War Eagle Extra

Signing day storylines: Auburn has plenty of spots to fill, high-profile additions a long shot

Auburn verbal commits — from left to right T.D. Moultry, Noah Igbinoghene, Kenney Britt, Jordyn Peters and Malcolm Askew — play in the Alabama-Mississippi 30th Annual All-Star Game at Cramton Bowl Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.
Auburn verbal commits — from left to right T.D. Moultry, Noah Igbinoghene, Kenney Britt, Jordyn Peters and Malcolm Askew — play in the Alabama-Mississippi 30th Annual All-Star Game at Cramton Bowl Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Jarrett Stidham brought star power to Auburn’s 2017 signing class

The Baylor transfer provides an immediate shot in the arm to a program struggling with depth at the quarterback position.

While Stidham fills one of the program’s most urgent needs, he takes up only one of 25 available scholarship slots.

Auburn heads into national signing day with 20 verbal commits, seven players who enrolled early including Stidham and at least five opens slots to fill.

Star power

Auburn landed a number of high profile commits on national signing day last year.

Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff celebrated throughout the day with wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers, defensive back Jayvaughn Myers, offensive lineman Prince Sammons and defensive tackle Derrick Brown all committing to the Tigers.

Brown’s decision to pick Auburn over Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi State came late in the day. The lineman out of Lanier High School was the final 5-star prospect to announce his decision.

"For the next three to four years it’s going to be great to watch Auburn football," Brown said of joining fellow high-profile defensive line commits Marlon Davidson and Antwuan Jackson.

Auburn isn’t a known finalist for as many high profile names going into this year’s signing day, but two names to watch are Crisp County defensive lineman Markaviest Bryant and Lanier linebacker Tyler Taylor.

Both four-star prospects made official visits to Auburn in January on separate weekends.

Taylor, a former teammate of Brown, has narrowed down his decision to Auburn, LSU and Oklahoma while Bryant has Auburn in his top three alongside Georgia and LSU.

According to Taylor’s Twitter account, he will announce his decision Wednesday morning (8:45 a.m.) on Fox 5 with Good Day Atlanta from the College Football Hall of Fame.

Bryant has yet to detail his specific plans for national signing day.

February surprise?

National signing day always bring with it a potential for major surprises.

Brown is a recent example that falls in the win column for Auburn, but signing day can easily leave fan bases disappointed when a young student-athlete has a late change of heart.

One such case for Auburn is local standout Rashaan Evans. The five-star linebacker stunned fans spurning the Tigers’ for Alabama on national signing day in 2014.

Auburn verbal commit T.D. Moultry is convinced any unexpected news this year will be in the program’s favor.

“Signing day in a few days. Waiting on commits and signees that NOBODY expected,” Moultry tweeted last week.

One name to pop up back on Auburn’s radar is Central linebacker Markail Benton. He raised eyebrows with a recent official visit on the Plains followed up by an intriguing posted on social media.

“Business decision time,” Benton tweeted Monday.

Auburn was a one-time favorite to land the talented defender.

“I’m going to be honest, I would have bet a month and a half, two months ago it was going to be Auburn,” Central coach Jamey DuBose said after Benton announced his decision.

Benton took a few subtle digs at his soon-to-be rival when he verbally committed to Alabama over Auburn and Florida State in June.

“I mean Alabama wins championships, they win games,” Benton said.

The 4-star linebacker is still expected to sign with Alabama, but Auburn would love to land a player of Benton’s caliber.

Benton wouldn’t be the first Central player to land at a surprise destination on signing day.

Former Central quarterback Jonathan Wallace was about to walk into the Red Devils’ auditorium to sign with Central Florida in 2012 when Auburn called with a surprise scholarship offer.

Auburn coaches might shock a student-athlete or two Wednesday with similar late offers looking to fill out the team’s 2017 class.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

  Comments