Malzahn and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey went after versatile skill players who can play multiple positions to allow the Tigers to limit their substitutions and play with a quicker tempo. Defensively, Malzahn and Kevin Steele, AU’s second year defensive coordinator, decided that the unit needed more pass rush.
Malzahn said he believes that this group is a “well-rounded class” that met certain needs.
“(I am) very excited about this class,” he said. “There wasn't a whole lot of drama today. I think that says a lot about the signees’ loyalty. I think it says a lot about our staff. They did a wonderful job of developing relationships. Everything went pretty much as planned today, which is a blessing.”
Lindsey made his intentions clear that he wants versatile skill position players in his offense when he sent out his first scholarship offer to tight end/H-back John Samuel Shenker from Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Ga. The 6-4, 240-pounder drew praise from Malzahn, who compared him to former Tiger starter Philip Lutzenkirchen.
“His versatility is what stood out to us, and of course we kept up with him throughout the year,” Malzahn said when asked about Shenker. “When Chip got here that was the first guy he went to see. He reminds him of Philip. He has got that same kind of skill set that you can split him out, he can put his hand down, you can put him at H-back and he is physical enough at the point of attack that he can be effective, too.”
Auburn also landed a pair of running backs who can split out wide and play receiver as well in Devan Barrett, who Malzahn said was “the number one running back on our board from the get-go,” and Alaric Williams, the cousin of former Auburn star Cadillac Williams.
“We looked for that versatility, too, guys that were bigger, that could run and could catch the ball out of the backfield,” said Malzahn. “Both of these running backs that we signed are 200-pound guys and they both can run and have great ball skills.”
The biggest news of the day came in the commitment of buck Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant. Big Cat chose Auburn over LSU and Georgia, and he met a big position of need for the Tiger defense as a pass rush specialist. Malzahn also noted that linebackers Tadarian “T.D.” Moultry and Chandler Wooten can get after the quarterback pretty often, too.
“Big Cat is a pass rusher,” Malzahn explained. “Coach Garner did a super job of recruiting Big Cat. T.D. has the ability to rush the passer. He showed that in the all-star game. Travis Williams did a super job recruiting him.
“Those two and I think Chandler Wooten is a guy that can rush the passer, too. That’s the name of the game. If you can rush the passer by just rushing four and not having to blitz, that’s where great defenses start.”
Chandler Wooten was a Georgia All-State player as a senior at North Cobb High School.
The Tigers also nabbed interior defensive linemen Alec Jackson and Tyrone Truesdell to shore up depth up front.
“We lose four seniors and we signed three, two inside and one edge guy,” said Malzahn. “A couple of these linebackers are capable of rushing the passers to, so that was more by design.”
In total, the Tigers announced 22 signees for the class plus an invited walk-on, deep snapper Bill Taylor from American Christian School in Tuscaloosa. Re-signee Tashawn Manning, who has completed cancer treatments, also counts on the 2017 total while another 2016 signee who enrolled late while receiving cancer treatment, offensive lineman Brodarious Hamm, counts on the 2016 total Hamm is expected to participate in spring drills. It is still to be determined if Manning will be cleared to practice in the spring.
Malzahn expressed his overall pleasure in the group, saying, “I look at this class and they’re very athletic with a lot of character. The academics was very important to them. I’m very excited about this. I’ll just say our staff did a super job developing relationships, identifying talented kids that have great character and so we got guys that can really come in here and help us right off the bat. I’m extremely excited to have this class signed and here.”