Feb. 5, 2014
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee confers with head coach Gus Malzahn during Auburn's run to the SEC championship (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - With 21 commitments, Auburn coaches feel good about what they've accomplished in their first full recruiting season.
But they hope to feel a lot better before the day is over.
It's national signing day, the day college football prospects can begin to sign scholarship papers with the schools they choose. Some prime Auburn targets have yet to make their announcements. What they decide could be the difference in a class ranked in the top 10 and one ranked the top five.
"We think it's gone really well," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "We are hanging on the edge for three to five guys right now. We need them to hit to really push it over the top. We think we are in great shape, but you never know for sure."
Gus Malzahn was named head coach on Dec. 4, 2012. As he hired his staff, he also had to deal with a shortened recruiting period. There were no such drawbacks this year. And instead of coming off a 3-9 season, the Tigers were coming of a Southeastern Conference championship season that ended with heartbreaking loss in the BCS Championship Game and a No. 2 national ranking.
Running backs coach Tim Horton says the difference has been striking.
"I think there were so many unknown factors a year ago," Horton said. "They were buying into the vision. Now they are buying into maybe a little more of the results. You can talk about what you want to do and then go do it. Some kids want to see that you can compete for a national championship and see that you can win an SEC championship and see that you can have a conference Player of the Year and see that you can have an 1800-yard rusher instead of just all the talk."
Auburn coaches agree that the success of 2013 will pay even more dividends in future classes. Most of the players in the class that will sign today committed before Auburn became a national championship contender.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says it's the kind of class that has the potential to win championships of its own.
"We feel really good. feel like we have a great class," Lashlee said. "Obviously, they are great players, but also really good kids, the kind of guys we want to coach and build our program around. It's been really refreshing.
"A lot of guys have been solid for a long time in their commitments and really haven't wanted to take visits a lot of places. I think we have a good, solid group."
Prospects can begin signing scholarship papers today at 7 a.m. local time and fax them to the schools they have chosen, meaning Auburn will likely begin receiving faxes around 6 a.m. from early-rising prospects in the eastern time zone.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: