After years of under-recruiting offensive linemen, that has changed in a hurry since Coach Hugh Freeze took charge of the Auburn football program last month.
On Tuesday, when East Carolina center Avery Jones announced that he is making the move to Auburn, he became the eighth offensive linemen in Auburn’s 2023 recruiting class. In the two previous classes, Auburn brought in just three offensive line signees.
From 2017-2022, the Tigers brought in a not-so-grand total of just 16 offensive linemen as recruits from high school as well as signees out of junior college or as transfers. That is not even close to half the number of players that would be expected for an SEC program to sign over the course of six recruiting classes.
With the Tigers having to replace Kilian Zierer, Brandon Council, Alec Jackson, Brenden Coffey, Keiondre Jones and Austin Troxell, all players with starting experience, they went into the early signing period before Christmas in desperate need of help at center, both guards spots and both tackle positions.
Jones, who was a four-star recruit out of high school, is one of four offensive line signees out of the transfer portal. Those guys should provide plenty of experience and major competition for playing time, which is exactly what Freeze and his offensive staff need to begin a turnaround.
Other offensive linemen with college starting experience joining the team include tackle Gunner Britton from Western Kentucky and tackle Dillon Wade from Tulsa. Izavion Miller, who could play either tackle or guard, has starting experience at the junior college level.
The group of high school signees features Bradyn Joiner from Auburn High, Clay Wedin from Carrollwood Day in Tampa, Fla., Connor Lew from Kennesaw Mountain High in Actworth, Ga., and Tyler Johnson from Natchitoches, La., Central High School.
If things go as expected, the newcomer group of offensive linemen will include plug-in and play guys along with others who will benefit from a couple of years of development and seasoning. Development and seasoning is always a good plan when it comes to players at those positions.
Including talented running back Jeremiah Cobb from Catholic High School in Montgomery, who is scheduled to sign with the Tigers in February, Auburn’s 2023 class of newcomers is up to 31 players. Considering how bare the cupboard had become at a variety of positions, don’t be surprised if the Tigers keep adding to the roster in the coming months.
With no limit on the size of a recruiting class for 2023 with a rules change put in for college football to deal with the pandemic disruptions and the mass exodus of players into the transfer portal, the only limit on scholarship players is 85 for an entire roster. This is definitely a year that Auburn needed to sign more than the previous limit of 25 for a class, so it makes sense for Freeze and his staff to take advantage of the rule.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.
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