Tigers bring home ‘special class’

Coach Gus Malzahn celebrates wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers committing to Auburn.

The Auburn Tigers signed 21 of the nation’s top high school and junior college football players Wednesday afternoon.

The Tigers lost three coaches over the offseason — most notably former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who is now head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

However, head coach Gus Malzahn said he was proud of how the new coaches responded and of the class they were able to haul in.

“Our defensive line class I really believe is the best in the country,” Malzahn said. “I really believe we are building a foundation for a top 10 defense. I’m really excited about that. Coach (Rodney) Garner did a wonderful job with that group, and he deserves a lot of credit for our whole defensive class.”

Among those in his defensive class, he noted 6-foot-2, 308-pound Antwuan Jackson, who Malzahn said was “one of the best defensive lineman in the nation,” Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, Paul James and Tashawn Manning.

“We’ve been recruiting (Brown) for two years, probably a little over two years,” Malzahn said. “Coach Garner did a wonderful job with him. He’s got a wonderful family. He is a true impact player. We believe he is one of the best players in the entire country. We had a chance to watch him play in person, and it was one of the most impressive performances 

that I’ve had a chance to watch at any position.”

Malzahn also said his receiver class was one of the tops in the country.

“Also, our wide receiver class is the top in the country, and it’s guys that we went after a year ago,” Malzahn said. “That’s who we hand-picked, and we got them. Coach (Dameyune) Craig and our offensive staff deserve a lot of credit. I thought it was big that we signed the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia; I think that’s the first time in school history that we did that. Georgia is very important to our success — almost half of our players are from the state of Georgia — and that will give us great momentum for the future with that. We also signed what we believe is the best player in the state of Alabama, Marlon Davidson, a guy that we identified well over a year ago, almost two years ago. We believe he is an impact player.”

Malzahn said he was confident each of the players would qualify to academically. He said he was pleased with his coaches and their recruitment this year, and while there are several vacancies left to fill on his staff, his main focus was recruiting, and he said he would have updates early next week.

“Overall, this is a very good class. The thing that really stands out to me is that it is a very talented class, but these are high character young men with great families,” Malzahn said. “You heard me say a lot of times we recruited this guy for two or three years, developing those relationships over a long period of time, and I think there is something really special that goes with that.

“I know that every year I’ve been here I’ve gotten before you and told you how excited I was, which I was, but this class is a little bit different.

“This class is a special class, and it’s probably from the standpoint that there are true impact players at impact positions.

“Defensive line sets the tone for the defense and receivers who can make impact plays.

“I’m really excited and really proud of our staff. This class I think people will look back on in the years to come.”

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