Phillip Marshall: A signing class worthy of celebration

Feb. 5, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn went into signing day with three priority targets and landed two of them. Braden Smith, rated the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard, signed with the Tigers over TCU and Texas A&M Wednesday morning. Four-star defensive end Andrew Williams followed suit later in the afternoon and chose the Tigers over Georgia and Clemson.

But not everything went the way Auburn coaches hoped. Auburn High School linebacker Rashaan Evans, whose father Alan played at Auburn and whose mother graduated from Auburn, pulled out an Alabama cap Wednesday morning.

There is no doubt the one that got away stung. It stung Auburn coaches and Auburn fans in the community. It even stung other signees who drove to Auburn High School to see what they thought would be the announcement that Evans would sign with the hometown Tigers.

What happened? Who knows?

For the longest time, Rashaan seemed headed for Auburn.  After all, he’d been an Auburn fan all his life.

But there were growing indications as signing day neared that Rashaan was having second thoughts. Alan Evans, rated the nation’s top running back prospect when he signed out of Enterprise in 1981, did not last at Auburn. He left after his second season, admittedly embittered and unhappy. Alabama, apparently, did a good job of convincing Rashaan that he would thrive more in its defense than Auburn’s and that he would have a better path to the NFL. Auburn coaches countered with arguments of their own.

In the end, Evans chose Alabama and that is that. If he’d made his decision a month ago, Auburn fans would be celebrating a terrific finish.

By any measure, Auburn signed a class worthy of celebration.

Opelika safety Stephen Roberts and Opelika H-back Jakell Mitchell backed out of Alabama commitments and signed with Auburn. Defensive tackle Dontavius Russell flipped from Georgia to Auburn. Quarterback Sean White dominated in Elite 11 competition and in the Under Armour All-America game.

Tre Williams was the top linebacker prospect in the state and a consensus top five among linebackers nationally. Wide receiver D’haquille Williams was the nation’s top junior college prospect. Roc Thomas was the state’s top running back and among the nation’s best.

The class is ranked No. 6 nationally by 247Sports, No. 9 by Rivals, No. 8 by Scout and No. 8 by ESPN. The true value of this or any other recruiting class will be told in the years ahead. Who will be better than expected? Who will wash out? Who will be plagued by injuries? There is no way to know.

Once Andrew Williams put on his Auburn cap around 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, it was done. Even as coaches waited on his decision, they were on cell phones working on the Class of 2015.

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: