Thursday, February 5, 2009

National Signing Day: The Aftermath

Here's a breakdown of Auburn's signing class:

1. Eltoro Freeman, LB, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Miss.: Auburn coach Gene Chizik said expects Auburn Freeman to have an immediate impact at a position desperately in need of instant impact. Freeman is already enrolled in class and will likely compete for a starting spot during spring practice. He’s listed on Scout as a five-star linebacker and he has three years of eligibility remaining.

2. Onterio McCalebb, RB, Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.: McCalebb could have been an impact player last year as a true freshman but couldn’t qualify academically when he signed with Auburn. Now he, like Freeman, is enrolled at school and will be available throughout spring practice. He could provide the Tigers with a much-needed explosive offensive weapon.

3. Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Marietta High School in Lassiter, Ga.: Lutzenkirchen became a YouTube sensation with a remarkable play he made during his senior season. He’s expected to be a pass-catching tight end that can do a little bit of everything, even as a true freshman.

4. DeAngelo Benton, WR, Bastrop High School: Benton was listed as a five-star prospect in 2008 when he signed with LSU out of Hargrave Military Academy. Once he failed to qualify again, though, Benton took the year off to qualify. Benton didn’t play football in 2008, but could have an immediate impact at a position of need for Auburn. Benton still has four years of eligibility and a redshirt year available.

5. Emory Blake, WR, S.F. Austin High School in Austin, Tex.: Blake, the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake, seemed like he would be the greatest coup for Auburn on National Signing Day. That is, of course, until Benton signed 21 minutes later. He is the type of receiver – both in stature and ability – that Auburn coaches set out to sign.

SLEEPER: Nosa Egaue, DE, Mansfield Summit High School in Mansfield, Tex.: Egaue chose Auburn over a host of Big XII and Big Ten schools. The Auburn coaching staff is high on him despite his three-star rating. Eguae isn’t likely to play much as a true freshman and, in fact, will more likely redshirt. Down the road, however, he could emerge as a solid contributor.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Freeman: He will likely start from Day One with Auburn’s desperate need at linebacker. Freeman will have spring practice under his belt since he is currently enrolled at Auburn and that should give him time to meld with the starting defense. “He’s what you’re looking for at that position,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “He’s physical, he runs well.”

FITTIN’ GAPS: While Auburn did address both receiver and linebacker needs, it missed badly on offensive line. The Tigers needed someone to play immediately along the line. Andre Harris has the best shot, but is likely a long shot to start next year. Auburn possibly found immediate starters at both linebacker and receiver.

BEST SURPRISE: Benton: It looked like LSU all the way for Benton, who had twice signed with the Tigers. He signed with the Tigers again – only this time it was with the Auburn Tigers. Benton made a surprise visit to the Plains, but wasn’t expected to sign with Auburn. His signing gave desperately needed talent at a receiving corps desperate for it.

BIGGEST MISS: Aubrey Phillips, OL, Olive Branch (Miss.) High School: The Tigers needed offensive line help and Phillips could have supplied it. Instead, he chose Florida State, leaving Auburn and a host of other schools behind.

LOOK AHEAD: The Tigers will desperately need both offensive linemen and linebackers next year. Those two positions should be the focus of Auburn’s 2010 recruiting class in addition to, potentially, receiver and safety again.

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