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Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Almost Time For Football, Another Big Recruiting Weekend

It's almost time for another football season and there is chance for the Auburn Tigers to make plenty of noise early.

Almost Time

We’re just over a week from the Auburn Tigers opening preseason practices and the excitement for a new season is something that never gets old. Coming off a disappointing year in 2015, this team is definitely determined to turn things around and the Tigers will have a great chance to do that right out of the gate.

Facing Clemson gives this team an opportunity to build very early momentum, something that would be huge for the program for a number of reasons.

The first of which comes on the field because this is a team returning a lot of talented players. X’s and O’s are always important no matter the sport, but playing with confidence is a key to success.

Auburn's bowl win over Memphis and the way the defense played gave the Tigers a boost heading into the offseason and against Clemson. Soon we’ll get to see if that can carry over to the 2016 season. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers don’t even have to win the game, but playing one of the top teams in the country toe-to-toe for 60 minutes and giving yourself a chance to win would be big for the program overall.

If Auburn can pull out a win over Clemson then look out. That could be a game changer for this year’s team and would serve notice that Malzahn’s team is one to watch.

There is a long way to go before Sept. 3 though and plenty of work to be done for Auburn on both sides of the ball. This group has shown the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty in terms of effort this summer, something that should serve them well this fall.

 

Recruiting Thoughts

I don’t know how the 2017 class is going to turn out when the dust settles because so much of it depends on how the season plays out for the Tigers, but if this spring and summer is any indication things could be really good if Auburn plays up to its potential.

The Tigers have had dozens of top prospects on the Plains since February and many of those were back this past weekend for the War Damn BBQ. Commitments such as Malcolm Askew, Nick Brahms and Austin Troxell were there to hang out and spend time with top targets like K.J. Britt, Ryan Johnson and Tyler Taylor.

Two of the biggest names on campus were teammates Isaiah Buggs and Brandon Martin from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Auburn’s history at the school definitely won’t hurt the chances for the Tigers to land one or both in December with players like Maurice Swain and Jason Smith currently on the roster from MGCCC and former players like Eltoro Freeman still around the Auburn program.

A player who has almost unlimited potential at wide receiver, Martin is one of the most physical-looking players at the position I have ever seen. At around 6-3 and at least 215 pounds, he’s built like a linebacker but has tremendous ball skills.

After signing a very big defensive line class in 2016, Auburn doesn’t have room to bring in a bunch of prospects this time around. That makes it a very important group for Rodney Garner, but if Buggs and fellow four-star Johnson are part of the class then everything else would have to be considered icing on the cake.

Isaiah Buggs visited Auburn over the weekend.

Johnson is athletic and has the size to play early for the Tigers, but Buggs is a rare player who could really help in two different roles in Auburn’s defense. At 6-3 and nearly 290 pounds, Buggs is still athletic enough to line up on the edge, but has the size to move inside on third downs to provide pash rush from the middle of the defense. With Auburn likely to use the 3-4 fronts more often this season under Kevin Steele, imaging Buggs as a 3-4 defensive end has to be a dream scenario for the Tigers.

Even with a lot of top prospects on campus for the weekend, the biggest news came from a player that won’t be able to help Auburn this season on the field. Back on the Plains for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer, 2016 signee Tashawn Manning was all smiles as he got to be part of the program once again after finishing his treatments. Planning to be back this fall for several games while also taking a pair of classes at a local junior college in Florida, Manning said he’ll be back in January to start classes. No matter what happens from this point forward, Manning is already a winner in my book.

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