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No we didnt have the #1 recruiting class: but we’ll be fine WAR EAGLE!

It wasn’t the day Auburn had hoped for but head coach Tommy Tuberville remained upbeat Wednesday as he discussed AU’s 2008 Signing Class.

The Tigers inked 25 high school, one prep school and two junior college players in a class that’s currently ranked No. 20 nationally by Rivals.com.

“Signing Day is an accumulation of a lot of work, a lot of time and effort of a lot of people,” said Tuberville. “Our coaching staff, our administration, everybody here on campus, our professors, everybody that gets involved with our student athletes when they come on campus. We’re proud of the effort that everybody has put forth.

Todd Van Emst
Tuberville speaks with one of AU’s 28 signees Wednesday morning.

“This has been an excellent year. We’re excited about the class we’ve signed.”

AU’s class was ranked as high as No. 16 in the week’s leading up to Signing Day and could have potentially moved up but the Tigers lost three highly-rated commitments over the last month and failed to close on three other top targets Wednesday.

Five-star running back Enrique Davis de-committed to Auburn and then chose Ole Miss on Signing Day. The Tigers also lost Rivals100 wide receiver Jarmon Fortson to Florida State Monday. AU chose not to sign four-star prep defensive tackle Charles Deas who plans to enroll at a junior college.

In addition to Davis, AU also lost four-star defensive end Robert Quinn to North Carolina, three-star athlete George Baker to USF and Rivals100 linebacker Jerrell Harris to Alabama on Signing Day.

“This was a year where a lot of people were desperate in recruiting it looked like,” said Tuberville. “We got bombarded by a lot of guys who had committed and they would come in and other schools tried to take them away. Some we held on to, some we didn’t. It’s a challenge to fight the media hype of a lot of guys.”

While AU missed on some highly rated targets, especially in the state of Alabama, Tuberville said he’s still very pleased with the players AU is bringing in and will stack up his staff’s ability to evaluate talent against anyone in the country.

“Recruiting is a small part of a coach’s job,” said Tuberville. “The number one thing about a coach’s job is evaluating. Anybody can recruit. You have to be able to evaluate and be good at picking the guys who can play. Not whether you think they can play. The ones that can do that usually have more success.

“We have had some pretty good success with some pretty good players and supposedly average players over the past couple of years.”

Meeting needs

When evaluating the 2008 class, Tuberville said he was pleased with how well the Tigers filled important needs at defensive line, defensive back, quarterback and wide receiver.

Auburn signed six defensive linemen including four-star JUCO defensive end Raven Gray who enrolled in school in January.

Smooth is every bit of 6-5, 300 pounds.

“Raven Gray is as good of a defensive lineman that we have every signed,” said Tuberville. “Raven is going to be an impact player. He’s a guy who can make plays, run people down from behind, bull-rush offensive linemen, but he has a lot of speed to go along with it. He is going to be an exciting guy for us to watch.”

Tuberville also said he is very high on AU’s high school d-line signees including Jomarcus Savage, Freddie Smooth, Cameron Henderson, Andre Wadley and Derrick Lykes.

“Jomarcus Savage is a guy who can play inside and outside,” said Tuberville. “The way he plays with his hands, he has very quick feet, but he is a hands player. He uses his hands to get off the block. I think he can help.

“Smooth has excellent quicks. He has a great first step, and that’s what you look for in a defensive tackle. There is no doubt with us losing Pat Sims and Josh Thompson, I think he will have a definite chance to play early.”

AU also signed six defensive backs and Tuberville expects a lot of competition among the group when they arrive in June. AU’s defensive back signees include four-star athlete T’Sharvan Bell, D’Antoine Hood, who is the nephew of former AU standout Roderick Hood, Neiko Lipscomb, Marcus Jemison, Christian Thompson and Drew Cole.

“At least two of our defensive backs are going to have to play,” said Tuberville. “Now everybody is playing a lot of the four- and five-wide receiver sets. Last year there were times when we played almost the entire game with five defensive backs on the field at a time. That was a big area of need for us.”

Auburn signed three quarterbacks Wednesday including two –- Chris Todd and DeRon Furr – who enrolled at Auburn in January, along with Barrett Trotter, who threw for 3,469 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior.

Todd signed with Texas Tech out of high school and nearly won the starting position in 2006 before transferring to Hutchinson Junior College last season. Tuberville expects Todd to compete for the starting position when spring practice gets underway Feb. 28.

“Chris Todd will make and immediate impact,” said Tuberville. “He knows the offense. He is a big guy. He can throw it. He has good touch on the football.

“He brings more experience than what we have. We will have a lot of competition at quarterback this spring. We will have four quarterbacks who will go after it.”

At wide receiver, AU inked four high school standouts in Darvin Adams, Harry Adams, Philip Pierre-Louis and Derek Winter.

Quick Hitters:

***Two commitments – athlete Brandon Smith and wide receiver Damion Allen – did not sign with Auburn Wednesday. Smith is expected to sign next week while Allen has already enrolled at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Johnson is expected to compete for a starting job at RT.

***OL Jermaine Johnson is Auburn’s highest-rated signee of the 2008 class. The 6-foot-6, 309-pounder is rated a five-star and the nation’s No. 2 prep school prospect by Rivals.com.

***Tuberville on Davis deciding to sign with Ole Miss over Auburn:

“Recruiting Enrique was one of those deals where we changed our style offense and I think that was the main thing. He wanted to go somewhere where he could possibly go in two-back team which we’re still some two-back. But as I tell all these young guys, you got to do what’s best for you. Don’t do what’s best for the school, you got to do what’s best for you.

“Enrique is a good young man, and we’ll get to play against him now. We know how good he is, and we look forward to that.”

***Tuberville on the 16 core classes that the 2008 signees must pass in order to be a full qualifier and placing players in JUCO or prep school:

“We are going to have four or five of these that are going to go to junior college or prep school. You have to do that. There isn’t anybody on the list, or anybody’s list, who is qualified because these 16 core courses have really tested the limits of counselors, superintendents and principals and all the kids. They are scrambling.

“It is a new rule that we don’t know what the impact is going to be, but it is out there for these players to reach. I am not saying it’s not a fair rule, but it is going to be a challenge.”

***Tuberville on the grades and character of the 2008 class:

“We have some people this year who we think are going to be great football players. We evaluate not just athletic ability, and that is what most of the star rankings are. They are not looking at character and attitude. We put as much an effort to judge those players on that as we do on athletic ability.

“This is a team sport. That is how we judge it; character and attitude. You have to have speed and athletic ability and potential. They may have potential, but if they don’t have the other two, then they are not going to make it here. They won’t survive. You have to have that attitude and you have to have good character.”

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