it's not, that's for sure. And it's not like most of the visitors from out-of-state were chopped liver--if the No. 2 LB in the country wants to come down from Connecticut to have a look-see, I don't think you turn him down because there's a "sleeper" from, say, Florala you want a look at. So, yeah, it's kind of weird, but I'm OK with it.

OTS, you may very well be right about Brown. I remember the press surrounding his blow-up in 2002 being in the "Tubby's found another unheralded diamond in the rough!" vein, but that may have just been in contrast to the Cadillac hype ... and Lord knows I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on in recruiting back then (class of 2000, right?), so I'm not going to contradict you.

As for your other comments, certainly Seastrunk enjoys the attention, but I think you could say that about a lot of kids who have gone on to be relatively model citizens in college. I'd much rather have the problem of how best to handle a recruit of Seastrunk's caliber than not have him on the roster at all.

You may very well be right that Auburn might be in better shape with Lattimore than Seastrunk; there's message board chatter to that effect, for whatever that's worth. And you're _definitely_ right that the other 18-or-so members of the class are going to be more important than just one stud RB. For this team, landing Eric Mack or James Stone or whatever other big-time lineman we could get our hands on would be as big as the backs. From the blogging perspective, though, free info on guys like Seastrunk and Lattimore is much easier to come by than, say, what Mike Thornton was thinking.

Thanks for stopping by.

jrs, that's interesting you think Athens is "on the decline." Too bad--I've had a blast the few (i.e. two) times I've been there.

jrsuicide said...

its the hope scholarship's fault. with kids able to go to school for free in the state of georgia it's gonna way too hard to get into georgia and so the entire makeup of the town has changed a ton in the last decade...and noticably in the last 5.

UGA is turning into a school that only brainy nerds or rich kids from Marrietta whose parents give money to the University can get into...and with this much more narrow field to pick from the personailty of the town is changing a ton. you used to be able to go out any night of the week and there was always something going on...now it feels dead half the time.

the music scene here which has always been a huge part of the town is completely dying...there hasnt been a NEW band worth a damn formed since at least 2002 and the art community is a joke...and worse of all the kids don't party as much, theyre all too busy studying their asses off trying to keep Hope so they can drive a Range Rover. i dont know...it's like the town's personality has changed and now Athens is more like a boring Atlanta suburb than a cool college town. Austin and Chapell Hill kick it's ass so hard that its not even funny.

i mean i never thought in a million years that i'd ever say this...but Atlanta is officially cooler than Athens now.

i hate to admit it, but Athens is D.O.A.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Man, that's too bad.