One of the top offensive linemen in the country, five-star Braden Smith from Olathe, Kan., is expected to make his first visit to the Plains to check out Malzahn's Tigers.
Rated the number one guard prospect in the nation by Scout.com, the 6-6, 295-pound Smith was one of the top offensive lineman at the Under Armour All-American Game, following up a dominant senior season at guard for his high school team. Very athletic for a player of his size, Smith is able to get to the second level as a puller in a running offense, but has the quickness and strength to be a capable pass blocker as well.
Recently narrowing his list to Auburn, Notre Dame, TCU and Texas A&M, Smith got a visit from Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes on the first day coaches were allowed back on the road on Thursday. As for what he knows about the Tigers, the visit will be a new experience for the Kansas standout.
"I'm still learning about them," Smith said. "Everything is sort of new with them, but I like the style of offense they run. It's similar to what we run."
A player who knows plenty about the Tigers following several unofficial visits to Auburn dating back to last spring, four-star defensive end Andrew Williams is a player that has already built a strong relationship with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner heading into his official visit this weekend.
"It's just the opportunity to play there," Williams told Scout.com. "Also, just the turnaround they had from last year to this year. They're just a young team that needs some new players to come in and make an impact. They have great coaching and a great education."
A third prospect not committed to Auburn expected in this weekend is four-star defensive end Davon Godchaux from Plaquemine, La. At 6-4, 271, Godchaux is a physical defensive lineman that could be a good fit in Auburn's 4-3 scheme. A longtime commitment to the home state LSU Tigers following a knee injury suffered in the first game of his senior season, Godchaux backed off that decision last week. Having already visited Ole Miss and planning to visit LSU next weekend and possible trip to both Florida and UCLA as well before signing day, Godchaux could be a busy guy between now and Feb. 5.
Long-time University of Texas verbal commitment John Bonney is also on campus for an official visit. The 6-1, 185-pounder is rated a four-star safety prospect by Scout.com. Bonney decided to take a visit to check out the Tigers after the Longhorns replaced head coach Mack Brown with Charlie Strong.
Playing for Lamar High School in Houston he is ranked as the No. 14 safety prospect in the nation, but also has the potential to play cornerback.
In addition to the uncommitted players, Auburn is expecting to have every commitment on campus this weekend that hasn't already visited the Tigers. That means a pair of five-stars on campus in linebacker Tre Williams and running back Racean Thomas. Rated the number two middle linebacker in the nation, Williams was a finalist for Class 5A Lineman of the Year in Alabama following a huge season for St. Paul's in Mobile. Alabama's Mr. Football for 2013, Thomas put up impressive numbers for the Oxford Yellow Jackets despite playing much of the season on a nagging ankle injury.
Williams will be joined on his visit by Auburn's other Mobile area commitments, teammates DeShaun Davis and Justin Thornton from Vigor. A talented linebacker who missed his senior season because of a knee injury, Davis has worked hard on his rehab and was cleared to resume playing football on Thursday. A rangy defensive end who played well in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, Thornton is rated a four-star prospect and the number 17 defensive end in the nation.
Defensive tackle is always a position of need and big Dontavius Russell was a big addition to the class when he chose the Tigers over Georgia late in December. An Under Armour All-American, Russell is a physical player inside that has the athleticism to get up the field and rush the passer from his tackle spot. Playing both ways for Carrollton, Ga., High, he helped them to the state championship game.
Looking for more help in the secondary as well the Tigers will have in three commitments this weekend and all three are capable of playing early when they arrive in Auburn over the summer. Both former commitments to Alabama, Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts flipped to the Tigers late in the year and could be a big boost for Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison on defense.
A speedy corner, Bessent played in the Under Armour game as did Roberts, who has the versatility to play safety or corner for the Tigers. Rated the number 18 cornerback in the country, Nick Ruffin played in the U.S. Army All-American Game and with his 6-0, 185 frame is the ideal bigger corner that Smith is looking for at the position.
On the offensive side of the ball the Tigers are expecting in several visitors as well including quarterback commitment Sean White from University School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The MVP of both the Elite 11 and Under Armour All-American Game, White had a huge senior season and should be a good fit for Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee in the offense moving forward.
Along with Thomas at running back the Tigers have a commitment from big Kamryn Pettway from Prattville. A physical runner with surprisingly good feet and hands, Pettway ran for more than 1,300 yards as a senior despite sharing the load for the Lions. Also a punishing blocker, Pettway should be a big addition to an offense that can use players in multiple roles.
Two players who should be able to help in the passing game are also expected to visit this weekend as wide receiver Myron Burton and tight end Jakell Mitchell will take a trip to the Plains for their official look at the Tigers. The son of former Auburn player Myron Burton (defensive end on 1993 team), Burton is close friends with Auburn early enrollee Stanton Truitt and was a standout at one of the Tigers' summer camps. Long and with the speed to past defensive backs, Burton caught 53 passes for 673 yards and six touchdowns as a senior at Peachtree Ridge in Suwanee, Ga.
As versatile as any player the Tigers will sign in the 2014 class, Mitchell did everything for the Opelika Bulldogs as a junior, playing tight end, wildcat quarterback and defensive end for a team that advanced to the 2012 6A title game. Injuring his knee during a summer 7-on-7 session, Mitchell missed his entire senior season, but should be ready to practice in August. Able to go over the middle and make the tough catch but elusive enough to be a dangerous runner after the catch, Mitchell is expected to play the three-back role in Auburn's offense similar to C.J. Uzomah.
In addition to the official visitors Auburn is also expecting an unofficial visit from one of the nation's top long snappers, former Vanderbilt commitment Ike Powell from Tift County, Ga., High. A 6-3, 255-pounder, Powell has the size and skills to make an impact for the Tigers. There's a very good chance that if Powell likes his visit he may commit to the Tigers as a walk-on and try to earn a scholarship down the road. He is rated the No. 5 snapper in the nation by Kohl's Professional Kicking Camps.