After a big recruiting weekend, who's in — and who might be next — for Auburn?
In the last few days, the Tigers have added four FBS transfers and two more HS DBs to a rising 2023 class. And they ain't done yet.
This past weekend was a crucial one for the future of Auburn football in a number of ways.
First, the bulk of the Tigers’ early enrollees moved in on Sunday. Auburn has 13 newcomers currently on campus, with classes starting back Wednesday. More transfers could join, but they’ll have to hurry — next Wednesday, Jan. 18, is the last day any students can add classes.
That made the last few days really hectic when it came to recruiting the transfer portal. Auburn hosted a large number of visitors in the penultimate weekend before the transfer window slams shut. If you want to transfer and be in place for spring practices, you’ve got to make a decision soon.
In the last four days, Auburn picked up commitments from four FBS transfers and added two more high schoolers to a massive 2023 defensive back class.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, as evidenced by the number of targets who have made visits to the Plains and will be deciding within the next week.
But new head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff have addressed several major priorities in a short amount of time, taking Auburn from the cellar of the SEC in recruiting to a roster that will be closer to what is expected from the program year in and year out.
When Auburn fired Bryan Harsin on Halloween, the Tigers only had 11 commitments for the 2023 class. They ranked No. 49 nationally and No. 12 in the SEC at the time, per the 247Sports Composite.
Auburn didn’t keep all of its commitments through the coaching change, but more than half of them stayed onboard. And, since Harsin’s firing, Auburn has landed 14 high school and JUCO commitments — including three of its top four highest-rated players in the class — with seven more FBS transfers joining the program.
To show just how sudden and dramatic of a turnaround that is, Auburn currently sits inside the top 20 in the FBS and No. 8 in the SEC in 2023 recruiting, just two months and a week after Harsin’s firing. Throw transfers in, and Auburn is on the doorstep of getting into the top half of the conference in the combined recruit and transfer class rankings.
The 247Sports Class Calculator gives the 21 players who have joined Auburn under Cadillac Williams and Freeze’s short tenures a composite score of 238.24. Harsin’s 2022 class was only at 240.78, and the 2021 class finished even lower than that. And, again, that score isn’t counting the likes of Harsin era commitments such as Jeremiah Cobb, Wilky Denaud and Clay Wedin.
In other words: Auburn’s interim and now-permanent staffs have done better in recruiting over the last two months than the previous regime did in two years.
After such a successful weekend on the trail for the Tigers, let’s take a closer look at the six newest pickups and break down what specific position groups could still be in the crosshairs as the transfer window comes to a close.
Western Kentucky OT Gunner Britton
On Thursday, Auburn got things rolling by landing a big-time commitment from Britton, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive tackle originally from Conway, S.C. Britton visited the Plains earlier in the week and wasted no time in making his decision.
Britton was an All-Conference USA selection this season after helping protect for one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the Group of Five. As friend of the newsletter Nathan King points out, Britton was elite at keeping his quarterback clean:
Britton hasn’t played power-conference football yet, and he was a 2-star recruit coming out of high school. Some fans might raise their eyebrows at that. But keep in mind that the offensive line is a) the toughest position group to evaluate, b) the one that takes the longest time to develop, c) the one that has a low percentage of Power 5 transfers and d) the one that features the most small-school stars making an impact at the next level.
Case in point: the AFC Pro Bowl roster this season has two offensive line starters who played at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Nevada. Three first-round offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft played at Northern Iowa, Chattanooga and Tulsa. There’s value to be found at the smaller programs up front, and Auburn has its own Tulsa transfer to pair with Britton in Dillon Wade.
Considering that Auburn had next to no experience coming back at offensive tackle for the 2023 season, landing Britton is huge. He and Wade were ranked in the top five offensive tackles for this portal class, and they’ll get to battle right away with the likes of JUCO transfer Izavion Miller and former 4-star Colby Smith on the edges. This was a big victory for a program that needed instant-impact talent in the trenches.
LSU LB DeMario Tolan
Let’s jump ahead to a big win from later in the weekend, and it was one that came out of nowhere. On Sunday morning, Auburn announced that it had signed Tolan, although the only signal that he had made a move was a teasing tweet from new linebackers coach Josh Aldridge on Saturday night.