Gus Malzahn and his coaching staff have begun their final push to improve a 2020 football recruiting class that already ranks No. 8 nationally in the 247Sports ratings. The dead period for recruiting ended last Friday and the Tigers are looking to line up more help on the line of scrimmage.
One of the more interesting recruiting notes this season is that four-star defensive lineman Jay Hardy from McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., actually signed with the Tigers in the early period in December, but kept it quiet until word got out that Auburn has his signed scholarship papers. Hardy was planning to announce his commitment to the Tigers during a ceremony at his school on the traditional national signing day, which this year is Feb. 5th.
While Hardy is officially on board another football commitment is officially overboard. Juco lineman Jonathan Buskey no longer has an offer from the Tigers. An offensive tackle at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, questions about whether or not the Alabama native from Mobile will be an academic qualifier have prompted the Tigers to look elsewhere for another lineman.
The Tigers have targeted five-star recruit Broderick Jones, an offensive tackle from Lithonia, Ga., High School, who is verbally committed to the Georgia Bulldogs. However, with UGA losing its offensive line coach, Jones is considering the Tigers and is planning to take an official visit to Auburn next week.
Auburn’s new offensive line coach, Jack Bicknell, Jr., will have an opportunity to convince Jones of the advantages of being taught by someone who has experience coaching offensive linemen for three NFL teams.
With the Tigers having to replace five 2019 senior offensive linemen who leave behind extensive starting experience, it won’t be a surprise if the coaches check out the graduate transfer portal to find a seasoned player they can immediately plug into the starting lineup like they did with Jack Driscoll, who started two seasons for the Tigers at right tackle.
From the notebook:
• Softball season is just around the corner with a Feb. 7th doubleheader in Clearwater, Fla., vs. Baylor and Notre Dame on opening day. That is part of a challenging pre-conference schedule Coach Mickey Dean has set up to get his new-look roster up to speed before SEC play begins.
The expectations are lower for the Tigers after losing their top pitcher, Makayla Martin, and top everyday player, second baseman Casey McCrackin, as well another major four-year contributor, power-hitting catcher Kendall Veach. The Tigers are picked 11th in the SEC in the coaches preseason poll, but could do better than that if the large signee class that includes nine freshmen and three transfers can help the team early and often this season.
• The baseball Tigers will open their schedule a week later with higher expectations than any team in the program’s recent history. Coach Butch Thompson’s Tigers have major pitching potential and that is why they are ranked in the Top 10 nationally in preseason polls.
It also helps explain why Auburn has sold a record 2,285 season tickets for games at Plainsman Park. A crowd of 600 supporters attended the team’s preseason banquet this past weekend.
• Another Auburn group that has an opportunity to finish among the top teams in the country this season is the gymnastics squad. Coach Jeff Graba’s Tigers have been given a boost from a talented freshman class and it looks like the potential is there to have success in the regular season and postseason. The Tigers will take on visiting Missouri at 7 p.m. on Friday.
• The Auburn Arena staff will be busy on Friday night and Saturday morning with a quick turnaround needed because Coach Bruce Pearl’s basketball team will play at 11 a.m. on Saturday as Iowa State visits to compete in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge series.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter