Auburn, Ala.--While it's not last season's signing class that finished ranked sixth in the country by Scout.com, Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville says there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2008 class that was signed on Wednesday.
With 28 signees, Tuberville says the Tigers addressed their needs while also adding speed and talent to a team already filled with young players. He says several positions in particular stand out to him as important upgrades on Wednesday.
"In terms of certain positions we always look for defensive linemen and linemen of any area," Tuberville says. "This year we also looked for cornerbacks because we graduated three. Some of these young men that we signed this year will have the opportunity to play.
"Also we were looking for quarterbacks. Being in a new offense we needed to broaden our horizons in terms of guys that could run this type of offense. We were very successful with that. We also signed four wide receivers because at times we're going to have to be in a four or five wide receiver set. It was good in those regards"
One of the areas that people were looking at was the running back position. Getting commitments Eric Smith and Reggie Hunt into the fold early, the Tigers pulled off a nice surprise at the end when talented Onterio McCalebb signed with the Tigers after committing to several schools during the recruiting process including West Virginia and Rutgers.
There was one that got away though as the Tigers lost 2007 signee and 2008 commitment Enrique Davis to Ole Miss out of Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. A player that remained committed to the Tigers until weeks before signing day, Davis instead chose to play for the Rebels. Tuberville says much of the reason was Auburn's change in offense to the spread attack of Tony Franklin.
"Recruiting Enrique was one of those deals where we changed our style of offense and I think that was the main thing," Tuberville says. "He wanted to go somewhere to possibly be on a two-back team. As I tell all these young guys when we recruit them, you've got to do what is best for you. Don't do what's best for the school.
"You want to enjoy the situation you're in and if they're not 100 percent we don't want them to come here. It's a challenge in all areas. Enrique is a good young man and we'll get to play against him now. We know how good he is. We look forward to that."
Looking for help at the wide receiver position because of Franklin's system that utilizes a larger group of receivers, Tuberville says he feels like the class of Darvin Adams, Harry Adams, Philip Pierre-Louis and Derek Winter gives Auburn exactly what it needs in the new offense.
"We're going to throw the ball," Tuberville says. "You still have to run the ball the ball to win. We're going to run it more than 50 percent of the time, but we're going to have more plays. Last year we were running 56-60 plays per game on offense. In the bowl game we had 93. It gives you more opportunities to get the ball to certain people. We needed to add speed in certain areas.
"Philip Pierre is a guy that has tremendous speed," he adds. "We think he can come in and help us next year playing inside and outside receiver. In this offense it doesn't really make much difference how big they are. Can they use their quickness to make somebody miss like a running back in the backfield, that's what this offense is about. Getting the ball to the wide receivers on short passes and making somebody miss. Philip Pierre is one of those type of guys. He's going to be a heck of a football player for us."
The quarterback position was an obvious need with a new offense and losing senior Brandon Cox will be tough to replace, but the Tigers went a long way towards finding some answers as early enrollees Chris Todd and DeRon Furr along with Barrett Trotter give Auburn one of the best quarterback classes in the country.
"Chris Todd will make an immediate impact," Tuberville says. "He's a big guy. He can throw it. He's got good touch on the football. Talking with Mike Leach at Texas Tech he had to make a decision back when Chris was there. He had to make a decision on whether Chris would be his starter. The other player (Graham Harrell) was a year advanced with more experience. Chris decided to go to a junior college and now fortunately he's come to our place.
"Chris brings more experience than what we have. We'll have a lot of competition at quarterback this spring. We'll have four quarterbacks that will go after it. They've got a lot to learn in the three weeks before spring practice. It should be fun to watch."
While the offensive positions get much of the press, perhaps the biggest need for Auburn was in the defensive backfield. The Tigers took in an impressive haul in that area led by talented T'Sharvan Bell from Osceola High in Kissimmee, Fla. Also signing with the Tigers were D'Antoine Hood, Drew Cole, Marcus Jemison, Neiko Lipscomb and Christian Thompson. Tuberville says he likes the talent in the group and expects several to challenge for playing time.
"I think Hood from Phenix City, Roderick Hood's nephew, is going to be an excellent player," Tuberville says. "Every defensive back we evaluated in our camps. I think it's important for us to evaluate them and know exactly what kind of player we're getting in terms of speed, quickness, can he play press man and can he play zone. We really evaluate them hard in our camps. It really helps in the recruiting process knowing what they can do."