"It was a good class," Tuberville says. "I'm really proud of the coaches and the things they had to fight through the last month. We can win and win well with these guys. Recruiting classes really don't pan out until three or four years. There are some players that we did sign that we're counting on to help this team win some games next year."
Hart is perhaps the bellcow of the class for the Tigers because of his position. One of the South's top offensive tackles, he has the ability to come in and play immediately. That's something that's not normally associated with offensive lineman, but Tuberville says that Hart is different in that respect because of his work ethic and technique.
"Leon Hart is probably the best prospect on the offensive line in the country," Tuberville says. "Not just because of athletic ability, but because he's going to be an electrical engineering major. He has a very high grade point average. The biggest thing about bridging the gap from high school to college is technique. His high school coaches have a done a good job with him over the years.
"He's very sound technique-wise in his run blocking and pass blocking," Tuberville adds. "It's just learning the speed of the game and playing at the tempo we need to play at. He has a lot of learning to do before he can help this team, but with his ability to learn and with his size and speed and everything that he's got going for him if anybody can play on the offensive line early it's him."
The suspense on signing day was left up to Bell, the eighth-rated safety in the country by theinsiders.com. Narrowing his list down to Auburn and Georgia, Bell signed on the dotted line just after 9 a.m. Wednesday morning at Thompson High. That one decision left a smile on the faces of the Auburn coaches and put a cap on a solid defensive haul.
"Being the best player in the state and the most highly-recruited you never really know where you are in the whole process," Tuberville says. "Through our recruiting him over this month there were a lot of ups and downs going through the SACS and the job security things with other schools you never really felt good. Tony liked it here and got along with all the players. He sees the opportunity to play early here."
A surprise in the class was the loss of tight end Darrell Strong to Pittsburgh. A commitment to the Tigers just days earlier, Strong defected to the Panthers when Pittsburgh commitment Anthony Morellis spurned the Panthers to sign with Penn State.
Auburn got some insurance in the class on Wednesday when standout defensive tackle Neil Brown signed with the Tigers, picking them over Duke and several other schools. Brown has a chance to help right away on the defensive line, but could also get a look on the offensive line at the center position.
"We're going to start him out on defense, but I think there is going to be a fight over him," Tuberville says. "He'll start on defense and he wants to play defense. He's only 17 years old. He's quick, he's got tremendous feet. His first couple of steps are excellent. He could very easily play center and that's one area we are going to need. Our two centers are going to be seniors next year."
"He's about as quick as Stanley McClover," Tuberville says of Browder. "If we can get him in here and get him in the right situation and get him with Coach (Terry) Price and learn our techniques and fundamentals then I think he's going to be a tremendous asset to us starting next year. He'll have three years remaining which helps."
Despite having a number of quarterbacks on scholarship, Tuberville said the addition of Calvin Booker and Blake Field is something the coaching staff is excited about. Both smart kids with good arms and a head for the game, Tuberville said each will have the opportunity to challenge for the back-up job this fall because of their skills on and off the field.
While they were pleased with how the class turned out, Tuberville says the coaches were hoping for a little more help at several positions. Most notably on the offensive side of the ball at tight end and wide receiver.
"We felt like we had a tight end, but everything just worked out for him," Tuberville says. "He wanted to play quarterback and the situation came up where he could play quarterback. Tight end and wide receiver were areas we worked hard at, but when you have young guys playing it's tough. They look at our depth chart and we have sophomores and freshmen playing. It's tough to recruit somebody when you have depth at a position."
A name that was added to the class is running back Kenny Irons. The brother of David Irons Jr., a newcomer to the team who came aboard on last year's class after playing junior college football, Kenny played for two seasons at South Carolina before being granted his release from the Gamecocks. He has already enrolled at Auburn and will have to sit out the 2004 season before becoming eligible. Tuberville says Irons will get a look at both tailback and fullback when the Tigers begin spring practice on Feb. 29.