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Signing Day Storylines: Auburn fighting for 5-star recruits, top 10 spot

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) celebrates with offensive lineman Shon Coleman (72) after scoring a touchdown against Memphis during the Birmingham Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. (Albert Cesare | AP Photo)
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) celebrates with offensive lineman Shon Coleman (72) after scoring a touchdown against Memphis during the Birmingham Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. (Albert Cesare | AP Photo)

Can Auburn finish with a top 10 recruiting class for a third straight year? Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have until Wednesday to make it happen.

The major recruiting services currently have the Tigers just outside the top 10 teams — 247 Sports has them ranked at 11, Scout at 13 and Rivals at 14.

All three services had Auburn in the top 10 in both 2014 and 2015.

Auburn is hosting a final group of official visitors this weekend before a dead period starts on Monday.

National signing day could be an even bigger celebration for the Tigers if they can shore up a couple more high profile recruits.

Lights, Camera, Action

The best news Auburn received this week was Nate Craig-Myers and his brother Jayvaughn Myers narrowing their list of finalists to Auburn and North Carolina.

Nate Craig-Myers is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver out of Tampa Catholic while his brother Jayvaughn is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound defensive back out of Pasco.

The brothers took an official visit to Auburn on Jan. 15.

Nate Craig-Myers had previously verbally committed to Auburn last year, but opened up his recruitment going into the summer. He’s a 4-star prospect ranked in the top 10 at his position by the major recruiting services.

The brothers out of Florida plan on announcing their final decision on national signing day with Nate’s decision airing on ESPNU at 11 a.m.

Auburn will be intently watching the network throughout the day as Ben Davis and Derrick Brown also plan on announcing their decisions on the network. Both 5-star defenders have Auburn listed as one of their finalists.

Davis, a linebacker out of Gordo High School, is an Alabama legacy. He plans on visiting Auburn this weekend and has Georgia rounding out his top three.

Brown has narrowed down his list to Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi State. The defensive tackle is visiting Knoxville this weekend. 

Auburn is also a contender for offensive lineman E.J. Price, defensive back Nigel Warrior and the No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary.

Hold on tight

Auburn has eight verbal commits with four days until national signing day.

There’s plenty of reasons for the Tigers’ coaching staff to be confident most of those commits will be faxing in their papers Wednesday, but a few players have left some wiggle room.

David Marshall, a defensive end out of Upson-Lee High School in Georgia, spent back-to-back weeks in Athens visiting with Kirby Smart.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound lineman followed his official visit to Auburn on Jan. 15 with an official visit to Georgia then returned for an unofficial one this weekend.

He plans to announce his decision at 2 p.m. on national signing day at Upson-Lee.

Fellow Auburn verbal commit Marlon Character has left the door slightly ajar as well.

Character took official visits in January to Auburn, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is a long shot, but Character’s relationships with the Gamecocks coaching staff led by former Tigers’ defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has pit the two schools against each other.

He had previously verbally committed to South Carolina before Steve Spurrier stepped down midway through the season.

The 6-foot-0, 170-pounder went to Grady High School committed since November.

Numbers game

How much room does Auburn’s coaching staff have for its 2016 Class? It’s a little unclear.

In the recent financial report submitted to the NCAA the football team was at the equivalent of 82.5 scholarships. The NCAA sets the limit for Division 1 football teams at 85.

Auburn had three players (Shon Coleman, Avery Young and Peyton Barber) declare early for the NFL draft, two players transfer (Will Adams, Jordan Colbert) and 10 scholarships open up through graduation.

The numbers add up to the equivalent of 17.5 scholarship. It’s unclear if that’s the official number, but it is something to work with.

Teams can sign up to 25 players per class, but the Tigers probably don’t have room to have that big of a class.

Punter Kevin Phillips announced he was put on scholarship for his senior year, so he counts against the number as do the nine players that signed early financial aid agreements last month.

Auburn has eight verbal commits, but TaShawn Manning will likely roll over to next year.

The defensive lineman was diagnosed with Leukemia at the end of November. Auburn’s coaches have guaranteed him a spot on the team, but he likely won’t be part of this year’s class as he recovers from the disease.

Without Manning, Auburn might have room for three or four additional names come national signing day if no one decommits.

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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