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Early enrollee strategy a central part of Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The Auburn coaching staff celebrates WR Nate Craig-Myers committing to Auburn on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Zach Bland | Auburn Athletics)
The Auburn coaching staff celebrates WR Nate Craig-Myers committing to Auburn on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Zach Bland | Auburn Athletics)

The foundation for Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class was set well before national signing day this season.

Malzahn secured nine early enrollees with seven of them coming from the high school ranks. Both numbers are the highest in coach Malzahn’s four years with the Tigers.

In Malzahn’s previous recruiting classes, the majority of Auburn’s early enrollees were junior college transfers. From 2013 to 2015, nine of Auburn’s 19 early enrollees came from junior college. It was the second highest percentage in the SEC during the three-year stretch.

Mississippi State had the highest percentage of junior college enrollees at 58 percent.

Auburn’s change in direction will help the first-year players get ready to make an impact early in their careers.

“Every player is different,” Malzahn said. “Each young man is different, but the early enrollees, it definitely helps you and that’s nine that we had, more than we’ve ever had. I think you see a trend around college football more and more (with guys that) want to come in, go through spring and compete to have a chance to play early.”

With the large numbers of early enrollees taking hold in the SEC, Auburn’s focus on getting freshman on campus at midyear will continue.

The conference set a new record last year with 82 players signing early financial aid agreements.

This year’s number is likely to fall short of the record, but with more than 75 early enrollees in the SEC for the third time in four years the recruiting tactic isn’t going anywhere. 

Malzahn said the large number of early enrollees took “a little stress off” in January when the coaching staff worked to complete its 2016 class.

“Anytime you’ve got nine guys out of the way and you can just focus on the rest, I think it definitely helps,” Malzahn said.

The coach spent much of national signing day on the phone laying the groundwork for the next round of early enrollees.

“We’ve been thinking about the juniors for a long period of time,” Malzahn said. “Every year it seems like it gets more, earlier and earlier. Our staff’s done a good job. Today was a really good day. Got me on the phone with close to 50 guys coming up, and that’s a great thing. I’m excited to recruit those guys and I know our coaches are, too.”

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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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