Kemari Averett (above) is a prospect from Atlanta.
This weekend Auburn will have a top defensive line target, Markaviest Bryant, on campus and it’s one final chance for Coach Rodney Garner to show “Big Cat” his plan for him in the defense and the need for another pass rusher for the 2017 Tigers. It won’t be an easy finish for Auburn with Bryant visiting Georgia and LSU the last two weekends and Alabama still keeping its horse in the race. Visiting Bryant on Thursday, Alabama doesn’t have much room left, but if they somehow don’t get LaBryan Ray then Bryant will get a late full court press.
In addition to Bryant, Auburn is expecting four additional visitors this weekend in massive juco offensive lineman Matthew Tanner, versatile tight end John Samuel Shenker and Louisville tight end commitment Kemari Averett out of Grady High in Atlanta. Known more as a receiver right now, the six-foot-six Averett caught 58 passes for 796 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. That kind of production makes him worth a long look, especially with more two-tight end sets expected from Lindsey's offense moving forward.
Rounding out the group is three-star defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell from Augusta, Ga. A big, physical interior line prospect, Truesdell is a run-stopper that Auburn has been talking to since early in the process. Making an unexpected visit this weekend makes him someone to keep an eye on for the Tigers. Florida and Louisville are also in the picture for the 6-2, 330-pounder..
On Thursday afternoon the Tigers pulled the plug on junior college running back Octavius Matthews because of grade issues. It’s unfortunate because the North Jackson native is a talented player, but in the grand scheme of things Auburn’s need at the running back position was already going to be filled by Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams. With plenty of depth there and the return of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, it would have been a stretch for Matthews to break into the playing rotation.
Another recruitment that continues to be very fluid is that of four-star linebacker Tyler Taylor. He visited Auburn last weekend and has a strong bond with the Tigers and Coach Travis Williams, but LSU has made a big push for him over the course of the last few months. Oklahoma was thought to be the biggest challenger for much of the fall, but this one could come down to a Tigers vs. Tigers battle in the SEC West. Grabbing Jacob Phillips from Oklahoma to go along with a four-star linebacker commitment already, LSU is still very much in the hunt with Starkville’s Willie Gay as well.
Yet another player to keep an eye on is four-star defensive end Ryan Johnson out of St. Paul’s in Mobile. Leaving his official visit to Auburn last weekend this looked to be a battle between the Tigers and Stanford, but he is visiting Texas this weekend and the Longhorns are a school he has mentioned since back in early December. A player who Auburn has put a lot of time and effort into recruiting for almost two years, Johnson is a big key to a strong finish down the stretch.
With Matthews no longer on the commitment list that puts the Tigers at 18 commitments. When you factor in Tashawn Manning, who is part of the 2017 class after sitting out the fall while undergoing cancer treatments, that makes it 19 heading into the final week. With a hard number of 25 the maximum, Auburn will need to have a strong finish to have a full class this year and means hitting on just about every possible prospect left on the board.
Auburn coaches have been all over the region visiting high schools for much of the last two weeks and one of the trips Gus Malzahn will make on Friday will be in Birmingham to Mountain Brook High School. That’s where 2018 prospect Harold Joiner plays, a big back who already has an offer from the Tigers. With Chip Lindsey on board it won’t be a surprise to see Joiner get a whole lot of attention moving forward as a potential Evan Ingram-type player in an offense in addition to running back. At nearly 6-3 already and 220 pounds, Joiner has great hands and catches the ball well down the field. With his size and speed he could be a fun player to watch next season for the Spartans.