It's hard to have a better week than Auburn had on the recruiting front last week when Coach Gus Malzahn's program got a commitment from five-star running back Jovon Robinson. A powerful runner who has all the tools to be an instant impact performer in the fall of 2015, Robinson teams with Kerryon Johnson to give the Tigers a great one-two punch in the 2015 class.
With an offensive system that is run-first, Auburn needed to add to the running back group with Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant both gone after this season. That left just Peyton Barber and 2014 signees Racean Thomas and Kamryn Pettway for 2015 so creating more competition was imperative for Tim Horton at the position moving forward. The competition level has been kicked up big-time with Robinson and Johnson coming onboard.
Now all that is left for the running back class is to find the replacement for Jay Prosch for the Tigers. They could be closer to getting that done following the recent visit from four-star fullback Chandler Cox. A player who would be the perfect fit in Auburn's offense because of his ability to block between the tackles, Cox also has the skills to be a solid receiver out of the backfield and he knows how to run the football, too.
What makes getting Cox or another fullback-type in this class even more important is the once-again loss of Ricky Parks from the team. Given a second-chance in the spring, Parks won't be with the Tigers when they take the field this fall. Also not on the roster is redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Shane Callahan. After not being able to work into the playing rotation he has decided to transfer and see playing time elsewhere.
There is no question that Auburn softball coach Clint Myers put together one of the best first-year runs of any coach in school history. Taking over a program that has had very little success, Myers led the Tigers to within inches of advancing to a Super Regional. Getting a team to play to its maximum potential time and time again, Myers has put Auburn on the softball map in his short time on the Plains.
With just three seniors on a team that finished 42-19-1 and every starter returning, Auburn should be one of the teams to beat in the SEC next season. Offensive stalwarts Kasey Cooper, Emily Carosone, Branndi Melero and Morgan Estell along with power hitters Jade Rhodes and McKenzie Kilpatrick could form Auburn's version of Murderer's Row in 2015.
Work To Do
The first season under Coach Sunny Golloway didn't turn out like he or his team expected with a 28-28 record and no SEC Tournament berth. All that is left now is to get back to work in the fall and turn things around in year two.
Despite the loss of seniors such as Blake Austin, Dan Glevenyak, Ryan Tella and Damek Tomscha in the field and pitchers Dillon Ortman, Michael O'Neal, Terrance Dedrick, Reid Carter and Jay Wade on the mound, the Tigers have some quality players returning to build around in 2015.
Leading the way is draft-eligible sophomore Jordan Ebert. Auburn's leading hitter by a wide margin with a .353 average, the left fielder developed into a strong defensive outfielder in addition to his prowess at the plate. Along with Ebert, freshman Anfernee Grier (.255) showed glimpses of some very good potential this season as Auburn's everyday right fielder.
Anfernee Grier had one of the three home runs hit this season by players expected back for the Tigers.
Turning in a solid season at shortstop, Damon Haecker (.259) is a gritty player that should be a good fit near the top of the lineup the next two years for the Tigers and as he gets stronger his offense and defense will only improve. Used mostly as a designated hitter, Daniel Robert (.281) was Auburn's top freshman hitter and will be a power threat in the future. Throw in freshman infielder Brett Binning and outfielder J.J. Shaffer and the Tigers have a nucleus to build around. If Golloway and his staff can add some power to the lineup they have a chance to be a more productive offense down the road.
On the mound Auburn will have freshman ace Keegan Thompson back and he also showed the ability to be a very good first baseman as well. Breaking his foot late in the year, Thompson was 5-3 on the season, but had a very impressive ERA of just 2.01. With a horde of draft eligible pitchers, including Justin Camp, Trey Cochran-Gill, Rocky McCord and Daniel Koger, Auburn could be left with a serious hole on the mound if a few decide to take a shot at professional baseball.
Because of that the healthy return of freshman Kevin Davis is almost a must next season. Throwing just five innings this season before he was shut down in his recovery from arm problems, Davis showed some promise late in the season in bullpen sessions. If he can get back to form he would give Auburn a very good one-two punch along with Thompson at the top of the rotation.
Third Time's The Charm
It was great to see Coach Nick Clinard's golf team respond to the pressure of playing on its home course and advance to the NCAA Championships with a third-place finish at Auburn University Club over the weekend. Led by senior Niclas Carlsson's seventh-place finish, the Tigers advance to the championship for the third consecutive year. That might not have been possible without one of the greatest single shots in Auburn golf history.
Will Long waits to putt at the Auburn NCAA Regional.
Freshman Will Long accomplished that feat with a Gene Sarazen-esque second shot from 277 yards out that found the green and dropped in the cup for a double eagle. Auburn would make another eagle and a birdie on the hole to open up a comfortable lead and coast to the third-place finish.