AUBURN — Following his announcement of the December signing class, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn identified two positions of need.
He struck out on both of them.
On National Signing Day on Wednesday, Auburn didn’t fill its needs of offensive tackle and tight end after having numerous prospects take official campus visits over the last month of the recruiting process.
Auburn missed on getting Florida commit Richard Gouraige to flip his pledge from new head coach Dan Mullen. Dylan Wonnum, a four-star offensive tackle from Tucker, Ga., followed his older brother to South Carolina despite visiting Auburn on Jan. 12. Jaylen Goss, a three-star tackle from Valdosta, Ga., chose new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart’s program after taking a look at Auburn on Dec. 15.
“They’ve had a very fruitful month of January with the likes of Harold Joiner coming aboard, Coynis Miller, the defensive tackle out of Birmingham, very strong addition as well,” ESPN recruiting analysis Tom Luginbill said. “I think there’s probably some concerns there. When you’re sitting there watching offensive linemen and the guys that are left on the board, there’s not a ton of guys.”
Auburn might be able to salvage a late signee in the form of a nationally recruited graduate transfer. Calvin Anderson, a former starter at left tackle for Rice, is slated to visit Auburn this weekend, but all signs point to former Auburn assistant Herb Hand likely getting him to play at Texas.
The Tigers lost both of its offensive tackle starters (Austin Golson and Darius James) from the 2017 season and only have junior-to-be Prince Tega Wanogho, redshirt freshman Calvin Ashley, redshirt freshman Austin Troxell and third-year sophomore Prince Micheal Sammons on its immediate depth chart.
“Ashley really has taken the next step I feel like. He really stood out and did some very good things,” Malzahn said.
The feeling around the Auburn coaching staff is the Tigers likely will sign two tackles in the 2019 class.
New offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, who also was at the school in 2013-15, had offensive line in 2014 that included Rimington Trophy winner Reese Dismukes and Braden Smith, who was a Freshman All-American that season. Both of those prospects were personally recruited by Grimes, who has more than 30 years of experience coaching the position.
The tradition of Auburn being unable to find the pass-catching tight end threat to compliment to offensive Chip Lindsey’s scheme continued. Matt Alaimo, a three-star prospect from New Jersey, decided to go cross-county to play for UCLA and new Bruins head coach Chip Kelly.
Auburn signed 15 players in December, which allowed the Tigers to spend the last few months planning ahead.
With its inability to finish off specific position groups with key signees Wednesday, Auburn now must focus its energy on offensive tackle and tight end with the 2019 class of prospects.
“While it was an inconvenience in many ways as a result of kind of unintended consequences of having to prepare for a bowl game, once it was over with and all of a sudden the hay’s in the barn, you start to look at your month of January, and now all of a sudden you’re putting your resources and your expenditures and your manpower, you’re putting that towards the 2019 class and the 2020 classes,” Luginbill said. “You’re mapping out your on-the-road spring recruiting schedule with your coaches, and you’re getting it done six weeks, maybe earlier, than you normally would because you’re not out trying to hold the whole class together of 20, 22, 26, whatever the number is.”