Grade Book: Grading the 2019 Auburn Football Recruiting Class
For all intents and purposes the 2019 recruiting cycle has come to an end, which means it’s time to give grades for Auburn’s 2019 recruiting class.
Quarterbacks Grade: A
When grading positions within a recruiting class, it’s important to look at what is on the returning roster. Sometimes it’s more important to get a lot of guys and worry about their quality later, and sometimes it’s better to focus on getting one real high-quality guy. In this case, Auburn needed one high-impact commit at quarterback and they got it in five-star signee Bo Nix. With three returning quarterbacks, and none of them being an obvious front-runner for the starting job, Auburn did well to focus on one high-end quarterback that has the potential to start right away rather than worry about depth.
Running Backs Grade: B
Auburn will enter the 2019 season with the vast majority of its production at running back returning. With its probable two main running backs JaTarvious Whitlow and Shaun Shivers being just sophomores heading into 2019, Auburn didn’t necessarily need to get an immediate impact player (although one could say a top-end guy would push Whitlow for the starting job). Instead, Auburn opted for some depth with two four-star running backs in DJ Williams and Mark-Anthony Richards, a top 100 player who Gus Malzahn compared to former Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. This should stand as sufficient, but not spectacular for this recruiting cycle.
Wide Receivers Grade: C-
Getting right to it, the loss of George Pickens on the February signing day kills this position grade. Pickens was a dynamic, highly-rated receiver capable of making an instant impact, and his loss turns the receiver class from very good to meh. Two lower-scale, four-star receivers are what remains for a team that will have to replace two high contributors in Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton. Jashawn Sheffield is the higher rated of the two newcomers and figures to be more of a balanced receiver, whereas Ja’Varrius Johnson will be a perfect candidate to be a speedy slot receiver once Will Hasting leaves after 2019.
Tight Ends Grade: B
It continues to be a mystery why Auburn continues to covet tight ends the way they do. Auburn at best has been inconsistent at using them under Gus Malzahn, so it’s fair to debate their value in Auburn’s offense provided that they’re not moved to H-back and become an important blocker in the run game. Nevertheless, Auburn got what they wanted with two three-star tight ends, both of which enrolled early. Between Luke Deal and Tyler Fromm, Fromm is more notable. Fromm is the brother of Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and the higher-rated tight end between the two. I don’t know if either will make a significant impact at Auburn because of the system, but for sake of the grade book, Auburn got what they wanted with the tight end portion of the recruiting class.
Offensive Line Grade: D-
Auburn missed the mark on their offensive lineman this cycle, plain and simple. It’s not that they needed an instant starter in 2019, but they did need a highly rated guy or two to be reliable backups because there is no depth to speak of now that Calvin Ashley has transferred from the program. Not to mention the crisis that could ensue in 2020 when every single starter (depending on whether Kaleb Kim wins the starting job at center) will be gone due to graduation. Normally three guys signed in one class would be OK, but not when looking down the road to 2020. Auburn might need to sign five or six guys of quality in the 2020 class to limit the damage done from missing in 2019. This year’s class is all guards, which is another bad thing, and two of them are three star guys that will need to be developed if they are going to be important to Auburn going forward. The lone bright spot is four-star Keiondre Jones who is an absolute moose. Jones is 6-4, 341 pounds and is rated as the No. 8 guard in the country. It will likely be up to him if this offensive line class is going to have any teeth to it.
Defensive Line Grade: B +
Auburn did a solid job with their defensive line. They check the box in the depth department with four signings, and they check the box in the quality department with all four guys being four-star recruits, two of which are top 100 recruits in Jaren Handy and Charles Moore. Derrick Hall is also decorated as a top 10 guy at his position, and Colby Wooden could be versatile and play some linebacker as well. The only downfall of this position group is there is no obvious defensive tackle. All four guys are listed as defensive ends and unless someone like Jaren Handy adds about 30 pounds, there won’t be a defensive tackle in this class. That, however, shouldn’t detract severely from a very solid 2019 defensive line class.
Linebackers Grade: B +
Once again, Auburn did a good job with depth, which they had to after their three starting linebackers all graduated after the 2018 season. Even if two of the guys, Octavius Brothers and Kameron Brown, need time to develop, they at least secured commitments and have a coach in Travis Williams who seems to be excellent in developing linebackers. Owen Pappoe, on the other hand, is a different animal. Pappoe is a five-star outside linebacker who is ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country according to 247Sports. Pappoe figures to be a factor from Day 1, which Auburn needed from at least one guy in this linebacker class.
Defensive Backs Grade: A-
As has been the theme defensively, Auburn can feel comfortable with the depth they acquired, signing four in the secondary with three projected corners and one safety. Auburn already has a lot returning in the secondary, so their main concern was to get quality depth for the future and they did that with four-star safety Zion Puckett, and four-star corners Cam’Ron Kelly and Jaylin Simpson. The DBs don’t get a slightly higher grade because there isn’t one guy that would be considered an elite recruit, but the class didn’t need anyone of star status to come in and play right away.
Auburn’s Final Grade: B
Auburn did a quality job defensively in getting depth at pretty much every position and landing a couple of real difference makers in the front seven. The problems arise on the offensive end, particularly at wide receiver and offensive line. The receivers are forgivable, as they still have a lot of young guys in the fold for next year. Although not holding on to George Pickens hurts, they didn’t necessarily need a freshman to contribute big in 2019 or maybe even 2020. However, the offensive line class was brutal with no depth and only one semi-ready-to-play player. And with a projected barren offensive line in 2020, the lack of quality and quantity this year will aide in what could be a disaster of an offensive line in 2020. But, as always, rankings and projections aren’t everything. It will take quality coaching and great work ethics to get the expected results out of an overall solid recruiting class.