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Auburn narrows down its Class of 2016 recruiting needs with signing day approaching

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn watches his team practice for the Birmingham Bowl at Hoover High School’s football stadium Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (Michael Niziolek | mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com)
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn watches his team practice for the Birmingham Bowl at Hoover High School’s football stadium Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (Michael Niziolek | mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com)

Football coaches have a chance to make their final pitch to recruits when the NCAA dead period ends at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

During the contact period that lasts through the end of January, the NCAA allows coaches to have face-to-face contact with college-bound athletes or their parents, watch athletes compete, visit their high schools and have unlimited contact over the phone.

Athletes can also visit schools to meet with coaching staffs.

The three-week stretch is a flurry of activity for coaching staffs looking to shore up their Class of 2016 before signing day on Feb. 3.

Auburn is in a good position with nine members of its upcoming class signing early financial aid agreements and enrolling.

The list of early enrollees includes defensive lineman Marlon Davison, wide receiver Kyle Davis, defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson, tight end Landon Rice, defensive back John Broussard, defensive lineman Paul James, quarterback John Franklin, running back Malik Miller and linebacker Tre Threat.

Going into the contact period this month, Auburn also has seven other verbal commits. If the number holds that would give the Tigers 16 signees for a class that’s likely to be close to 25 players.

What areas will Auburn focus on this month? Let’s take a look…

Lending a helping Hand…

New Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand will be looking for some help up front this month. Spalding’s Brodarious Hamm is currently the only offensive lineman verbally committed from the Class of 2016.

The Tigers have already lost four offensive lineman and could lose a fifth depending on what Avery Young decides to do about the NFL draft. Xavier Dampeer and Devonte Danzey graduated, Shon Coleman already announced he is leaving for the NFL and Will Adams is transferring to Boise State.

Auburn might not sign as many offensive linemen as it did in 2015 (five), but it has targeted a number highly rated prospects — Willie Allen out of Louisiana, Landon Dickerson out of North Carolina — to help replenish its depth at the position.

Threatening for playing time

Spanish Fort linebacker Tre Threat is going to have an open road to playing time if Auburn doesn’t get a few more commits at linebacker.

The majority of snaps at the position in 2015 went to seniors Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost and Justin Garrett.

Auburn has very little experience coming back at the position outside of Tre Williams, JaViere Mitchell and Jeff Holland. Two of the five linebackers signed in 2015 were converted to other positions.

The top linebacker in the country Ben Davis has Auburn in his top five, but the Tigers are behind Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Notre Dame. Davis’ father Wayne Davis is Alabama’s all-time tackling leader.

Davis plans on visiting Auburn on Jan. 22.

Catching on

Auburn has already landed two talented wide receivers in Kyle Davis and Eli Stove, but the Tigers might not be done.

The lack of production at the position in 2015 has Auburn looking to hit a home run with a continued effort to bring in a third top receiver from the class.

One name at the top of its wish list is Tampa Catholic’s Nate Craig-Myers. The receiver has official visits schedule to Auburn and Ole Miss this month. He previously committed to the school as a junior before reopening his recruiting process.

Myers, who has offers from more than 45 schools, is ranked as the top receiver in the country by Rivals and Scout.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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