"We did sign three in January so that brings our total signing the last two months to 30," Tuberville noted. "The thing about this group is most have already qualified or are close to qualified. That was another area we really addressed. Last year we lost eight or 10 players to grades and test scores that had to go to either junior college or prep school. This year most of them are real close to qualifying and hopefully we'll get most of them in."
A factor that played into Auburn's recruiting this season was the departure of Steve Spurrier from the Florida Gators to the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. Going head-to-head against the Gators and getting prospects like Devin Aromashodu and Tre Smith, the Tiger coaching staff proved what hard work and perseverance can do for your efforts.
Tre Smith rushed for 1,000-plus yards for three consecutive seasons.
Much of that hard work began back in June and July when the coaching staff played host to several football camps on the Auburn campus. With more than 1,000 players of all ages in town over a three-week span, the coaches had a chance to see many of their future signees in action. That was something that Tuberville says was immeasureable to this class.
"I would have felt good about most of these guys anyway no matter what happened at Florida," Tuberville noted. "Our coaches did a good job of laying the groundwork. Most came to our camps. If we go back and look at this list probably 75 percent of these signees came to our camps this summer and were able to build relationships with our coaches and myself. They were able to spend some time on campus other than just a real quick 48-hour tour of duty so to speak."
One of the players who attended the summer camp was Smith. A highly regarded tailback from Venice, Fla., the 5-11, 190-pound Smith didn't take long to catch the eyes of the Auburn coaching staff once he began showing his wares against other competition.
"We were concerned too about Tre," Tuberville said. "Obviously when you have a Carnell Williams and a Ronnie Brown, none of them are really upperclassmen, they are all freshmen and sophomores. Tre came to our camp last summer and he was, out of probably 300 or 400 running backs, he was the top guy we wanted from day one. He's real quick, has a lot of speed and great hands. He's a very good competitor and really loves football. He was Eddie Gran's number one choice."
One of the key positions the Tigers had to address in this recruiting class was quarterback. Looking around the country for the top players, in the end the Auburn coaches found exactly what they were searching for in Brandon Cox. A 6-3, 190-pound left-hander with precision passing skills, Cox fills a need in this class and Tuberville predicts that he can be something special down the road.
Lefty quarterback Brandon Cox is considered one of the top prospects in the Southeast.
"We're also excited about signing our third Mr. Alabama Football out of four recruiting seasons," Tuberville said. "Brandon Cox is a quarterback that is one of the most accurate quarterbacks I have seen. He's very cool and calm in the pocket and really had an outstanding career at Hewitt-Trussville High School in Birmingham."
Heading into the final day, the coaching staff had several players they were waiting on to complete the class. Getting the signatures of big linemen Marcus McNeill, Jonathan Palmer and Troy Reddick in addition to that of the speedy Aromashodu finished off the 2002 class in grand style.
"We finished up strong and that's what you have to do," he said. "This time last week we were very concerned about 10 players and I think we finished up with eight of them. That's a good percentage."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Tuberville said not having a defensive coordinator on board did not cost the Tigers any recruits because of his background as a defensive coach. He said if the Tigers had recruited without new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, that would have cost the Tigers around six to seven of the prize signees. The Tigers hit the jackpot on bluechip wide receivers, something Petrino says is a priority to make the Auburn offense a success...Auburn was a hot team on the recruiting trail. The head coach said it was a season in which he wished he could have signed 40 players...Tuberville says he will now turn his full attention to finding a defensive coordinator to replace John Lovett, who is now the defensive coordinator at Clemson after being removed from the post at AU. Tuberville says it shouldn't be long before he announces his pick. "We hope to have one in the next three or four days." Spring practice will start on March 1st.