AUBURN, Ala. -- As the recruiting season reminds us every year, nothing is official until the letter of intent comes across the fax machine.
Less than 24 hours after highly-coveted Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cornerback Marcus Roberson announced he had committed to Auburn, news broke from three recruiting websites that the Tigers would not be accepting that commitment, a strange turn of events on the eve of today’s national signing day.
No reason was given for the change of plans -- NCAA rules prevent coaches from commenting publicly on unsigned recruits -- which knocks the Tigers down to 22 commitments heading into the final hours of the 2011 recruiting season.
Still, the Tigers have finished with a flurry, adding five commitments (six before the Roberson switch) since winning the school’s first BCS national championship earlier this month.
Auburn’s class is currently ranked third by Scout, sixth by Rivals and eighth by ESPN, although whether or not coach Gene Chizik secures his second straight consensus top-five recruiting class will depend a lot on today’s events..
The Tigers are in the running for a number of highly-coveted recruits who will make their final decisions today.
Valley, Ala., safety Erique Florence will be the first to announce, choosing between Auburn or Southern California at 9 a.m. The 6-foot-2, 181-pound Florence, who is Rivals’ No. 3 safety and the No. 2 recruit in Alabama, has been high on Auburn for awhile, although the Trojans have made a late push. He visited USC on Jan. 14.
It’s only the start. Cyrus Kouandjio, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country out of Hyattsville, Md., will choose between Alabama and Auburn at noon, an announcement that was pushed back because of weather concerns.
The 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio has long been considered to be leaning toward Alabama, where his older brother, Arie, recently finished his redshirt freshman year. But he took his last official visit last weekend to Auburn, which has an immediate need for offensive linemen, having lost four starters to graduation.
“It’s a gut feeling for me,” he told Rivals after his trip to the Plains, giving no indication of a frontrunner. “It’s all about the gut feeling.”
Gabe Wright, a star defensive tackle for Carver in Columbus, will choose between Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee at 1:30 p.m.. ESPN ranks the 6-foot-3, 285-pound Wright as the No. 3 defensive tackle.
Although he made trips to Tennessee, Clemson and Alabama in early January, he finished with a trip to Auburn last weekend.
“I put Auburn last for a reason,” he told Rivals. “I was always told to put my favorite school last so you can get the best feeling last.”
While Florence, Kouandjio and Wright have designated times when they’ll announce their decisions, Auburn will still wait anxiously for word from two other targets -- linebacker Brent Calloway and cornerback Jermaine Whitehead.
Calloway, who flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn at the U.S. Army All-American game in January, used the last weekend of recruiting season to make an official visit to Tuscaloosa, prompting panic among Tigers fans who think he’ll switch back.