The last 10 days couldn't have gone much better for Auburn. After going 13-0 and winning the SEC championship in 2004, the Tigers were expected to get off to a fast start to their 2006 recruiting class. However, they had to wait a little longer than expected.
Following an unusually long and quiet start to the recruiting season, Auburn made a huge mark on the national recruiting scene in the last week alone.
Booneville (Miss.) Northeast junior college defensive tackle Greg Smith got it started when he re-affirmed his commitment to the Tigers that he made out of Tyner Academy in 2004. Days later, two of the state of Alabama's top prospects, Montgomery (Ala.) Trinity defensive tackle Bart Eddins and Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park quarterback Neil Caudle followed suit.
However, Auburn was just getting started.
Following Eddins' commitment on Saturday and Caudle's pledge on Monday, the Tigers received two more on back-to-back days from Newark (Md.) Snow Hill tailback Benjamin Tate and Lovejoy (Ga.) athlete Mario Fannin.
But it wasn't all about the quantity of commitments, it was the quality of recruits Auburn landed that was so impressive to Rivals.com southeastern recruiting analyst Jeremy Patterson.
"It says a lot for Tommy Tuberville and his assistants that they are capitalizing on their success of the 13-0 season and using that as a springboard to build a great recruiting class.
"Auburn started off a little slower than other SEC schools, but they've exploded this past week," added Patterson. "But they didn't just get five commitments, they got five big-time commitments."
All four of Auburn's high school commitments are ranked as four-star prospects and members of the prestigious Rivals250. Caudle, a 6-foot-2, 191-pounder, is also a member of the Rivals100 and ranked the No. 4 quarterback in the country.
While the other four commitments are huge, Caudle could end up being the cornerstone of Auburn's 2006 class. The rising senior, who is also scheduled to compete in the EA Sports Elite 11 camp in California later this month, could impact the Tigers' recruiting in-state with other big-time recruits including Huffman five-star offensive lineman Andre Smith, the state's top overall prospect and nation's No. 1 lineman, as well as Homewood four-star guard David Ross.
"Most classes are built around a great quarterback," said Patterson. "And getting Caudle early along with the other great players could help Auburn down the line with players like Andre Smith and David Ross."
The current momentum Auburn has going is as much responsible for the recent surge of commitments as anything. The most recent senior camp on the Plains produced Eddins and Caudle, but although Tate and Fannin didn't make the camp, they weren't going to wait around and miss out.
With only 16-20 spots available for the 2006 class, the pressure to get in the door at Auburn before it closed, played a part. Not to mention the undefeated season and 16-13 Sugar Bowl win over ACC champion Virginia Tech.
"Recruiting can be so much about momentum, about which team is hot to the recruits. Right now, Auburn is white hot," said Bobby Burton, Rivals.com editor-in-chief and national recruiting analyst. "You look at Auburn, you look at Texas and Southern Cal - those teams are on a roll right now and the one common factor they all have is that they had great seasons and finished with big-time bowl wins."
As a result, Auburn's string of commitments has gotten the Tigers off to a huge start. The Rivals.com team rankings aren't expected to be released until later this summer, but expect Auburn to be near the top when it is. The five commitments already have a combined 3.2-star average amongst them, and with Smith projected to be a three-star prospect, Auburn would increase that average to 3.8.
Auburn could also add to that average as they are in on many of the South's top players. The Tigers currently lead for many other four-star prospects including Enterprise (Ala.) defensive end Raven Gray, Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby defensive lineman Kareem Crowell, Ft. Pierce (Fla.) St. Lucie West Centennial linebacker Chasman Davis and Wadley (Ala.) wide receiver Terrell Zachery.
Other four-star prospects Auburn is expected to be a major player for include Ft. Valley (Ga.) Peach County wide receiver Chris Slaughter, Homewood (Ala.) wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, Phenix City (Ala.) Central athlete Earl Alexander, Tuscaloosa (Ala.) American Christian quarterback Chris Smelley, Mobile (Ala.) Williamson wide receiver Jared White, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard lineman Charles Deas, Chattanooga (Tenn.) Baylor and Tennessee commitment Jacques McClendon, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and Deland (Fla.) defensive lineman Reggie Odom, in addition to Ross and the five-star Smith.
Not a bad start for Auburn, especially when the end is nowhere in sight.
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