"Recruiting is going great, but you never know until a couple of years down the road but we are real pleased with how it is going," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says.
None of the visitors this weekend is more impressive than the nation's No. 1 ranked linebacker, Tray Blackmon, from LaGrange, Ga. The 6-0, 195 Blackmon was a dominant force this season for the Grangers as they won the Class AAA state championship for the third time in four years.
Named the Player of the Year in Georgia for his classification, Blackmon finished with 116 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one safety and one defensive touchdown.
Alabama's top wide receiver prospect, Montez Billings from Pelham High, is expected to travel to Auburn this weekend for his official visit having already committed to be a Tiger. The 6-3, 175-pounder with sub 4.5 40-yard dash speed in the 40-yard dash is rated as Alabama's seventh-best overall prospect despite a senior year when he didn't have the big numbers. He did enough to earn Class 6A All-State honors as a senior. Billings had the state's fastest 200 meter time last season when he ran a 22.19.
Alabama's Mr. Football is also expected to visit the Tigers this weekend. Hoover quarterback Jarod Bryant is being recruited by both the Air Force Academy and Navy as a quarterback, but is being looked at by the Tigers as an athlete who could play either running back or wide receiver in college. The 5-10, 185-pounder with 4.5 speed threw for more than 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior as the Bucs went 15-0 and won the Class 6A state championship. Bryant has a brother and sister currently at Auburn.
One of the state's top defensive players is due in this weekend as wellin Mobile's Antonio Coleman, who is expected to visit the Tigers after taking a trip to Alabama last week. The 6-2, 230 Coleman from Williamson High was named the Class 5A Lineman of the Year in Alabama for 2004 after he had a monstrous year on the field at defensive end. As a senior Coleman made 147 tackles with 32 quarterback hurries, 23 sacks and three safeties. He's expected to choose between Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
Another standout defensive end expected in is Elizabethtown, Ky., High's Brandon Deaderick. The 6-5, 265 Deaderick has been near the top of several schools' wish list since early in the summer and his play as a senior only enhanced his status for teams like Auburn, Alabama and Louisville.
His district's player of the year on defense, Deaderick has grown two inches and gained nearly 30 pounds since last season and could play either outside or inside on the next level. He's expected to make his decision next week following his visit to Auburn. He has already visited both Alabama and Louisville.
A player who could play a number of positions on defense as well is linebacker/defensive end Jon Demps from Washington High in Pensacola, Fla. Although his 6-4, 228 frame is better suited for linebacker right now, he could project as a defensive end because of his strength at the point of attack and his physical style of play.
As a senior he totaled 160 tackles with six sacks and five forced fumbles after a productive junior year in which he made 145 tackles with seven sacks. With an older brother currently playing at LSU it looks like the LSU Tigers are in the lead at the moment, but Auburn, Florida, and Florida State are also in the picture for this outstanding defender.
Dominating as both a running back and linebacker, Pacelli (Columbus, Ga.) High's Matt Dunham committed to Florida State very early, but scheduled a visit to Auburn this weekend with teammate Michael Harness. A 6-2, 215 pound speedster who rushed for more than 1,100 yards as a senior, he's being looked at by the Tigers as a tailback.
Committed to Auburn already, defensive end Alonzo Horton from Abramson High in New Orleans, La., is considered one of the top players in the South at his position. The 6-3, 223 speedster has been a one-man wrecking crew his entire career and his senior season was no different. Despite facing constant double-teams, he finished with 125 tackles, 16 sacks, four forced fumbles, three blocked kicks and one fumble recovery in 2004. He plans to take a visit to Ole Miss next weekend, but remains committed to the Tigers.
Auburn loses two starting offensive linemen this season with center Jeremy Ingle and guard Danny Lindsey both having already graduated and one of the players looking to hold down a spot up front in the future is commitment Michael Harness from Pacelli High in Columbus, Ga. The 6-2, ½, 290 Harness is expected to play on the interior for Auburn with his first shot coming at center. A strong player, he improved a great deal during his senior season and despite interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Oklahoma he remains solid with the Tigers after committing very early in the process last spring.
Losing Philip Yost, Coach Tommy Tuberville wanted to add another kicker. Auburn has taken a commitment with Zach Kutch planning to play for to the Tigers. Steady as a machine on the field, Kutch didn't miss a field goal inside 49 yards as a senior. He also nailed all but two kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback. Kutch has a career-long field goal of 54 yards and also has made a kick from 51 yards.
A new name on the horizon for the Tigers is defensive lineman Sen'Derrick Marks from Vigor High in Prichard. Looking at Louisville, Southern Miss, West Virginia and South Carolina, At 6-2, 260, he's a fit for the nose tackle position and with his strength. As a senior he was effective at sacking quarterbacks and he is also a standout in basketball.
An impressive early commitment for the Tigers is tight end Andrew McCain from Briarwood Christian in Birmingham. The 6-5, 265 McCain is a dominating blocker on the end and can also play a mean defensive end. Very athletic for his size, McCain could play on either side of the ball in college, but is expected to get his first look on offense for Auburn. With his large frame he could eventually wind up on the offensive line down the road.
Without a doubt one of the best athletes Auburn is recruiting is tight end Gabe McKenzie from Davidson High in Mobile. The 6-3, 215 McKenzie has 4.7 speed in the 40-yard dash, the strength to move defenders off the line, and the attitude to be the best. In two seasons at tight end he caught 41 passes for 567 yards and 17 touchdowns. Much of that came his junior season when Davidson ran more of an open offense. McKenzie, who visited Alabama last weekend, is also scheduled to visit the Miami Hurricanes next weekend.
Looking for help up front on defense the Tigers got some when big Rudy Odum from Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, La., committed during his season. The 6-5, 275 Odum is a dominant force up front and had a monster senior season in helping his team to an 11-3 record. Odum finished his season with 93 tackles, including 24 behind the line of scrimmage with 11 quarterback sacks.
The linebacker position looks to be one of strength for Auburn in this class and Rex Sharpe from Fairfield High in Birmingham is one of the reasons why. The 6-3, 215 Sharpe earned Class 6A All-State honors as he excelled both at linebacker and wide receiver for his high school team as a senior. He finished with over 90 tackles, led the team in touchdown catches with eight and averaged 38 yards per punt.
Adding to the linebacker class is powerful Ryan Stamper from First Coast High in Jacksonville, Fla. The 6-2, ½, 210 middle linebacker should fit perfectly in Auburn's plans of having speed on the field at defense. Already committed to Auburn, he will visit this weekend. As a senior he totaled 140 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions. Stamper chose Auburn over Maryland, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and others.
Rated Alabama's top prospect for the 2005 class is Trinity Presbyterian's Tommy Trott, who will visit this weekend. The 6-4, 240 Trott is a weapon in the passing game and can make all the plays as a big receiver for an offense. As a senior he caught 49 passes for 944 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also added 51 tackles, two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown at linebacker. In two seasons Trott had 30 touchdown catches for the Wildcats. His father Marvin Trott played at Auburn while his grandfather played at Alabama. His recruitment is expected to come down to a Tiger-Tide battle although Miami, where he also scheduled a visit, is in the picture.