By Wil Crews
The Auburn Tigers’ early national signing day period ended with a splash when the No. 1 junior college defensive lineman Jeffrey M’ba announced his commitment Sunday, but there is still much to do.
The commitment of the 6-foot-6-inch, 305-pound French native immediately fills a need along the interior of the defensive line and caps off a recruiting trifecta for Auburn — signing the top-rated JUCO defensive lineman, cornerback and safety.
At the start of last week, Auburn found itself outside of the top 35 recruiting rankings per 247 Composite. Flipping two “blue chip” recruits from Alabama and LSU and the final addition of M’ba has moved the Tigers’ 2022 class up to No. 13 in the country — No. 6 in the SEC.
The majority of Auburn’s class signed last week but some notable names still remain of the list of 2022 targets — notably local commit Cadel Story of Lanett, who pushed his signing back to February for ambiguous reasons.
Additionally, the transfer portal is as active as ever, and Auburn failed to sufficiently address its offensive line needs on early national signing day. The big guys up front will be a primary focus for Harsin and his staff over the next month or so.
Accounting for outgoing transfers, Auburn could have between 10 to 14 more roster spots available this cycle. The Tigers had a successful week; but none of it matters if they do not land a couple offensive linemen and a few others via transfer. The following is not a comprehensive list, of course, but here is a look at where the Tigers could be focusing as the calendar flips into 2022 and Auburn builds out its roster for year two under Harsin.
PROSPECTS REMAINING FOR 2022:
4-star RB Tre Citizen: Auburn had hoped Citizen would sign last week. The Tigers already signed 4-star running back Damari Alston, but the No. 9-ranked RB Citizen is still a top target for the Tigers. The Lake Charles, Louisiana, prospect will have to forgo attention from LSU and Florida to stay with Auburn. We will see if Auburn running backs coach Cadillac Williams is worth his weight in gold on this one.
4-star DL Caden Story: Another puzzler for Auburn, Story’s father said he pushed back the commitment due to logistical concerns. Story has been committed to the Tigers since August, so this may be a non-story. However, this is one to monitor.
4-star OL/DL Tae Woody: Academic concerns pushed back Woody’s commitment to February. The versatile commit out of Lafayette, Alabama, has official visits planned to The Plains and to Florida State — so it appears to be a two horse race. The No. 15 interior offensive lineman in the nation would be massive get for Auburn.
3-star LB EJ Lightsey: Dropping his commitment to Florida after the firing of Dan Mullen, Lightsey, the No. 49 linebacker in the nation according to 247 Composite, is a target for Auburn.
3-star OL Jalen Farmer: Another Florida guy, Farmer has an official visit coming up next month.
3-star OL Anez Cooper: The 6-foot-6-inch, 352-pound in-state commit has loads of potential with that body.
3-star Safety Laquan Robinson: The Greenville, Alabama, prospect is rated the No. 42 player at his position nationally and is “warm” on 247’s recruiting database for Auburn and Ole Miss.
TRANSFER PORTAL TARGETS:
Offensive Linemen: There are a number of names to watch out for. Auburn’s offensive line is in jeopardy of once again being a bottom-three position group in 2022 — if not dead last. With questions surrounding the quarterback present as well, the need for solidifying line is imperative. Keep your eye on Virginia transfers Ryan Swoboda and Bobby Haskins, Western Kentucky’s Mason Brooks, Harvard’s Spencer Rolland and Cornell’s Hunter Nourzad, among others.
QB Kedon Slovis: AuburnLive’s Justin Hokanson reported, shortly after Austin Davis was hired as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, that Davis was already working on the former USC star. Three years ago, Slovis had a breakout freshman campaign. He has since cooled off — thanks in part to injuries and the mess that has been the USC program — and lost his starting job this past season.
QB Cameron Ward: Another QB to keep an eye on, Ward won the Jerry Rice Award in 2020 as the top freshman in the FCS. Last year, he threw for 4,600 yards, 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He still has three years of eligibility remaining but has taken his lone official visit to see Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss.
WR Jacob Copeland: Auburn was in the running for Copeland when he was coming out of high school. The former top-100 recruit chose Florida instead, but following an up-and-down career thus far, Copeland entered the portal in the wake of Dan Mullen’s firing.
WR Trey Palmer: A member of the class of 2019, Palmer entered the transfer portal after LSU’s firing of Ed Orgeron. The upside is there, along with proven punt and kick return abilities. Despite improvement toward the latter half of the season, the Tigers’ receiving core could use some reinforcements.
LB Mahomoud Diabate: An Auburn High School alum, Diabate recorded 89 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 2021 for the Florida Gators. With the departure of linebackers Zakoby McClain and Chandler Wooten, Diabate could slot right in to pair with Owen Pappoe in 2022.
LB Eugene Asante: If the Tigers can’t get the hometown Diabate, Asante — the only transfer to be confirmed as a visitor to Auburn so far — could be a target the Tigers push hard for. Asante was a rotation guy for the North Carolina Tar Heels but would still have two years of eligibility to improve on The Plains.
DL Jayson Jones: Originally an Alabama commit, Jones opted for Eugene, Oregon, because the Ducks allowed him to play his preferred position among the defensive line. Coming out of Calera High School in Alabama, Auburn could bring Jones — who would have four years of eligibility left — back to his home state and slot him into the rotation in year one.
CB DJ James: A Spanish Fort, Alabama prospect, and another Oregon Duck, James earned a starting role this past season and could be another target that Auburn benefits from adding. With Roger McCreary heading to the NFL, Auburn could use some immediate reinforcement at the position.