NCF On The Trail: Josh Casher

When a football coaching staff signs one of the top few recruits at any position, it's cause for celebration. Therefore, grabbing two of the top three prospects at that position might warrant an Animal House-style party.

Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.

This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).

Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.

In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.

Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.

2006

Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez

Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.

2007

Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey

Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.

Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler

McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.

2008

Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat

Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.

Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan

Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.

Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts

Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.

Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley

Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.

2009

Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman

Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.

2010

Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam

Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.

Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd

Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.

Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White

Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.

2011

Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon

The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.

2012

Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher

Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.

2013

Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler

Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.

Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson

Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.

Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III

A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.

Top overall position classes in 2014 

February, 21, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

Top position classes: OL 

February, 20, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Not only did Alabama put together the best offensive line class in the 2014 cycle, but it's also one of the best in recent memory. The Crimson Tide inked early enrollee and five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and also got top-ranked junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo). On the interior, the nation's top two centers, No. 168 overall Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) and No. 190 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) signed, as did No. 3 guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls). A second guard in the class is three-star Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), who could also play nose tackle at the next level.

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best offensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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5 to watch: SEC signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
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With signing day quickly approaching, there are several storylines developing throughout the SEC. Here’s a closer look at five things to watch for on national signing day:


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Alabama’s season might not have ended the way the Crimson Tide wanted -- and let’s face it, anything short of a national championship was going to be disappointing -- but they still finished 11-2.

Off the field, Alabama has continued its recruiting dominance in the 2014 cycle. The Crimson Tide currently have the No. 1 class and still have a chance to have a strong finish. With signing a month away, here’s a closer look where the Tide stand in recruiting.


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The practices are in the books and now is the time for the nation’s top prospects to showcase their skills under the bright lights of the Under Armour All-America game (4 p.m. Thursday, ESPN). With an outstanding collection of talent taking the field, it can be easy to feel a football sensory overload. No matter where you look, you will see a promising prospect in action, but to help guide your focus, we put together a few viewing tips. You can’t go wrong wherever your eyes take you on the field, but the following could be a good place to start.

If you want to know where next year's top college freshmen will play …


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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Early Offer: Latest on top 5 teams 

November, 4, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the newest edition of the BCS rankings released, we take a look at the biggest headlines of the top five teams from the recruiting trail.


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UA Game jersey tour: Josh Casher

October, 31, 2013
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Senior center Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul's Episcopal) was presented his honorary game jersey Tuesday during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. The event was part of a three-month jersey tour.

[+] EnlargeJosh Casher, Tre Williams
Courtesy of IntersportESPN 300 prospects Josh Caster and Tre' Williams of Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's Episcopal are headed to rival schools for college, but will play together one more time in the Under Armour All-America Game.
Casher, an Alabama commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised game featuring the country’s top high school seniors. The game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“First and foremost, I want to thank God for where he has brought me,” Casher said. “Second, you know I would love to thank my family because without them I wouldn’t be where I am. Third, I want to thank my team because without them I’m nothing at all.”

Added Casher: “This is incredible. I think I was selected to come because I think they see the fight within me. They see that I’m a great player, but I’m also a great individual to come to this game. I think they see that I won’t be denied. No matter how big you are, how fast you are or how strong you are ... that what I want to do is be the best player Josh Casher can be, and I feel like that’s what you want in an All-American and that’s what I’m going to continue to strive for.”

Casher is quick to give credit to everyone in his circle for helping him become the player he is today.

“How did I get where I am today? I would say through my family, my coaches and my team. I have a great head coach and I have an amazing offensive line coach," he said. "My teammates are great, and we all get along. Tre’ [Williams] is an amazing teammate, and I love playing with him,” Casher said.

The 6-foot-1, 290-pound Casher is the No. 183 prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 1 center in the class. He committed to Alabama over Florida State and Auburn, where he was originally committed.

Bama adds No. 1-ranked C Casher

October, 29, 2013
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Alabama continued to strengthen its No. 1-ranked recruiting class on Tuesday night by adding a commitment from Under Armour All-American Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal), the No. 1-ranked center in the country.

The No. 183 player in the ESPN 300, in somewhat of a surprise, chose Alabama over Florida State and Auburn. His commitment was first reported by Rivals.com and several other media outlets.

Auburn was thought to have the inside track for the four-star offensive lineman. The Tigers' co-offensive coordinator, Dameyune Craig, recruited Casher’s older brother Chris while Craig was an assistant at Florida State and knows the Casher family well. Josh Casher was even previously committed to Auburn before backing off his pledge in July. Casher also has a high school teammate, Tre' Williams, that committed to Auburn.

But it wasn't meant to be for the Tigers.

For Alabama, the rich get richer. The offensive line class the Crimson Tide is putting together is arguably the best position group in the country.

The Tide have commitments from Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle in the country, Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls), the No. 1-ranked guard, and now the top two centers in Casher and J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge).

With Casher and Hassenauer now in the fold, Alabama could move one of the two prospects to guard.

Alabama now has 22 commitments, including an impressive 17 that are ranked in the ESPN 300. The Tide have six offensive line commitments and could sign as many as eight OL in this class.

Casher is one of only five in-state commitments for the Crimson Tide.

SEC recruiting mailbag

October, 11, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them, but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@Drew_Vaughn_55: [Who are the] top targets still on Auburn's board?

[+] EnlargeRashaan Evans
Miller Safrit/ESPNHomewtown four-star LB Rashaan Evans is a top target for Auburn, but other SEC teams are involved, too.
Derek Tyson: This will certainly change from now until signing day, but as of now the top remaining prospects for the Tigers appear to be four-star linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing), four-star center Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul's Episcopal), offensive guard Jordan Sims (Birmingham, Ala./Homewood) and wide receiver Myron Burton Jr. (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

@LSUPETERadams: How serious is Hootie Jones about Bama?

Gerry Hamilton: There is no doubt Laurence "Hootie" Jones is very serious about Alabama. He has been on campus at least two times since July, and he is sitting on I-20 in Monroe at Neville High. Why is that important? One, because it's easier to get a prospect out of Louisiana in the northern part of the state, and two, Alabama has tons of momentum and that includes O.J. Smith (Bossier City, La./Airline High), Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish High) and No. 3 overall Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe High) all being from that very important I-20 in the Pelican State. With that said, one has to consider LSU the front runner for Jones until he actually pulls the trigger for a program other than the Tigers. There is competition and quality depth at whichever school Jones picks, and he is a very talented and confident player, so this is not a decision that will come down to looking at depth charts.

@Watup_Haun: Can Vol Nation steal Clifton Garrett? #vols

DT: The No. 3-ranked inside linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) told me after Tennessee's hard-fought overtime loss to Georgia that his experience actually helped the Vols' chances of landing him. The problem for Tennessee is LSU had such a commanding lead going in to the visit it might be too much to overcome. The Vols certainly improved their chances, and Florida and Ole Miss are still very much in the running, but as of now I think LSU is still probably the team to beat.

@driverag: Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) didn't visit the Gators last Saturday. Is that bad news? Any chance they can still get him?

DT: Noil said on Sept. 1 that his top three consisted of Florida, USC and Texas A&M, which is good news for Florida fans considering the home-state team, LSU, is not listed. However, Noil and his teammate Gerald Willis III have both moved their visit to Florida back twice. The more they continue to to push back their visit to Florida, in my opinion, that is not a good thing for the Gators. Until they actually get on campus again, it's really hard to determine just how serious they are about Florida. Despite what they are saying publicly, LSU is still very much in the picture. A victory over LSU this weekend by Florida could certainly go a long way as far as their recruitment.

Best available among recent decommits 

October, 8, 2013
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With just about four months until national signing day there are still some very good prospects available and among that group are some who, at one point during the process, were verbally committed to a program, but have since reopened their recruitment. For 2014 we have already seen dozens of decommitments, and while some have already recommitted, several have since remained open. Here are the best from that group:

Alin Edouard (Hialieah, Fla./Hialeah): Of the top thirty quarterbacks in this class, regardless of classification, Edouard is the only one among that group that remains uncommitted. After decommitting from Miami, which still holds commitments from two other QB prospects, Edouard is a promising prospect. A good athlete that could potentially play another position in college, he possesses very good arm strength, a quick release and the tools to develop at the QB position. With most of the top QB prospects committed at this stage, the four-star dual-threat signal caller became a key target for programs still looking to add a QB to their 2014 class.

Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./MLK): Back on the market, Green is still not amongst the top five available CBs, but he is a good prospect and is a tough loss for South Carolina’s class. He doesn’t possess elite speed, but the ESPN 300 defender is simply a good football player. Possessing good length, deceptive playing strength, good footwork and ball skills, he can offer some scheme versatility and be effective as both a man and zone corner. Georgia could benefit from the in-state four-star decommitting, but the Gamecocks could still potentially bring the talented DB back into the mix as well.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Central): A one-time LSU verbal, Rhaheed reopened his recruitment a few months ago and is currently the top-rated uncommitted OLB in the 2014 class. The ESPN 300 defender is an athletic and tough prospect at the position with promising upside. He will need further coverage experience but he demonstrates the tools to quickly find and get around the football and make plays. A new verbal doesn’t look imminent, but the four-star could still end up in the SEC when he does commit again.

Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul’s): Of the top ten center prospects, only Casher remains open after decommitting from Auburn. At 6-foot-1, the ESPN 300 prospect lacks ideal height, but is tough and has very good playing strength. He can use his shorter stature to consistently win the leverage battle and has good feet. Casher can get the job done in both run and pass blocking. If Casher possessed more ideal height he could be rated even higher amongst the top interior prospects in this class, but the four-star can still be a very good guard or with more experience, center.


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SEC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
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With signing day still several months away, schools will add and in some cases lose committed prospects. Here is a look at the best and worst case scenario for each SEC school.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



Things are going well at this point. Much like Mark Stoops at Kentucky and Butch Jones at Tennessee, Malzahn and Co. are making big strides in their first full calendar year of unveiling their blueprint. This is the key for Auburn in my opinion, they must, absolutely must make good decisions on people, not just talent. This is what doomed those highly rated classes, particularly the 2010 class. Guys like Michael Dyer, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens were highly recruited by everyone and they are no longer at Auburn not because of a lack of talent, but due to off-the-field issues. This has not only affected talent, but depleted the team's depth.

Malzahn is fully aware of this and his staff is placing a huge emphasis on good players and good kids. The crown jewel of this class is obviously RB Racean Thomas -- a huge need at a spot that has both a dearth of talent and depth right now. Conversely, the decommitment of center Josh Casher was a blow because the offensive line is a huge need, too. ATH Stanton Truitt is the utility weapon much like Onterio McCalebb, but Tuitt is more of a true receiving threat. Perhaps the best, most undervalued prospect in Auburn’s class is TE-H Jakell Mitchell. We feel he could be special because of his skill set and what the offense will ask of him. Juco WR D’haquille Williams is a difference-maker and an immediate impact player. Sean White is a nice acquisition at QB, but more for depth at this point, as Auburn's primary targets QB-DT Brandon Harris and QB-DT Deshaun Watson committed elsewhere. Showing marked improvement this fall will only enhance the Tigers' recruiting efforts down the stretch to help them close come signing day.

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