What you need to know about Auburn’s 2023 class
A new era is dawning at Auburn, and head coach Hugh Freeze is beginning to put his stamp on the program as Wednesday’s early signing day nears.
As with any new coach entering a program, Freeze has some catching up to do when it comes to recruitment. Heading into last weekend, Auburn was ranked No. 41 in the nation, just behind No. 38 Missouri, No. 39 Kentucky and No. 40 Vanderbilt, according to 247sports.com.
That landed the Tigers last in the SEC. Not a good spot, but Freeze will be working overtime to make up the deficit and he’s already started flipping a few recruits and hitting the transfer portal hard.
Here Auburn stands until Early Signing Day approaches.
Top Rated Player: 4-Star RB Jeremiah Cobb
The 5-11, 185-pound running back from Montgomery, Alabama, is ranked 7th nationally for his position and 14th among all Alabama state recruits. The fast back has good vision and quickness to get out of the to get out of duels.
With Auburn’s three-time lead rusher tank Bigsby declared for the NFL draft, Cobb has the door open to making an immediate impact, although rising junior Jarquez Hunter showed signs of being able to follow in Bigsby’s footsteps step. Hunter averaged 6.49 yards on 104 carries and posted 7 TDs last year.
However, Hunter has a 2-year career high of 13 carries in a game. So it will be interesting to see if Freeze doubles Hunter’s workload or allows another RB to share the load.
Did they strengthen the QB room? no
But maybe so – it remains to be seen how 3-star QB Keyone Jenkins fares. The Miami product was recruited from former interim head coach and current assistant head coach/RB coach Cadillac Williams.
The left-hander is a threat to run or throw. In his first 10 games as a senior, Jenkins threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for 4 more.
He could line up in a quarterback space that, barring new arrivals from the transfer portal, includes rising sophomores Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner. Aspiring senior TJ Finley is another possibility if he doesn’t enter the transfer portal himself.
Freeze could be looking at Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, who entered the transfer portal after three stellar seasons for the Sun Belt School. A two-time Sun Belt Conference player of the year, McCall threw for 8,019 yards and 78 TDs and rushed for 1,053 yards and 16 TDs in Coastal Carolina.
He has 2 years left to play.
Best Position Group: Offensive Line
The Tigers add 4 recruits to the squad. They include 4-star interior lineman Clay Wedin (6-6, 295) from Tampa, Fla. and native Bradyn Joiner (6-2, 330) and two 3-star interior lineman Connor Lew ( 6-3, 280) from Georgia, which Freeze flipped over from Miami, and tackle Tyler Johnson (6-6, 300) from Louisiana.
It’s the beginning of a foundation that Freeze hopes to quickly build and improve on as he takes the Tigers in a new direction.
Greatest need fulfilled: defensive line
Replacing sack leaders Derick Hall and Colby Wooden is a monumental task. But so far, Freeze and the Tigers bring in a trio of recruits to fill the gap.
A few 4-star players top the list, including Georgia’s Darron Reed (6-4, 270) and Florida’s Wilky Denaud (6-4, 245). Brenton Williams (6-4, 245), a 3-star advantage from Opelika, Alabama, could also help.
Biggest potential flip: 5-star DL James Smith
This 5-star Montgomery native has a verbal commitment to Alabama. At his position, Smith is ranked No. 2 in the country and is also ranked as the top recruit from the state of Alabama.
It would be a big step into a position of great adversity if Freeze could pull it off, but it’s a long road. Smith has received offers from 11 SEC schools.
Final insights into this course…
It will not be a top 10 class. But Freeze has to start somewhere, and with the transfer portal in-game, it may not have to be among the best recruiting classes in the nation. Not this year anyway, as Freeze is late to the party.
The recruiting class was split evenly across 3 states at the start of the weekend. Four recruits each were brought from Alabama, Georgia and Florida and one from Louisiana.
Freeze may not be done flipping recruits, and maybe he can get a squirt or two before it’s over. But look out for Auburn’s new head coach, who is hitting the transfer portal pretty hard after the ink has dried on all the letters of intent.