Tigers in the Hunt for More Defenders

Coach Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers are looking for a strong finish with the defensive prospects still on their recruiting board.

Auburn, Ala.--The 2009 Auburn football team has immediate needs and linebacker is perhaps first and foremost.

Eltoro Freeman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signed in December and enrolled for the current spring semester at Auburn. He will be counted on to contribute immediately, but there will be opportunities for several signees to earn playing time as true freshmen.

Two longtime Auburn commitments, linebackers Jonathan Evans of Blount High and Harris Gaston of Bessemer Academy, have been keeping their options open. Evans was accompanied by older brother and former Tiger Chris Evans on his visit to Knoxville to check out first-year Volunteer head coach Lane Kiffen and his program this past weekend while Gaston visited Mississippi State.

Gaston says he will make a signing day decision between Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State. Auburn is the front-runner for Gaston and Evans is expected to choose between Auburn and Tennessee.

Harris Gaston committed to the Tigers early last year, but decided to look around after the coaching change.

Linebacker Jonathan Atchison of Douglass High School in Atlanta chose Auburn over Alabama in August, but committed to the Crimson Tide in early December when Auburn changed coaches. He has been quiet about his recruitment, but did take an official visit to Auburn on Jan. 23. He remains a Tide commit but there is a possibility, a very small one, that he could make the switch back to Auburn.

Another quiet linebacker prospect is Tana Patrick of North Jackson High School. A four-star prospect and the No. 7 strongside linebacker in the country, Patrick has offers from coast to coast and will in all likelihood sign with Auburn, Alabama or Tennessee. Just like with Atchison, Alabama is his likely destination.

Greg King

Greg King out of Melrose High in Memphis has the potential to play any of the three linebacker spots in college. Before last weekend, Texas Tech and Tennessee were his favorites with Auburn in the not-too-distant background. His official visit to the Plains went well and King said that he'll choose on signing day between Tennessee and Auburn. The Volunteers may have a slight edge, but this one could go either way.

Evans wasn't the only Auburn commitment to visit Tennessee during the last weekend before signing day. Terrence Coleman, nephew of Antonio Coleman, flirted with Southern Miss and Arkansas in recent weeks and is also expected to make a signing day decision between the Tigers and the Volunteers. Coleman seems to like the last school he visited, whoever that may be at the time, and Auburn. The Tigers' chances are solid at holding on.

Terrence Coleman

Another defensive line prospect still on the board is DeQuinta Jones, one of several prospects the new staff has recruited out of Bastrop, La., High School. Jones has been committed to Michigan for quite some time, but has taken January visits to Arkansas and Auburn prior to Ann Arbor on Jan. 23. Auburn may have a chance at Jones, but Michigan is the obvious favorite heading down the stretch.

Like Jones, Nick Fairley is a player who could play inside or outside on the defensive line. Fairley signed with Auburn out of Williamson High School in 2007 and again in December after finishing his school work at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. However, some of his work didn't get passed through in time for Fairley to enroll at Auburn for spring semester. Fairley has said he'll sign with Auburn, but Alabama's James Willis is trying to get Fairley to join him in switching sides.

Jamontay Pilson was a dominating defensive tackle at Greenville High School this year, but getting qualified is a long-shot. He is likely headed to junior college after signing with the Tigers on Wednesday.

Michael Eargle

The two junior college cornerbacks who visited Auburn this past weekend, Taikwon Paige and Michael Eargle, are interested in the Tigers. Paige, from Georgia Military, and Eargle, from Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania, both said they were impressed with Auburn, but left campus without firm offers. Paige and Eargle would likely take say yes to the Tigers should they receive a scholarship from Chizik.

As the Tigers head into Wednesday's national signing day, cornerback is a priority, but so is getting under the 25 (per signee class) and 85 (total scholarship players) limits.

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