SEC dominates recruiting rankings once againAuburn head coach Gus Malzahn talks about his class of recruits Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, during an NCAA college football National Signing Day news conference in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/ AL.com, Julie Bennett)
The Auburn Tigers landed highly rated recruits at positions where they could use immediate help, and a top-10 class they're hoping will be a springboard to more success.
Coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers capitalized on a surprising run to the national championship game with Wednesday's haul led by three five-star prospects: junior college receiver D'haquille Williams, linebacker Tre' Williams and running back Roc Thomas.
Malzahn said all three could make an early impact.
''We got some outstanding guys that are going to help us win a whole lot of games,'' he said.
Auburn signed six defensive linemen and five defensive backs.
The Tigers are expected to be highly ranked in the preseason.
''We're coming off a year where we were 13 seconds short of winning the national championship,'' Malzahn said. ''We've got a lot of guys coming back and when you add that to this group coming in, the future's very bright.''
National rankings (Rivals 9, Scout 9).
Best in class: Thomas is a top-15 overall recruit by both Rivals and Scout. He could compete with Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason in the backfield. Alabama's Mr. Football and a Parade All-American, he ran for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior. Malzahn said he was the top runner on Auburn's recruiting board. ''We really feel like he's got the ability to come in immediately and make a huge impact,'' he said.
Best of the rest: Five-star WR D'haquille Williams, who is already enrolled, was Rivals' No. 1 junior college prospect. Malzahn says: ''He's got unbelievable skills.''
LB Tre' Williams is another five-star recruit who was rated one of the nation's top two linebackers by several recruiting sites. Both play positions where Auburn has immediate needs. ''Really one of the keys to this class,'' Malzahn said. ''We really felt like he was the top linebacker in the class.''
Late additions: Auburn picked up two more big men on signing day. Braden Smith of Olathe, Kan., was rated the nation's top guard by Scout. Auburn targeted him hard after Greg Robinson left for the NFL draft. Smith chose Auburn over Texas A&M and TCU.
Andrew Williams was rated the No. 12 defensive end by 247Sports and Rivals. Auburn beat out finalists Clemson and Georgia.
One that got away: Auburn High School five-star linebacker Rashaan Evans chose Alabama in another signing-day announcement. He would have been Auburn's top-rated signee if he had signed with his hometown school.