He didn’t specify where he and the Tigers were going, but the message was clear: Auburn is just getting started, especially when it comes to recruiting.
The Tigers put together another highly ranked recruiting class with a haul of 24 players that was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Scout.com and No. 3 by Rivals.com.
“This is another brick in the foundation of what we’re trying to build,” Chizik said. “We’re still not there yet. We are definitely not there — we have not arrived by any stretch of the imagination — but we do feel like this is going to put us in the right direction of where we would like this program to head as we move down the road.”
Chizik said he felt especially good about this year’s class because of the Tigers’ ability to address areas of need.
Auburn lost 24 seniors off its national championship team and is left with significant holes along both the offensive and defensive lines and in the secondary.
The Tigers signed five defensive linemen, four offensive linemen and five defensive backs, with at least three other signees who could ultimately wind up in the secondary.
“We feel like we scratched all the right itches,” Chizik said. “We start with our offensive and defensive lines, which was a huge part of the puzzle for us to fill the needs at those positions. I feel like we did a great job at that.
“... Not that there weren’t other positions out there that we needed to recruit, as well, but as we know in this league, offensive and defensive lines are where it all starts.”
While it may start there, it really went for the Tigers with their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton, who took his talents to the NFL a year early.
While the cupboard isn’t bare — the Tigers have junior Barrett Trotter as the heir apparent — the Tigers still want to keep the line running for offensive guru, coordinator Gus Malzahn.
And the Tigers may have found a quarterback with credentials to match that of their offensive coordinator.
Kiehl Frazier was the lone quarterback signee, but comes in with big-time credentials.
A 6-3, 210-pound senior from Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Ark., Frazier was selected as USA Today’s National Offensive Player of the Year. He was listed as ESPN.com’s No. 2 quarterback prospect.
“I feel like quarterback was obviously another huge part of the puzzle for us, certainly with Cam (Newton) leaving early,” Chizik said.
As the Tigers’ quarterback — whoever it will be — will be a work in progress, so too will its lines losing a gaggle of talent both to graduation and the NFL Draft — four of the starting five on offense.
With offensive line one of the more difficult areas for freshmen to have an immediate impact, Chizik said Reese Dismukes, Thomas O’Reilly, Gregory Robinson and Christian Westerman were signed with that in mind.
And if the recruiting services have any idea of what they’re talking about, the Tigers could be in good shape.
Dismukes is rated the No. 1 center in the country. Westerman is in the Top 10 of ESPN’s Top 150. And O’Reilly, a 3-star, isn’t shabby at all.
Dismukes and O’Reilly are already enrolled and will be eligible to participate in spring drills.
“We felt like we had to really do a great job of evaluating,” Chizik said. “Not just are they really, really good high school players, but what is the opportunity or what is the probability that they can come in and play young. ...We were trying to not necessarily bring a guy in who we felt like three years from now could help us.”
While all three players will be counted on, there is another player lingering who trumps all their credentials.
Lingering, though, is the key word.
Amongst ESPNU’s 10 hours of recruiting coverage, Cyrus Kouandjio, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation, sat in his burgandy cathlotic school blazer and told the world he was going to be a Tiger.
“I had vibes,” he said on the telecast of his decision. “My heart just told me to go to Auburn.”
And then it didn’t.
As of Wednesday evening, Auburn had not received his National Letter of Intent.
His high school coach indicated Wednesday afternoon that Kouandjio wanted to discuss his decision with his family before making things official and depending on various reports he could land anywhere from Auburn to Alabama or New Mexico or Iowa.
Under NCAA rules, Chizik could not address the Kouandjio situation, but even if the Tigers lose out on signing him, it still amounts to a top 10 class no matter which scouting service you think is right.
“Whether these classes are ranked one, or three or five, I don’t know all that, but I know that they are needed,” Chizik siad. “... We won’t know what these classes are for years to come, but I will say that I’m happy, not because someone ranked us one, or three, or five, but because we got what we felt like we needed.”
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.