The news of Gene Chizik‘s firing surprised no one.
The 2010 AP Coach of the Year led the Auburn Tigers to their worst season in decades not even two years after having won the National Championship on the back of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton.
For the unparalleled lack of success the Tigers achieved on the field, they were the exact opposite while off of it. The recruiting class that Auburn was building was going to be arguably the best in school history. Three players, middle linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive ends Carl Lawson and Dee Liner, were ranked among the top 20 players in the country by a roundtable of experts. Lawson and Foster were consensually ranked among the top three players overall. The rest of the class that was brewing was impressively talented as well as deep. But now the head coach who was recruiting them is long gone. What happens now?
Foster and Lawson are the key points. If those two stay, they have a good chance of keeping most of the class intact. Some people don’t realize how big a role recruits have in recruiting fellow prospects, but it’s true. Elite players like to play with other elite players (a la LeBron James, Dwayne Wade etc). These prospects want to know that they’re justified in their school decision and they’ll be playing with other similarly talented players in working together for a championship.
After Chizik was let go, the status of Lawson was up in the air. He’s still committed, but just barely. Foster seems intent on sticking with the Tigers, but how long will that last? How do the Tigers keep Foster and Lawson? By keeping the current assistant coaches who are recruiting them.
Here’s where it get’s tough. Defensive line coach Mike Pelton is the man recruiting Lawson and Liner. The odds of Pelton being retained by the new coach being brought in is 50-50 at best. The Tigers didn’t play very well up front this season, and other than Lawson and Liner, Pelton doesn’t have a history as ace recruiter.
The other assistant coach in question, Trooper Taylor, is the man who is key to Foster’s commitment. Taylor is truly a fantastic recruiter and would certainly be in line to keep his current job if not for a mitigating circumstance. That circumstance? Possible recruiting violations. He’s currently being looked at in addition to the rest of the program for shady dealings stemming from Newton.
If Taylor and Pelton are let go, and I’m very confident that they will be, the entire class Auburn is assembling could fall apart. Obviously, who the Tigers bring in to lead the program will be instrumental in keeping the class together, but it’s no sure thing.
One thing is sure- if Foster and Lawson change their minds about Auburn, others will follow.