K.J. Britt (above) is known as a big-hitter at linebacker.
Auburn, Ala.--For a sizeable portion of Coach Gus Malzahn’s 2017 football signee class national signing day is the start of their second month as students on the Auburn campus.
Eight of the newcomers, a group that includes five early high school graduates and two transfers, are getting a head start on their first Auburn seasons while the other newcomer, defensive lineman Tashawn Manning, is a 2016 signee who has completed his cancer treatment and is now an AU student.
There are also two quarterbacks with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham arriving with three seasons of eligibility and Malik Willis an early graduate out of Roswell High, where he led his team to the Georgia Class AAAAAAA state championship game with a terrific season.
Willis and Stidham are the quarterbacks in the 2017 class.
Like Stidham, tight end enrollee Sal Cannella has three years to play three seasons at Auburn. He played last season at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona after redshirting his first season in the juco ranks.
Early enrollee Nick Brahms, a U.S. Army All-American guard, graduated in December from Navarre, Fla., High School.
Versatile defensive back Malcolm Askew is a four-star signee from McAdory High in McCalla.
Britt, who developed a reputation as a linebacker, is a prospect who Scout.com recruiting analyst John Garcia predicts will be player who should be able to handle the physical rigors of the SEC.
“Britt is old school, he’s a leader, he’s an inside guy, he’s going to come downhill and he’s going to hit you,” Garcia points out. “That’s who he is, on and off the field.
“An intelligent kid, he is not going to be so aggressive that he plays outside his of his responsibility, but in whatever role he plays on a given down or whatever role he’s supposed to play on a given down, he’s going to play it aggressively and he’s going to effect the ball carrier when he makes contact.”
Malcolm Askew is shown at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in Montgomery.
Auburn’s other in-state early enrollee, Askew, is a prospect opposing offenses seldom challenged as a senior defender.
“He can do a little bit of everything,” Garcia says. “In high school he played quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back, kick returner. He is probably going to play defensive back at Auburn and a lot of those traits that enabled him to play all of those positions will help him as a defensive back.”
One of the top nation’s prospects while at Stephenville, Tex., High, the 6-3, 215 Stidham chose Baylor and got on the field as a true freshman. Taking over for Seth Russell and making three starts before a broken ankle ended his season, Stidham put up impressive numbers in 2015, completing 68.8 percent of his passes (75-109) for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Sitting out 2016 after Baylor fired Coach Art Briles, he attended McLarren Community College in Waco, Tex., a school without a football team. Stidham will be a redshirt sophomore for the 2017 season.
Jarrett Stidham practiced briefly with the Tigers during the December on-campus workouts prior to the bowl trip.
Covering Texas recruiting for Scout.com, analyst Greg Powers says Auburn is getting a very good player. “Stidham is one of those types who could really fit into any offense because he has a plus arm and the ability to run on designed runs or when plays break down,” Powers points out.
"He is a very fiery competitor and one who is not afraid to press action and make plays,” Power adds. “He has a good arm and if he spots an opening he will pull the trigger quickly. He can and will make all the throws and has an improvisational quality that makes him special.”
A potential target for Stidham or whoever plays QB for the Tigers, Canella is a four-star tight end. The 6-5, 225-pounder played high school football at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, Ill. He chose Auburn over Texas, Maryland and others after a redshirt freshman season in which he caught 29 passes for 449 yards and seven touchdowns. In his one season of high school football he caught 31 passes for 521 yards and seven TDs.
Sal Cannella has three seasons of eligibility at AU.
Another four star signee, Willis, led Roswell High to a 14-1 record as a senior. He hit 184-304 passes for 2,562 yards and 27 touchdowns. He ran the ball 140 times for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns on the way to being named Georgia’s Class AAAAAAA Player of the Year. He was originally committed to Virginia Tech before choosing the Tigers.
A Class AAAAAAA All-State pick in Georgia like Willis, linebacker Wooten chose Auburn very early in the recruiting process as a junior. He had a large number of offers dating back to his ninth grade year. The Under Armour All-American is 6-3, 227 pounds with an aggressive style of play.
Nick Brahms is a U.S. Army All-American.
Brahms, who committed to the Tigers last summer, is a four-star prospect who missed his senior season with a broken bone in his leg. Rated as the No. 13 guard prospect in the country by Scout.com, he chose Auburn over Miami, North Carolina, Tennessee and others.
Brahms, who earned All-State honors, was a second team Florida Class 6A selection as a junior. A three-sport letterman at Navarre High, he was a preseason first team All-State pick in 2016, but was sidelined due to his injury.
Tashawn Manning comes from an athletic family. His father played college football and his mother played college basketball.
Manning, who is from Wekiva High in Florida, committed to the Tigers in June of 2015. He sat out of football last season while undergoing chemotherapy and taking classes at a junior college. If everything works out as hoped he will play four seasons of football for the Tigers. He was diagnosed with cancer three months before he signed with the Tigers in 2016.
“He's a guy we're very excited about in the future," Coach Gus Malzahn said. "I really feel like it'll be a Shon Coleman story all over again. He's a tough young man. After he signed his papers, I said, 'what are you going to do to celebrate?' And he went to go get chemo. If you would, keep your thoughts and prayers with him and his family. He's got a great attitude, and we truly believe he'll be with us in a short period of time.”