Monster Recruiting Weekend On The Plains

Seven official visitors highlight an important football recruiting weekend for Auburn with LSU coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Jeff Holland (above) is a four-star linebacker recruit from Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--Saturday night’s showdown between No. 5 Auburn and No. 15 LSU isn’t the only major part of the weekend for Coach Gus Malzahn’s Tigers as dozens of top football recruits from around the country will invade the Plains this weekend. Included in that is a large and talented group of official visitors led by a trio of four-star wide receiver targets.

Rated the nation’s number four wide receiver prospect, speedy Christian Kirk from Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Ariz., has already taken an unofficial visit to check out Auburn last summer, but this time he will get an extended look at the campus, facilities and coaching staff. Built like a running back, but with receiver skills, Kirk would be a huge weapon in Auburn’s offense because of his ability to make plays down the field and also in the running game. Arizona State, Texas A&M and USC are considered Auburn’s top competition.

Christian Kirk is making the trip to Auburn from Arizona.

The No. 15 ranked wide receiver prospect in the country, John Burt from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla. committed to Texas over the summer, but has continued to give Auburn a long look. Already with a strong relationship with Coach Dameyune Craig, Burt was in Jordan-Hare Stadium for last season’s Iron Bowl and has been high on the Tigers since. Texas is still the team to beat with hometown Florida State also in the mix.

Rounding out the trio of receiver targets for the Tigers is big Kirk Merritt from Destrehan (La.) High School. Rated a four-star running back by Scout.com, he is a talented athlete who could be used outside in Auburn’s offense because of his ability to do a lot of different things with and without the ball in his hands. Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Texas A&M are just some of the other schools on Merritt’s radar at the moment.

Kirk Merritt is shown in action at The Opening in Oregon, where he was a standout this past summer.

Another four-star prospect planning to visit this weekend is big outside linebacker Jeff Holland from Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla. A frequent visitor to Auburn over the summer, Holland is a physical player that excels coming off the edge as a pass rusher. That’s something Auburn is looking for in this class and Holland would be a great fit. Florida is thought to be one of the favorites for Holland with Auburn very much in the picture.

Joining the group will be a trio of players from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Auburn commitments Jason Smith and Tony Bridges will be in for official visits and it will be a big weekend for the Tigers in recruiting the four-star cornerback. While Smith is solid to Auburn, Bridges is getting a strong push from home-state Ole Miss and visited the Rebels last weekend. Seeing Jordan-Hare Stadium at night for the LSU game (his first Auburn game) could go a long way towards cementing his commitment.

Tony Bridges is a talented cornerback who is originally from Hattiesburg, Miss.

Coming into the weekend with Auburn as his favorite, big defensive tackle Maurice Swain is the third Mississippi Gulf Coast player expected in. Already with a strong relationship with Rodney Garner after playing his high school ball at Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., the 6-5, 305-pounder loves that he would be close to home at Auburn. With Mississippi State, Kentucky and others in the mix, Swain could end his recruiting this weekend with a strong visit and also add a big piece of the puzzle to Auburn’s 2015 class. And like his teammates, Swain is expected to be a December graduate.

Other Auburn commitments expected to be in this weekend include offensive linemen Kaleb Kim, Bailey Sharp and Tyler Carr, quarterback Tyler Queen, running back Kerryon Johnson, linebackers Darrell Williams and Richard McBryde, defensive tackle Jauntavius Johnson, defenders Jordan Colbert, Montavious Atkinson, and Elijah Sullivan, as well as punter Ian Shannon and 2016 commitments Stephen Davis and Landon Rice.

Tyler Queen has been committed to Auburn since he was a junior.

While this is a monster weekend for 2016 recruiting, there will also be some big-time seniors on hand for the game as unofficial visitors. That includes four-star offensive lineman Javon Patterson from Petal (Miss.) High. One of the top guard prospects in the country, he’s looking at Auburn, Alabama, LSU and several others, but Mississippi State and Ole Miss are thought to be the teams to beat.

Another of the top 2015 prospects expected to visit this weekend is four-star cornerback Darius Slayton from Greater Atlanta Christian School. Ranked the No. 15 player at his position in the country, Slayton has visited Auburn multiple times since the spring. Georgia, LSU and South Carolina are also in the mix for Slayton, who may be on the outside looking in for the Tigers at the moment because of commitments such as Bridges and Chris Westry.

With a need for defensive linemen, Auburn will have a big opportunity to impress several top 2016 prospect this weekend, including four-star tackle Julian Rochester from McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga. Very high on the Tigers after making several visits to the Plains over the spring and summer, Rochester has a great relationship with Garner and could be close to making a decision. He is rated the No. 5 defensive tackle in the country in the 2016 class.

Julian Rochester is a bluechip junior defensive prospect.

Rochester isn’t the only top junior defensive lineman expected to visit Auburn this weekend as four-star prospects Derrick Brown and Antwuan Jackson are also scheduled to be on the Plains for the LSU game. A 6-4, 280 standout from Lanier High in Buford, Ga., Brown already has offers from several big-time schools and has an early list of Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Texas and many others. Also with a ton of early offers, 6-3, 275 Jackson likes Auburn and has been on campus twice since the spring.

A pair of teammates from Carver High in Montgomery, Lyndell Wilson and Marlon Davidson, both have Auburn offers and have the Tigers high on their lists. A five-star outside linebacker and pass rusher, Wilson is one of the top players at his position in the country. His recruiting is expected to come down to an in-state battle between Auburn and Alabama. The same is true of the four-star Davidson. The younger brother of Auburn’s Kenneth Carter, Davidson is a physical defensive end off to a great start in 2014

Marlon Davidson is shown in action at at summer football camp.

Other top 2016 prospects expected to visit include E.J. Price from Central Gwinnett (Ga.) High, linebacker P.J. Blue from Jemison, cornerback Chad Clay from Peachtree Ridge (Ga.), running back Kingston Davis from Prattville, linebacker Ben Davis from Gordo, quarterback Jawon Pass from Carver High in Columbus, Ga., athlete T.J. Simmons from Clay-Chalkville, safety Marlon Character from Grady (Ga.) High, running back Tyus Flakes from Auburn, safety Spencer Perry from Auburn, defensive back John Broussard from Central-Phenix City, defensive back JoeJuan Williams from Father Ryan High in Nashville, quarterback Brandon McIlwain from Council Rock (Pa.) High, tight end Kyle Fourtenbary from Opelika, running back Josh Johnson from Opelika, linebacker Tre Threat from Spanish Fort as well as 2017 teammate Thomas Johnston.

Other top 2015 prospects expected to visit include offensive lineman Zach Branner from Buckhorn, offensive lineman Branquavious Bussey from Lanett, linebacker Adonis Thomas from Central Gwinnett (Ga.) High, offensive lineman Drew Kyser from Opelika and defensive back Nigel Lawrence from Smiths Station.

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