Auburn expects to sign a nice haul of recruits today on national signing day, but it’s a group that will not include five-star running back Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore, a Byrnes High product from Duncan, S.C., chose to stay close to home, announcing, at a ceremony at his church in Spartanburg, S.C., Tuesday night, that he will sign with in-state South Carolina instead of Auburn.
The ceremony, which was streamed live on the Internet, had a strange twist.
Former Auburn running back Stephen Davis, a Spartanburg High product and mentor to Lattimore, gave the recruit a bag just before he announced his decision. Lattimore took out an Auburn hat, but underneath it was a South Carolina one. He put that one on as the crowd in the church roared with approval.
“That was the best fit for me,” Lattimore said. “That’s where my heart is.”
The 6-foot, 210-pound Byrnes High standout is ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 running back and the 10th overall recruit nationally. South Carolina’s “Mr. Football” ran for 1,898 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.
“I feel like I just lost 50 pounds, I swear,” he said after making his announcement.
Lattimore, the only running back in the Gamecocks’ recruiting class, narrowed a list of 30 offers down to South Carolina and Auburn. He was leaning toward signing with the Tigers at one point.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik and a few assistants made one final push for Lattimore late last week, paying the recruit an in-home visit. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier did the same before Lattimore made his decision Saturday night.
“He did the Cha-Cha Slide with my mama,” Lattimore said of Spurrier, drawing cheers and laughs from those in attendance. Even without Lattimore, Auburn is poised to land a top-five recruiting class in Chizik’s first full year as coach.
The Tigers have a class headlined with offensive stars, including five-star Little Rock, Ark., running back Michael Dyer, ESPN’s No. 1 overall back, four-star Thibodaux, La., wide receiver Trovon Reed and five-star quarterback Cameron Newton, the No. 1 junior college transfer in the country, who is one of five recruits already enrolled in school.
Rivals had Auburn’s class ranked third nationally as of Tuesday night, trailing Florida and Texas and narrowly ahead of Alabama. That could change today, however. Five-star offensive lineman Shon Coleman (Olive Branch, Miss.), an Auburn commit since April who three weeks ago said he is “100 percent” coming to the Plains, has been rumored to be headed elsewhere.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound recruit has made several visits in the past few weeks, including trips last week to Alabama and Miami. He also visited Arkansas.
One recruit not signing with Auburn is Lincoln, Ala., athlete D.J. Howard. The three-star prospect, who committed to the Tigers in July, told Palmetto Sports Tuesday that Auburn was no longer an option. Howard, who wants to play running back, will choose today between Clemson and Kentucky, two schools he visited recently.
Auburn remains in the mix for two four-star recruits who plan to announce their intentions today: defensive tackle Byran Jones (Junction City, Ark.) and defensive end Corey Lemonier (Hialeah, Fla.).
Jones is down to Arkansas and Auburn, Lemonier to Florida State and Auburn.