By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Before Gus Malzahn pronounces judgment on college football's inaugural early signing period, he wants to hear from the fraternity to which he once belonged: high school coaches.
"I'd like to know what they think," Malzahn said Wednesday. "I'd like to hear what high school players think, because I know there are a lot of pressures that go with that, making decisions, especially early."
Auburn signed 15 student-athletes on Wednesday, with Malzahn and his staff balancing recruiting while preparing the Tigers for their New Year's Day matchup against UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
"Any time you go through something the first time, there are things you learn," he said. "The big thing for me as a coach, you just do it. You get used to it as it goes."
After Thursday's practice, Auburn will take a four-day break for Christmas before reconvening in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Auburn's underclassmen have played a starring role during part of bowl practice.
"Just to try to spend some extra time with their development," Malzahn said. "It's been very good to see. We've seen guys improve. Our focus has been very good in practice. Our coordinators are very pleased. I know I'm very pleased."
The two-week break between the SEC Championship Game and the beginning of bowl practice provided recovery time for injured players, including SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kerryon Johnson.
"He's looked good," Malzahn said. 'He's practiced every day that we've been out there, and you can see him moving around better and better every practice."
The game plan for UCF is in, Malzahn said. Beginning Wednesday at Georgia Tech, the Tigers will start reviewing it, hoping to knock off an unbeaten team for the third time in five games.
The newest Tigers? Their turn will come soon, perhaps as early as Sept. 1 when Auburn returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to play Washington in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
"When you look at the class, things that stand out to me, it's very athletic," Malzahn said. "A lot of speed. Another class with high-character young men. A lot of these guys were honor roll. I think that says a lot about them."
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Ticket Information
Join Coach Malzahn and the seventh ranked Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as they play tenth ranked and undefeated UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Monday, January 1. Tickets are available online at AUBTIX.com or by phone at (855) 282-2010.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer