More than 20 are expected to take official visits to check out Coach Tommy Tuberville's team that posted a 9-4 record in 2002 that was highlighted by a strong finish that included victories over Alabama in the regular season finale and Penn State in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The first visit weekend in January has prospects coming from near and far. Defensive end Doug Langenfeld was a star player at Reedley Junior College in California this past season while fullback/defensive lineman Tez Dooley is from nearby Opelika High.
The Tigers are scheduled to be hosts to seven prospects from the state of Alabama and seven from the state of Florida. A quartet of prospects from Tennessee say they are visiting Auburn this weekend and the states of Georgia and Louisiana are also represented in the first major weekend of official visits for the Tigers this year. The group includes perhaps the most high-profile prospect in the nation, linebacker/running back Ernie Sims from Tallahassee, Fla., the son of former FSU athletes who is considering the Tigers along with Georgia, Florida, Miami and the hometown FSU Seminoles.
The in-state prospect list includes Gunn, a 6-4, 208-pounder at Benjamin Russell High School, a player with 4.6 speed in the 40 and excellent big-play ability. Jai Miller played quarterback for Selma High as a senior, but will likely move to wide receiver or the secondary as a college football. He is also a strong basketball and baseball player and says he wants to play both football and basketball in college.
Mitchell Thomas of Smiths Station says Notre Dame is his current leader. He visited the Irish in December.
Mitchell Thomas played both ways at Smiths Station High, but the running back/linebacker says that colleges are recruiting him exclusively as a defensive player. He is scheduled to visit Auburn this weekend along with Doolittle, another two-way player who spent much of his senior season at fullback after playing most of the time at defensive end as a junior.
Auburn's first in-state public commitment, running back Jason Jude from Athens High School, is taking his official visit this weekend. One of the best athletes in the state in the 2003 signee class, defensive end Lloyd Blevins from Wenonah High is player with plenty of speed. Another in-state player visiting is Terrance Jones, an uncommitted linebacker from Tuscaloosa County High.
The Tigers are expected to entertain an athletic group from Florida that includes a pair of talented cornerbacks in Patrick Lee from Christopher Columbus High in Miami and Mike Jenkins from Southeast High in Sarasota, Fla. Both have sprinter's speed and are cornerbacks.
A pair of quarterbacks from Florida is also on the visit list. In addition to speedy Courtney Denson from Central High in Miami, Stephen Reaves from Plant High in Tampa is making the trip to check out the Tigers. Denson was a standout at an Auburn summer football camp. Reaves, an accurate passer who throws few interceptions, is the son of former Florida star quarterback John Reaves.
Talent-rich south Florida features one of the top linebackers in the country in H.B. Blades from Plantation High. He was an early commitment to Pitt, but has decided to consider the Tigers. Farther north, big offensive lineman Aubry McPhadden was dealing out headaches to opponents of First Coast High in Jacksonville. He will be visiting along with Sims from Tallahassee, a player who is getting equal amounts of recruiting attention as a running back and linebacker.
The Georgia visit list is a very small one, but there is nothing wrong with the quality of visitor Jarrod Britt, a December commitment to the Tigers from McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga. He is considered one of the plums of this year's crop of offensive line prospects.
Auburn's recent success in recruiting Tennessee is continuing this year with early commitments from players like Carl Stewart, a tailback with the total package of speed, power, moves and good hands with a great academic background. One of the Tennessee Mr. Football selections, Stewart was an early commitment to the Tigers out of Maryville High.
Carl Stewart led Maryville to another state championship.
From the Nashville area, a pair of verbal commitments from traditional powerhouse Brentwood Academy are visiting the Tigers this weekend. Punter Kody Bliss will try to win the punting and kickoff duties being vacated by senior Damon Duval. He has an exceptionally strong leg to make the challenge with while his teammate, King Dunlap, Jr., was a two-way standout on the line. However, at Auburn the tackle is slated for duty on offense and fits the pattern of AU recruiting big linemen who are good all-around athletes.
Another Nashville area prospect who is scheduled to visit is offensive lineman Terrance Houston from Hillsboro High, the team that reached the state championship game for a second straight year. As was the case in 2001, Hillsboro was runnerup to the Maryville team led by Stewart.
One of the top prospects in Louisiana is making the trip east to check out the Tigers. Wide receiver Craig Davis, who put up big numbers the past two seasons at O.P. Walker High in New Orleans, says he is interested in checking out the Tigers, who finished in a tie for the SEC Western title in 2002.
The Tigers have already used seven official visits. That group includes two players who already signed and enrolled at Auburn--defensive end Tony McClain and tailback Brandon Jacobs. The Tigers have also gotten a visit from cornerback Antonio Cromartie of Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla., who is visiting the Michigan Wolverines this weekend. Auburn visitor Eric Holcombe signed early with the University of Florida. He is a defensive tackle from Northeast Mississippi Community College.
A trio of highly regarded defensive ends who are still uncommitted has visited Auburn--Quentin Groves from Greenville, Miss., who is scheduled to visit Mississippi State this weekend; Stanley McClover from Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is scheduled to be at Ohio State this weekend and Trannell Morant from Braddock High in Miami, Fla., who has already visited Florida, Rutgers and Georgia.