Recruiting awards

Signing Day 2008 is over, but the talk of the newest Tigers has just begun. Who’s the top signee on offense? Defense? Who’ll be on the field the quickest? Who was Auburn’s top recruiter?

We’ll give your opinions on those questions and more as we dish out AuburnSports.com’s 2008 Recruiting Awards.

Below Bryan Matthews and Jeffrey Lee have made their picks. Without using the same person twice, we looked back on the 2007-2008 recruiting season and made our choices.

Gray was an All-State performer at both Enterprise and Copiah-Lincoln.

Top defensive player:

Bryan’s Pick: DE Raven Gray
As long as Gray stays healthy, it will be tough to keep the big 6-foot-5, 263-pounder out of the starting lineup this fall. Gray is a freak athlete for his size and will really excel once he gets coached-up with the fundamentals of pad level and using his hands on the college level. While Gray won’t be able to participate in contact this spring while he fully recovers from knee surgery, just having him learn the system and work with AU’s players and coaches will be a big plus when he’s up to full speed this summer.

Jeffrey’s Pick: DE Raven Gray
Gray has NFL first-round potential, and should contribute immediately on defense. He’s still recovering from an MCL injury and won’t go through spring practice, but Gray should be a force for Auburn when he’s cleared to play in the summer. He’s physically more mature than most of his AU teammates already, and could be a true immediate impact player on the Plains this fall.

Top offensive player:

Bryan’s Pick: QB Barrett Trotter
Trotter put up monster numbers running this offense in high school and has all the intangibles to be a very good college quarterback. Trotter’s 88 career touchdown passes are the third-most in Alabama high school history. Trotter will likely redshirt this fall and have to wait his turn but when that time comes, he could easily be a three-year starter for the Tigers.

Jeffrey’s Pick: OL Jermaine Johnson
The fact that he’s only played two years of organized football, one in high school and one in prep school, and is rated the No. 2 overall prep school prospect in the country by Rivals.com, should tell you something about this guy’s potential. Johnson is 6-foot-6, 330 pounds and being so raw, probably has more upside than arguably any recruit in the country. After playing in a back-up role in 2008, I expect Johnson to be a three-year starter at AU.

Johnson has rare size and athleticism.

Most underrated prospect:

Bryan’s Pick: DB Marcus Jemison
Lots of choices here but Jemison reminds me a lot of both Aairon Savage and Zac Etheridge coming out of high school. Jemison is a terrific athlete with good smarts and a strong work ethic. With AU needing a couple of defensive backs to come in and play right away, Jemison may not have to wait until after a redshirt year to step onto the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Jeffrey’s Pick: DL Derrick Lykes
I’d take a defensive line class full of guys like Lykes, the two-star from Clanton, any year. Lykes only played three games as a senior before injury ended his season, but one look at his junior highlights and you know the potential this guy has. Also, he’s 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, a maniac in the weight room. He seriously nearly breaks your hand every time he shakes it. After the second time of hearing my knuckles crack, I started high-fiving Lykes. Warning to Tiger Walkers: Just pat Lykes on the back if you see him, and be done with it. He will crush you.

Most likely to make an immediate impact:

Bryan’s Pick: QB Chris Todd
This one was easy. Auburn’s not going to sign a JUCO quarterback unless they’re confident he’ll come in and compete and possibly win the starting job. Todd will take the first step in that process when spring practice gets underway Feb. 28. Todd won’t be handed he job; he’ll have to earn it, but with his experience running the spread offense in high school and at Texas Tech, he may already have a leg up.

Jeffrey’s Pick: WR Harry Adams/Philip Pierre-Louis
I’m torn here. One of these two guys, if not both, could make the biggest impact of any of the incoming freshman. Auburn hasn’t had speed like these two have on the team since Tim Carter and Jeris McIntyre. Both Adams and Pierre-Louis are state track champions in the state of Florida, and both translate that speed to the football field very well. Adams is a little more raw than Pierre-Louis, having only played two years of high school football, so I’ll take Pierre-Louis in a close one over Adams.

AuburnSports.com
Smooth, who chose the Tigers over Oklahoma, could play offense or defense at Auburn.

Most likely to play on Sundays:

Bryan’s Pick: OL Jermaine Johnson
Offensive linemen with the size and athleticism of Johnson are very hard to find and the ones that pan out usually end up with fat contracts in the NFL. Johnson will have every opportunity to win AU’s starting right tackle job in two-a-days and certainly has the potential to be a big-time player on the Plains.

Jeffrey’s Pick: OL/DL Freddie Smooth
Gray and Johnson are easy picks here, but I wanted to spread the wealth, and I think Smooth has just as much chance of playing on Sunday as anyone. Auburn is VERY high on this guy and actually had him rated higher on its board than a couple of Rivals.com four and five stars from the state of Alabama. Smooth is a very athletic 6-foot-5, 300-pounder and should contribute early and often at Auburn, could be on either the offensive or defensive line. Very versatile big man.

Biggest surprise:

Bryan’s Pick QB DeRon Furr
Rarely does a high-profile prospect like Furr commit to Auburn before AuburnSports.com has a chance to profile him but that’s what Furr did shortly after visiting AU this summer for a camp. What makes Furr’s signing even bigger for the Tigers is how well he will fit into AU’s new spread offense, a possibility that wasn’t on radar when he committed in June. The final surprise from Furr came when he enrolled in Auburn in January. Furr said he wanted to keep it secret so it “would be a surprise.”

Jeffrey’s Pick: ATH Onterrio McCalebb
McCalebb camped at Auburn and seemed to be high on the Tigers early. However, he committed to West Virginia, then Rutgers, and hardly mentioned the Tigers again …. until a sudden commitment in mid-January. McCalebb still left some pondering until a Signing Day decision, but the commitment two weeks earlier was more of a surprise than anything.

Best recruiting moment:

AuburnSports.com
Even at 260 pounds, Savage is athletic enough to play LB.

Bryan’s Pick: DL Jomarcus Savage
Savage looks to be one of the top in-state signees for Auburn in this class. AU’s defensive coaches were very high on Savage since he put on a show at AU’s camp this past summer. That was evidenced by the five AU coaches that visited him at home in January. Early on, it looked like Tennessee was the team to beat but Don Dunn and the entire staff closed strong and landed a likely early contributor.

Jeffrey’s Pick: QB Barrett Trotter
Trotter shattered records as a senior at Briarwood and did so in the Tony Franklin system. Problem early on though was Trotter didn’t have an AU offer. The first person to offer Trotter was Franklin while he was at Troy, and then Auburn finally ponied up after standout camp performance. He committed shortly thereafter. A lifelong Tiger that did everything he could to play for Auburn, and finally earned that opportunity. Good moment for him, and Auburn.

Worst recruiting moment:

Bryan’s Pick: WR Jarmon Fortson
Signing Day wasn’t the best as Auburn went 0′fer on its top remaining targets but the loss of Fortson just a couple of days before Signing Day still ranks as one of the more inexplicable moments for AU’s recruiting class. It’s still hard to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why a young man who grew up an Auburn fan, lives just 30 minutes from the AU campus, and has a teammate and friend who just enrolled at AU, suddenly turned his back on the Tigers and signed with Florida State. Did I mention Fortson was a perfect fit in AU’s new offense? Oh well, it’s water under the bridge now. Time to move on.

Jeffrey’s Pick RB Enrique Davis
Auburn recruited him for more than two years, signed him out of high school, placed him at a top prep school, only to be denied on Signing Day as Davis opted for Ole Miss. Auburn lost out on some others that day, but Davis-to-Ole Miss probably hurt the worst for Tiger fans.

Biggest miss:

Bryan’s Pick: LB Jerrell Harris
Just a couple of months ago Auburn appeared to be in great shape for Harris. He had developed a terrific relationship with AU’s coaching staff and had made numerous trips to AU’s campus during the summer and fall. Losing Will Muschamp didn’t help but that doesn’t explain why AU finished a distant fourth to Alabama in the race for Harris. All the signs were there when a sullen Harris stayed for just 24 hours during his official visit to AU but the questions as to why AU made such a precipitous drop on his list may never be answered.

Jeffrey’s Pick DE/LB Robert Quinn
This one was a heartbreaker for Auburn. The Tigers went to sleep Signing Day Eve with a verbal commitment from Quinn, only to wake up to him having had a change of heart. He signed with North Carolina.

Top recruiter:

Bryan’s Pick: Greg Knox
Knox had one of his best showings as the lead recruiter on six of Auburn’s signees including four-star running back Onterrio McCalebb, three-star running back Eric Smith, three-star wide receiver Darvin Adams and three-star defensive tackle Freddie Smooth. Gran also helped pluck two of AU’s most underrated signees in defensive end Derrick Lykes and wide receiver Derek Winter.

Jeffrey’s Pick: Eddie Gran
Knox undoubtedly had his best year this year, but Gran has been a consistent force for Auburn in southern Florida and was again in 2008. He was the lead recruiter for five signees including the five-star OL Johnson, the potential difference makers in Adams and Pierre-Louis, and a potential game-changing safety in Christian Thompson.

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