Coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff are bringing in 10 high school seniors and one junior college player for the final weekend before the Feb. 4th national signing day. The Tigers go into the weekend with 14 public verbal commitments and are expected to have more than 20 signees when scholarships are signed on Wednesday.
This weekend's visit group is a mix of highly recruited and not so highly recruited prospects with some very talented athletes in the group.
The prospect making the shortest trip is Opelika High defensive back Jeremy Gray, who will wrap up a busy week of recruiting after making stops at North Carolina State last weekend and Mississippi State for a midweek trip.
The player making the longest trip to AU is 6-3, 245 Matt Muller from St. Francis De Sales High School in Toledo, Ohio. He is a deep snapper who has won awards at speciality camps. He is an honor student who checked out an Ivy League campus last weekend.
"I played offensive tackle, but in college I will be a deep snapper," Muller says. "That is what colleges have been talking to me about doing."
A pair of talented and interesting athletes from Louisiana are included in the group.
In Reserve, La., East St. John High School's coach Larry Dauterive says that 6-4, 260-pound defensive end Korey Raymond is an exciting prospect. "He will certainly pass the look test," Dauterive says. "He is just a tremendous athlete who hadn't played football for a full year since his freshman season. He transferred to our school and had to sit out of football until he was a senior. He came out for football in August and did a great job."
Dauterive says that a lot of big-time programs had expressed an interest earlier, but backed off because they were concerned about Raymond's academics. However, the coach says that his player improved his ACT score and is on track to have a qualifying core grade point average. "He's going to make it academically and Auburn is going to be rewarded for its persistence," he predicts.
"Greg Knox stayed with Korey when other big schools backed off. We have Korey on the right track academically. He is just a phenomenal athlete who is going to be a great catch. There is no doubt in my mind he is an SEC player."
Raymond says if Auburn offers, he will likely accept the scholarship. His earlier visits were to Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn's 2004 season-opening opponent. "Supposedly, when I come up there they are going to offer me and I'll take it," Raymond says. Louisiana Tech will be at Auburn this year, too, for an Oct. 9th game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Raymond is the starting center on the East St. John High basketball team and is currently averaging 14.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He says he spent much of the last two seasons concentrating on basketball. Once he returned to the gridiron he quickly let his athletic ability take over. "Sometimes I feel like it's my strength," Raymond says of what he does the best at defensive end. "Some games I feel like my technique helps me out."
A three-sport athlete, he threw the discus 170 feet as a junior. In the weight room he squats 620 and bench presses 345.
Chris Brown from Jesuit High in New Orleans will be flying in with Raymond. He isn't as big physically, but he has had plenty of big-time college offers. Brown says he has narrowed his choices to Tennessee, Florida and Auburn.
At 6-3, 235 pounds with 4.6 speed and good hands, he caught 43 catches for 940 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior to earn All-Metro, All-District and All-State honors.
Last fall he verbally committed to Tennessee, but has since reconsidered. His says Auburn is in the mix, but needs to spend some time around the program to know exactly how the Tigers stand. "This will be my first time to go to Auburn so I will know more about them after the weekend," he says. "At Tennessee, I like the coaches and the players there and I got along well with them when I visited. I also like the coaches and players at Florida."
An All-District Academic Team selection, Brown says that he is interested in majoring in biomedical engineering. He is also All-District in basketball, earning that honor as a junior. He is playing hoops again this year and averaging 18 points per game. However, his future as an athlete is on the gridiron.
In the same direction as Louisiana, but closer to Auburn, is where a former Alabama high school star put together a big juco season. In Summitt, Miss., Christopher Browder, a 6-4, 240 outside linebacker, had a very impressive season. He finished the season with 99 tackles, 27 QB pressures, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and three caused fumbles in a nine game season.
Southwest Mississippi Community College defensive coordinator Doug Lucas says that Browder is a ball hawk who is aggressive and hustles. "He's going to bust his butt to find that football," the coach says. "I've never seen anybody like him."
The subject of a recruiting battle between Auburn and Alabama two years ago when he was a high school senior at Wilcox-Central, he committed to Alabama, then committed to Auburn and ended up signing with a coaching staff in Tuscaloosa that is long-gone.
"He played outside linebacker for us and was kind of a drop end," Lucas notes. "He would drop off and cover the flat, but most of the time he was rushing. We play a 3-4 with a 40 front and he would walk up or drop off the line depending on the scheme."
Moving east into the Florida Panhandle, the Tigers are in the mix with defensive tackle prospect Tyronne Green of Pensacola. As is the case with East St. John's Raymond, he is an athlete who has stood out in football and basketball and is a prospect who has captured Auburn's attention with an improved college entrance test score.
A 6-3, 280-pounder with 4.8 speed from Woodham High School, Green is a three-year starter in football and basketball. He says that Auburn became interested in him after Tiger coaches got the word that he scored 19 on his ACT. "The quarterback coach at Auburn, Coach (Steve) Ensminger, has been recruiting me," Green tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Auburn hasn't offered me a scholarship, but they told me that they might have one for me on my visit this weekend."
If Auburn offers, there is a good chance he will pick the Tigers over Southern Miss, where he visited last weekend.
Woodham won the 2003 state basketball championship with Green in a key role. He is currently averaging eight points and 10 rebounds per game. In football, he missed several games due to an injury, but still made the All-Area team as a senior with 34 tackles, nine QB pressures, three sacks, three other tackles for lost yardage, three blocked punts and an interception.
"He is very athletic for a guy his size," says Woodham High head coach Mike Sherrill. "He runs very well and has good agility."
Sherrill says when Green concentrates on football in college, he will be fun to watch. "I have got a feeling that he could be something special," the coach says. "He is a real good kid. His grades are OK and we think that he will be a qualifier. He does a lot of things on the football field and basketball court with his athleticism that you don't expect to see from somebody as big as he is."
In-state the Tigers are bringing in a prospect from a school that sent Auburn a very good defensive lineman, Demarco McNeil, who just finished an impressive collegiate career. McNeil was a fixture in the starting lineup at the Prichard school throughout his high school playing days. The same is true of linebacker Chris Evans, who is making a visit to AU.
"I was going to Louisville, but I cancelled that visit so I can go to Auburn," Evans says of his weekend plans. "Auburn hasn't offered me a scholarship, but I am hoping to get an offer this weekend."
Evans says he has 13 scholarship offers and hopes AU will be number 14. "I have been offered by The Citadel where I visited last week, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, a lot of the SWAC schools like Jackson State and others. Overall, I think I have been contacted by more than 30 colleges."
He has played both inside and outside linebacker and says that colleges are recruiting him as an outside linebacker and a safety. He had 105 tackles as a senior and says he is currently 6-0, 217 pounds with 4.58 speed in the 40 after making All-Region for a third straight season. He was also named MVP of Blount's team. He is an honor student with a perfect grade point average who is interested in computer science.
Opelika High has sent Auburn a steady stream of prospects in recent years. Jeremy Gray, a big defensive back for the Bulldogs, may have a chance to keep the tradition going if he gets an offer from the Tigers this weekend.
N.C. State is battling hard to get him locked up. He was in Raleigh last weekend and Wolfpack assistant Noel Mazzone spent the day in Opelika on Tuesday trying to get a commitment before Gray made a midweek visit to Mississippi State on Wednesday. Mazzone is the former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach under Tuberville at both Auburn and Ole Miss.
Gray says he currently checks in at 6-3, 180 pounds with 4.45 speed in the 40. He was a three-year starter for Coach Spence McCracken at Opelika High, all on defense as a corner.
"I would say my strength is that I am fast and I can jam the receivers real good at the line of scrimmage," he says. "I like to play bump and run coverage. I like to get real aggressive with the receivers."
Gray, who is the son of former Auburn defensive back Jimmie Warren, is also playing basketball and averages 11 points per game for Coach Mike Pugh, a former Auburn University basketball player.
After visiting cold and snowy Nebraska, Russellville High offensive lineman John Watts will make a much shorter trip to Auburn this weekend. The 6-6 3/4, 267-pounder has scholarship offers in hand from Nebraska and Louisville, where he has also visited. He is hoping to get another one this weekend.
"I've always been a big Auburn fan my whole life," Watts says. "It's going to be hard to pass that up if they offer me. Auburn has always been a good program and they play in the SEC. I have always wanted to play SEC ball."
Watts showed his toughness in the state 5A state playoffs by competing on a bum knee that required ACL surgery after the season.
A two-year starter at Russellville after taking over for current Stanford lineman Matt Crum, Watts says, "Pass blocking is probably my best asset, but I can run block, too."
Watts is having to sit out his senior basketball season while he does rehab on his knee. Before the injury, he bench pressed 290, with a squat of 405 and a 285 power clean.
Another in-state prospect who was scheduled to visit this weekend, defensive end Steve McClendon from Carroll High in Ozark, will not be making the trip.
Instead of another defensive lineman, Auburn's coaches have decided to take a look at another offensive line prospect, 6-4, 290-pound William Sullivan, a 2 1/2-year starter for Western Harnett High in Lillington, N.C. He is a two-time All-Conference pick who won the Pass Blocking Award last summer in Florida at the Down And Dirty Lineman Camp.
Sullivan's father, Bill, says his son will be in Auburn on Friday to check out the Auburn program. "William is very interested in Auburn, but they have not offered him yet," he says.
Western Harnett High coach Bill Wyrick says that Sullivan saw his first varsity action as a ninth grader and got his first starts as a sophomore. He has been a full-time offensive tackle the past two years and has not played any defense. "We are a large school and we don't normally like our big guys on the line to play both ways," he says.
A late blooming prospect from Georgia will be the second visitor from his high school on the Auburn campus during this recruiting season. Defensive lineman Neil Brown was in last weekend on an unofficial visit and is still seriously considering the Tigers. His teammate, linebacker/tight end/defensive back Shun Williams, has Auburn at the top of his wish list.
Williams, who is 6-3, 220, says. "I definitely like the program they have going on over there. I like their defense and the way they drop defensive ends back into coverage and blitzing them off the edge. I feel like that's something I can do. I can also play linebacker and rush off the corner.
"I like the offensive things they do with the tight end," he adds. "They are basically blocking and moving the tight end a lot. That's what I did in high school and something I would like to do. I've always followed Auburn and kind of wanted the chance to play over there. I hope I'll have that opportunity to do that now."
He has good speed with a best 40-time of 4.47. "I'm expecting to get an offer from them," Williams says. "They came by the school Tuesday (Hugh Nall and Don Dunn) and we talked for a while. I think I'm going to get an offer this weekend."
As a senior Williams had 80 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, seven sacks, 31 quarterback pressures and one interception. On offense he added one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown this season while being used mostly as a blocker.
Offensive lineman Jason Bosley from Grissom High in Huntsville is a player that Auburn is recruiting who hasn't been in for a visit yet. He is busy this weekend with an appearance at the state wrestling championships.
In addition to this weekend's visitors, Auburn has previously brought in a sizable group of still uncommitted visitors that includes players such as linebacker Rodney Gallon, defensive tackle Pat Sims, tight end and quarterback Darrell Strong, wide receiver Kelvin Chandler, safety Carldayle Brantley, running back/cornerback/returner Anthony Campbell, quarterback Brent Schaeffer, fullback Michael McLaughlin, safety/linebacker Steve Gandy, safety Tony Bell, defensive lineman James Knight, offensive lineman Marc Dile, cornerback Joe Manning, athlete Eric Robinson and wide receiver Burnell Wallace.