On Wednesday, RecruitingNation put out its Ultimate ESPN 300, a ranking of the best high school football prospects since 2006. It incorporated both the prospect’s grade and projection out of high school combined with his actual college impact and production.
The top six players all hail from the SEC, and Auburn was well represented with seven players on the list, including six in the top 150. Freshman defensive end Carl Lawson, ranked No. 93, was at the top of the list for the Tigers. The Peach State product was the No. 2 overall player in last year’s ESPN 300 and showed glimpses of his potential this past season.
Lawson is joined by fellow defensive linemen Montravius Adams (121), Nick Fairley (125) and Corey Lemonier (259) on the ultimate 300. Running back Tre Mason (124) and offensive linemen Lee Ziemba (135) and Greg Robinson (150) also made the cut.
Here’s a more detailed look at Auburn’s recruiting since 2006, the year our scouts began doing evaluations.
Overachiever: Mason and Robinson are both viable candidates. Neither was ranked in the ESPN 150, but the duo was instrumental in Auburn’s turnaround this past season. Let’s go a different route, though, and look at a player who was a little more under the radar coming out of high school. When wide receiver Darvin Adams signed with the Tigers in 2008, he was ranked No. 90 at his position. It was before RecruitingNation did star rankings, but his 77 grade would have made him a three-star prospect today. After only catching three passes as a freshman, Adams blew up as a sophomore in 2009. He finished among the SEC leaders with 60 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. He nearly duplicated those numbers in 2010 with 52 catches for 963 yards and seven touchdowns. The Georgia native left school early after his junior year but went undrafted and eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent.
Underachiever: When Trovon Reed signed with Auburn in 2010, it was a major recruiting coup for Gene Chizik and his coaching staff. The four-star athlete was ranked No. 39 overall in the ESPN 150. However, his career has been hampered by injuries, and he’s yet to make the impact everybody expected him to make when he arrived. Reed’s best season came in 2011 as a redshirt freshman when he had 21 catches for 164 yards, but he’s had just nine catches in each of the past two seasons. There was talk that he might move to defensive back for his fifth and final year on the Plains, but coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t confirmed it, calling the move “premature” when he met with the media earlier this month. The move could help Reed, who is still looking to find his niche with this Auburn team. It might just be the perfect change of scenery for the once-promising prospect.
Most important: You won’t see his name on the Ultimate 300 because he came from junior college, but nobody’s made an impact on Auburn’s football program in the last decade like Cam Newton. He was only on the Plains for one season, but in that time, he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the 2010 BCS National Championship. He finished with 2,854 yards passing, 1,473 yards rushing and set the school record with 51 total touchdowns in a season. He was an iconic figure in college football. Before signing with Auburn, Newton took visits to Arizona, Mississippi State and Oklahoma.
Biggest miss: The losses of Cyrus Kouandjio and T.J. Yeldon, who both flipped from Auburn to Alabama during the recruiting process, were well-documented and likely hurt more because they went to an in-state rival. But let’s not forget how close the Tigers were to signing ESPN 150 running back Marcus Lattimore in 2010. It came down to Auburn and South Carolina for the Palmetto State prospect, who ultimately chose to stay in state. At the time, it was easy for AU fans to get over it because they had signed Michael Dyer, the nation’s No. 1 running back, but as good as Dyer was, he couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field. Can you imagine if Lattimore had come to Auburn and stayed healthy? He and Newton would’ve been scary in 2010.