Scoffed at for its limousine tour of the state and penalized for secondary violations committed during the overzealous “Big Cat Weekend” last spring, Auburn got the last laugh on national signing day Wednesday, securing a consensus top-five recruiting class.
The Tigers got high marks from all three major scouting services, ranked fourth nationally by Rivals, fourth by ESPN and fifth by Scout in what was head coach Gene Chizik’s first full recruiting class.
“This is a great day for the Auburn family,” Chizik said. “I want the people to be excited, but I want people to also understand that this is the first building block on the foundation that is going to take us some time to build this, not only the right way, but to get it where we need to be.”
Auburn signed 27 players to national letters of intent Wednesday, adding to the five January enrollees it could count against last year’s class.
The Tigers went head-to-head with a number of home-state schools to pry away players, getting the No. 1 recruit from Arkansas (five-star running back Michael Dyer), Louisiana (four-star wide receiver Trovon Reed) and Mississippi (five-star offensive lineman Shon Coleman).
Unlike past signing days, there was little drama left for Wednesday. Chizik said Coleman, who received a late push from Alabama, was solid to Auburn throughout the process. He said the same for Reed, who he called “a rock through this whole campaign.”
The only moment of anxiety came during defensive end Corey Lemonier’s announcement. The Tigers missed out in the morning on Junction City, Ark., Byran Jones, who picked the in-state Razorbacks.
Lemonier, a Hialeah, Fla., native, was down to Florida State and Auburn. He chose the Tigers live on ESPNU around noon, setting off a round of cheers in the coaches’ hallway from a group that had gathered to watch Lemonier’s decision on TV.
Overall, Auburn addressed its major needs, particularly from a numbers standpoint. Including the five January enrollees, the Tigers added seven offensive linemen, six defensive linemen and four linebackers. They signed nine players ranked in the top 10 by Rivals at their respective positions and had eight players in Rivals’ top 250.
The class was headlined by Dyer, a 5-foot-8, 201-pound spark plug expected to carry on Auburn’s legacy at running back. ESPN ranked him as the No. 1 back in the country.
Dyer’s signing made up for the Tigers missing out on five-star Duncan, S.C., running back Marcus Lattimore, who chose South Carolina over Auburn on Tuesday night. That was old news by Wednesday as far as Chizik was concerned.
“I signed 32 guys today, and I’ll talk to you all day about all 32 of them,” said Chizik, who wished Lattimore luck. “We don’t talk about the ones we didn’t get.”