Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Krootin': woe-line edition

It's a good thing Chad Slade is so freaking big, because he may have a lot of weight to carry on those shoulders.

This is a perfect time to panic. Just so we know where we stand, here is a comprehensive list of scholarship Auburn linemen with eligibility remaining beyond the 2010 season:

1. Jared Cooper
2. A.J. Greene
3. Andre Harris
4. Aubrey Phillips
5. Vance Smith
6. John Sullen

Bear in mind that that list includes two converted tight ends, two true freshmen, and just one player who received a grade better than 5.6 (i.e. "middle-of-the-road three-star") from Rivals. However, that player--Phillips--may of course never play football again.

So unless Auburn signs a player or two in 2011 capable of starting as a true freshman--anyone want to take odds on that?--the entire 2011 starting lineup will be comprised of the players listed above and whoever Auburn will sign this February. With the high school season about to kick off and the bulk of the recruiting for 2010 behind us, here is a comprehensive list of Auburn's current offensive line commitments:

1. Shon Coleman
2. Chad Slade

Bear in mind that Coleman has planned on taking visits to other schools and has been listed as a "soft verbal" since essentially the day he was signed; Auburn will have to work to keep him. Meaning that Slade--currently unranked by any service and with a second-best offer of Miss. St.--is the only lineman our staff can be said to have truly "wrapped up" by this point.

This is why it was a serious blow to read the following news:
Chase Hughes has named a new leader: Ole Miss. He says after a visit they slightly lead.
Under normal circumstances, missing out on a three-star, top-25 in-state, top-20ish center/guard wouldn't be a big deal. But as you can see above: these are not normal circumstances. When you've gotten three new linemen (counting Phillips) on to campus in two years, every body you can add to the mix is crucial, every opportunity to give Grimes another shot at developing a starting-quality player is one that has to be taken advantage of.

So I don't understand why the very next thing Beaver writes in the above post is:
The guys at Rivals seem to think Auburn has a shot at getting one of Kyle Prater's official visits even though he has cut Auburn from his top choices. Trooper Taylor is quietly working hard on Prater.
Yes, I'm sure he's an unbelievable prospect and all, but that's not going to stop me from making the following statement: I don't give the first crap about getting one of Kyle Prater's visits. He's not signing with Auburn. He's just not. Maybe Taylor--who's listed as Hughes's recruiter--is making every possible effort to reel Hughes in and the energy he's spending on Prater isn't detracting from Auburn's chances with Hughes. But if it is ... well, I'll just say that if you ask me whether I want Taylor trying to sew up a solid in-state lineman or chasing after the nation's No. 1 wide receiver from a thousand miles away, I take option A a thousand times over.

If this was the only instance of the current staff seeming questionably ambivalent about our offensive line recruiting, I'd let it pass. But it's not. Last spring, you'll recall, Tampa lineman Hunter Stout (who Grimes knew from Colorado) took a late visit to Auburn. He wasn't a stud by any stretch of the imagination, but he would have been something. The staff passed. He signed with Louisville. 2010 JUCO lineman John Cullen has had Auburn listed as one of his favorites for a while, but after the Phillips transfer, apparently Auburn backed off. Say whaaaa? Back to 2011: would we really rather have, say, redshirt sophomores Harris or Sullen starting with a true freshman backup over a senior Cullen starting with Harris/Sullen as backup? Really?

This is the point where--I can hear the chorus now--I'm reminded that I don't know what's really going on with recruiting, that our coaches have a plan, that they've forgotten more about this business than me, my children, and my grandchildren will ever learn, etc. And all that may be true.

But what's also true is that it's going to be awfully hard to put together a good offensive line from a collection of one or two solid players, five or six run-of-the-mill prospects, and bewildered true freshmen. But that's exactly what Auburn's looking at two years down the road if things don't change on the recruiting front, soon.

(For you rankings skeptics out there: remember 2007? Ziemba, Ramsey, and Pugh were all four-stars. Cooper? A low three-star. It wouldn't surprise me for the likes of Harris or Smith or Sullen to dramatically outperform their guru ranking, but expecting them all to--as Auburn will need them to unless something phenomenal happens--is delusional.)

A few other odds and ends ...

Goodwin. I was on my little sojourn when Antonio Goodwin committed, and so I didn't get to really make as big a deal out of it as it might have been, given that Goodwin is the first consensus four-star in the class and had the folks at ESPN--who invited him to their All-American game and rate him the No. 23 prospect in the country, period--say this about him:
ESPN's Billy Tucker added, "This was huge pickup for Auburn and in our opinion the most significant commitment under Chizik thus far. The Tigers are adding an explosive receiver and excellent overall athlete to their future roster."

"We feel Goodwin will challenge for the top receiver spot out of the state Georgia upon the release of our ESPNU 150 and will give Auburn an immediate vertical threat when he arrives in the Plains. Aside from his great vertical speed and elusiveness after the catch, this is a kid with the body length, leaping ability and strong hands to create matchup problems as a downfield pass catcher. Needs a bit of polish but Auburn is getting a much-needed playmaker in our opinion and a receiver with a very high ceiling for development."
Between Goodwin, Blake, Benton (if he sticks around), Jeremy Richardson, and the various slicky tricksters in the slot--not to mention Lutzenkirchen--it looks from here like Auburn should see its receiving go from being the weakest unit on the team to one of its strongest in the space of a year or two.

Super Senior fluff GO. Jawara White and Kenneth Carter both get the B'ham News Super Senior profile treatment. Interesting stuff on both, although reading that Carter would be willing to look around is a little bit disappointing. (I do think he'll have to have a hell of a year to draw any stronger offers, though.)


J.M. said...

Don't panic.

Loganville Tiger said...

I'm with you on this one for the future of the O line. I was looking at the coaches and who they were pursuing. I was astonished to see the lack of O linemen on the list of possible prospects. And out of the few that were on there, many had already committed - to other schools. Highly ranked skill players look good on the list - that goes without saying - but somebody has to block for'em.

At this point in time, the future of the O line is a big concern of mine.


josh said...

Wow! That felt bleak. In this economy I can only afford the bullet. Can somebody lend me a gun?