By JD McCarthy for the Opelika Observer
Brian Harsin and his staff have been working tirelessly over the past month to close strongly on his first recruiting class.
Their work is nearly done.
National Signing Day is next Wednesday, Feb. 3, and the remaining recruits will be able to sign with the schools. Auburn signed 11 players back in December: one quarterback, one tight end, one offensive guard, three defensive tackles, one defensive end, two cornerbacks and one safety.
Those 11 players are the foundation of the class, but Auburn has plenty of room for improvement.
Harsin is clearly at a disadvantage in recruiting, having only been on the job for a month, but he knows that this is a process that takes time and one that cannot be done overnight.
With signing day just one week away, here is a look at their biggest needs.
This unit has been one of the biggest weakness for Auburn over the last several seasons and needs to be addressed for Harsin to have a successful tenure.
The Tigers signed three-star guard Garner Langlo in December but missed out on several other recruits, including four-star guard Jaeden Roberts, who flipped and signed with Alabama. This was the group that interim Head Coach Kevin Steele said suffered the most after Auburn fired Gus Malzahn.
Harsin and offensive line coach Will Friend have worked hard to bolster this unit, but they are facing an uphill climb.
Not only have they only been recruiting these players recently, but many of the top linemen also signed back in December, and schools are battling for the last few standing.
The Tigers recently offered three-star offensive tackle Colby Smith and three-star junior college offensive tackle Jordan Moko.
Moko is the top junior college tackle in the country and is from Australia. He named LSU, Texas A&M and Oregon as his top schools back in December but has left his recruitment open and is a priority for Auburn.
Smith, a 6-foot-7, 315-pound tackle from Reidsville, North Carolina, was a Tennessee commit before backing off his pledge after the Volunteers moved on from Jeremy Pruitt. Smith committed to Tennessee back when Friend was the Volunteers’ offensive line coach; this could help drive him right onto The Plains.
A season ago, this was one of the deepest positions on Auburn’s roster but that has quickly flipped due to the departures of Harold Joiner and D.J. Williams and the anticipated exit of Mark-Antony Richards, who entered the transfer portal but has not yet announced where he will be transferring.
Auburn still has a star at this position in Tank Bigsby, and a good backup Shaun Shivers. But the Tigers need to replenish the depth and build for the future. After missing out on four-star running back Armoni Goodwin, the Tigers seem to have set their sights on three-star Jarquez Hunter.
Hunter is from Philadelphia, Mississippi, and is expected to join Auburn’s class. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Hunter ran for 1,687 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior.
Even if Auburn lands Hunter, it would make sense for them to target an experienced running back in the transfer portal, one to add depth behind Bigsby and Shivers but who would not take too many carries from Bigsby.
Auburn has other lesser needs but running back and offensive line are the two biggest.
They could look to add an experienced wide receiver through the portal to complement the Tigers’ talented young receivers.
Auburn still has room to sign over 10 players, but they do not have to use them all on high school recruits. They will have the option of adding players through the transfer portal to address some needs.
“The goal is to sign the right people, to have the right players in this program, to have the right fit for what it is we’re trying to accomplish,” Harsin said. “That goes back to that original question, just making sure that we stick to the plan that we have in place and that we do follow through on getting the right people here and making sure, especially this ‘21 class, that we build it the right way.”
Photo contributed by Todd Van Emst / AU Athletics