"Overall, we are very excited about this class," Malzahn said. "We did fill our needs. We got guys that could help us immediately and also help us with depth."
With the majority of Auburn's championship squad returning this season the latest signing class should provide an additional boost for another championship run. Entering the 2014 season Auburn is one of only eight teams in the nation with five consecutive recruiting classes ranked in the Top 20. Auburn's average national ranking in recruiting the last five years is 7.8.
Average recruit rankings 2010-2014:
Alabama ............. 3.4
LSU .................... 6.8
Ohio State ........... 7.0
Auburn ................ 7.8
Florida State ........ 8.0
Notre Dame ........ 11.0
Oklahoma ........... 11.0
Southern Cal ...... 11.2
Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Oregon, Texas and UCLA each have four Top 20 finishes in recruiting over the past five years. Though talent doesn't always translate to winning championships recent history has shown it has been a vital part of the previous BCS National Champions. The average recruit ranking of the BCS National Champion from 2006-2013 was No. 8 during the five classes leading up to the championship season. The losing team in the BCS National Championship had an average ranking of No. 12.
During the five-year period from 2009-2013 there were seven teams to have five consecutive Top 20 finishes in recruiting, which also included the Auburn Tigers. Those seven teams compiled a record of 80-15 this past season, winning 84 percent of their games. It should be noted the 2010 Tigers were also one of only seven teams that had five consecutive Top 20 finishes in recruiting leading up to the 2010 season. Those seven teams combined for a winning percentage of 75 percent during the 2010 season.
Teams like Baylor and Michigan State proved more is needed than a roster full of talent during the past season. Both teams won their conference championships without possessing high national rankings in recruitment.
Michigan State's 2013 squad consisted of an average ranking of 35.4 during the five seasons leading up to 2013. Baylor won the Big 12 with an average ranking of 40.2. Coaching and player development was essential for both teams making their championship runs. During the 2012 season Auburn had five consecutive classes of Top 20 finishes in recruiting with an average recruit class of No. 10. Despite having five consecutive classes consisting of 42 percent 4-star and 5-star players, the Tigers collapsed to a 3-9 record that year.
Attrition, coaching issues and subpar player development resulted in a dismal season. Plug in an entirely new coaching staff under Malzahn, Auburn made a major one-year transformation to 12-2 the following season. It was a prime example of a coaching staff obtaining the most of their existing talent.
This is great news for a 2014 squad that will possess five recruiting classes that assembled 51.2 percent 4-star and 5-star players. On paper the 2014 team should possess more talent and depth than the 2013 version that won the Southeastern Conference and played for a BCS National Championship.
There were six teams this past season that possessed high rankings in recruiting yet delivered seasons with four or more losses. Texas had an averaged recruit ranking of 7.4 nationally during the five classes leading up to the 2013 season, yet won only eight of 13 games. Here is a look at those six teams:
Texas (8-5), 7.4 ranking, 68.2 percent 4-5 star players
Georgia (8-5), 10.4 ranking, 53.0 percent 4-5 star players
Southern Cal (10-4), 11.0 ranking, 71.6 percent 4-5 star players
Florida (4-8), 12.0 ranking, 59.3 percent 4-5 star players
Michigan (7-6), 12.2 ranking, 46.7 percent 4-5 star players
Tennessee (5-7), 19.0 ranking, 33.1 percent 4-5 star players
Two of the above teams made head coaching changes while the others made staff changes in hopes of obtaining more from their personnel.
Auburn has recruited fairly consistently from 2002-2014, but its winning percentage has traveled through peaks and valleys. The Tigers went 8-5 during 2003, spiking at 13-0 the following season. After going 11-2 during 2006 Auburn dropped to 5-7 two seasons later. After going undefeated again and winning the BCS National Championship in 2010, Auburn fell to 3-9 two seasons later.
Under Tommy Tuberville, Auburn had six Top 25 finishes in recruiting during the last seven seasons of the Tuberville Era. A high attrition rate, player evaluation mistakes and conservative approach to offense was part of the reason for his team's inconsistency.
Under Gene Chizik recruit rankings drastically improved but after a strong start the Tigers had a major decline resulting in another coaching change after the 2012 season. During the seven-year period from 2004-2010 Auburn excelled during seasons with a high number of veteran players. There were four seasons during that time period when Auburn had more than 20 players with at least 20 games of experience each on their roster. Those four teams compiled a record of 47-5, but struggled during seasons with less experience. Auburn entered the 2013 season with more than 25 players with at least 20 games of experience, resulting in another banner season.
Five-star running back recruit "Roc" Thomas will join the Auburn team for the 2014 season.
For Auburn the challenge is to become a program capable challenging for championships every season. This is a primary reason why Malzahn has placed a high premium on conditioning and player development. It's all part of his plan to build a championship program rather than just a championship team. From 2000-2013 seasons 42 different teams at the FBS level have posted back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins. The last time Auburn accomplished this feat was 1988 and 1989. With Auburn returning the majority of its depth from the 2013 team, the 2014 Auburn Tigers have a great opportunity to reach this goal again.
The 2014 signing class has a great opportunity to make an immediate impact. Auburn signed junior college players to fill immediate needs. There is a good chance half of this class could see playing time this upcoming season. Surveying Auburn's last 10 rosters the 2014 roster will be the Tigers most talented. It will consist of the highest number of 4-star and 5-star players (51.8 percent) with the highest overall recruit average (3.55). In terms of experience, it will also include the highest number of players with at least 30 games of experience (15).