Next up in our weeklong series examining how each team in the SEC performed on national signing day is the Auburn Tigers, who finished with the No. 9 recruiting class in the nation.
Biggest need heading into signing day: Auburn wasn’t great on defense. The quarterback play was inconsistent at best. But no position is thinner heading into the spring than wide receiver. Ricardo Louis led the team with 46 receptions, 716 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He graduated. After Louis, it was Melvin Ray with 279 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He was a senior. It was also the final year of eligibility for former star D’haquille Williams, who didn’t even make it to the midway point of the season before he was dismissed from the team. That leaves Jason Smith, Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens as the team’s three leading receivers.
How it was addressed: No team filled a need better than Auburn did at wide receiver. Gus Malzahn called his receiver haul the best in the country, and he might be right. Kyle Davis (No. 54) and Eli Stove (No. 113) both are ranked in the ESPN 300. Marquis McClain is a three-star player who impressed the coaches at camp. And the standout of the group is Nate Craig-Myers, the No. 2 wide receiver nationally; he committed to the Tigers on signing day. Three of the four signees are listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, and all four will have an opportunity to contribute early with so much youth and inexperience at the position.
Position of strength: As good as the wide receivers were in this class, they don’t touch the defensive linemen who are coming in. It’s a position that Auburn has made a point of emphasis since Malzahn took over, and it was no different this year. Derrick Brown, Antwuan Jackson Jr. and Marlon Davidson all are ranked in the top 40 nationally, and with the way Rodney Garner rotates bodies up front, all three should expect to make an early impact. Paul James is a junior college transfer, which means Auburn signed him with the intent to play early as well. And three-star defensive end Nick Coe was singled out by Malzahn last week as a guy who might be flying under the radar. Malzahn said he thinks Coe will be a “phenomenal player.”
Biggest remaining question mark: This class addressed most of Auburn’s needs. Wide receiver? Check. Defensive line? Check. A quarterback to come in and compete with Jeremy Johnson and Sean White? Check, twice. But if there’s one spot where the Tigers could have added another body, it was at linebacker, where they lost all three starters from a season ago. Yet the coaches signed just one linebacker, Tre Threat. And while Threat is ranked in the ESPN 300 and has the versatility to play either inside or outside, there's no depth. Expect Auburn to push hard for a strong linebacker class in 2017.