The Auburn football Tigers received good news this week on the recruiting front when 6-2, 185 wide receiver J.J. Evans of Montevallo High School chose the Tigers over defending national champion Clemson, Alabama and others.
A dynamic play-maker who is a member of the 2020 recruiting class, Evans just missed setting a state record for receiving yards in a season with 1,706 on 74 catches as a junior. Coming up just 30 yards shy of the all-time mark, he attracted plenty of attention from college coaches in the process.
With Kobe Hudson previously committed, Auburn’s receiver recruiting class is off to a strong start. Hudson put up great numbers this past season at Troup County High School in LaGrange, Georgia. He did his damage playing quarterback as a junior because the team needed him at that position, but his future is catching passes instead of throwing them.
This should be a challenging weekend for the softball Tigers, who will get their oil checked on a West Coast road trip that includes major tests vs. three of the top programs in the country--UCLA, Washington and Oregon.
UCLA is off to a unbeaten start with wins over Ole Miss (4-0) and Oklahoma (7-1) plus run-rule victories vs. Missouri (11-3) and Kentucky (12-4). Washington opened 14-1 with four of those wins vs. SEC teams. Oregon is 11-4 with a 3-1 record vs. SEC teams this season.
Coach Mickey Dean’s Tigers are on an eight-game winning streak with a 13-3 overall record, but haven’t faced this level of competition this season.
Auburn’s batting average is .347 and Dean’s Tigers are showing more punch than they did last year. They have sent 23 softballs out of the park and have a very healthy .582 slugging percentage.
AU is among the league leaders in most SEC softball offensive categories. If the Tigers can keep that going, and if the pitching continues at current levels, this team should move up in the league standings compared to last season.
• An Auburn team that is up in the SEC standings compared to last year is the women’s basketball squad. The Tigers’ 20th win of the season, an exciting comeback victory over No. 25 ranked Missouri, might have put Coach Flo’s group over the top to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament after missing it last year.
The Tigers aren’t the biggest or the best team in the SEC, but they are a scrappy bunch that has battled through losing a key player (Emari Jones) to injury and has kept improving in the process.
• On the men’s basketball front it is crunch time for Bruce Pearl’s Tigers going into their final three regular season games--a home contest on Saturday vs. Mississippi State followed by a road trip to Alabama and the finale at home vs. Tennessee.
The power indexes show the Tigers as a team that should make the NCAA field with no problem, but this group has been too inconsistent to assume it will have a strong finish to the regular season or a good run in the SEC Tournament. If the Tigers finish below .500 in league play that could be a problem on Sunday Selection, but there is still time for this group to play its way into the tournament and get a good seed in the process.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter