Auburn lands receiver signees on signing day

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

AUBURN — The Auburn Tigers pulled in two of their biggest recruiting catches on the final day.

Receivers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake joined a large group of previous commitments in signing letters of intent to play for the Tigers on Wednesday, national signing day.

New Auburn coach Gene Chizik dipped into Louisiana and Texas to get several of the offensive playmakers his team badly needed, including those receivers and Texas quarterback Tyrik Rollison. Benton and Blake supplied most of the suspense for Chizik.

“When you’re talking about two very highly recruited guys, you really don’t know until the fax comes through and you know it’s locked,” he said. “We’ve all been doing this long enough to know how on signing day that works. I’m never going to say I had 100 percent confidence until we got it. But we always knew we were in the mix.”

Benton, of Bastrop, La., was a Parade All-American coming out of high school, then spent a season at prep school — signing with LSU both times. He sat out last fall to finish some coursework to become eligible, and still has five years to play four.

Blake of Austin, Texas, chose Auburn over Texas Tech and Colorado on signing day. Both Benton and Blake were rated four-star receivers.

Rollison was rated the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback by out of Sulphur Springs, Texas, and was one of two passers signed by the Tigers.

“In the name of finding the best player available to sign at Auburn, I think those guys were no-brainers,” Chizik said. “Obviously we would like to think that we upgraded our athletic ability and skill and speed at those positions. Those are what we feel like are the right guys. If we develop them right and do the things we need to do, hopefully they are going to be some very good football players here.” rated Auburn’s class No. 18 nationally in preliminary rankings.

Hired in mid-December, Chizik inherited a team with plenty of room for immediate contributions at some positions. They have serious depth issues in a receiving corps that has not produced many yards or big plays in recent seasons and needed immediate help on the defensive line and at linebacker.

Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, cornerback Jerraud Powers and linebacker Tray Blackmon all left after their junior seasons to start pro careers.

Rollison and Mobile’s Clint Moseley, Alabama’s Mr. Football, both could compete at least for a backup spot behind quarterback Kodi Burns.

“When you throw all the ingredients that you want to compete at that position, they both came out two great quarterbacks that we think have an opportunity to come in here and learn this offense and compete for a job,” Chizik said. “At the end of the day they were the right fit.”

He was also able to sell the offensive skill players on the chance to play in Gus Malzahn’s no-huddle offense, which was among the nation’s most productive last season at Tulsa.

“Without question, that was one of the main selling points we had was the productivity and the effectiveness of the offense over the last few years,” Chizik said. “That was a no-brainer.”

Auburn also signed running back Dontae Aycock, a former Georgia Tech commitment. Defensive lineman Josh Jackson and junior college cornerback Taikwon Paige both signed after giving their pledges Tuesday evening.

Linebacker Eltoro Freeman and tailback Onterio McCalebb both have a head start on the other newcomers in competing for starting jobs after enrolling in January.

Chizik said a primary focus was on upgrading athleticism and speed and “we really felt we were able to do that.”

“It was really the first step in the foundation of what we’re trying to do,” he said of the class.

He also capitalized on previous relationships established from offensive assistants like Malzahn and Curtis Luper and Trooper Taylor, both of whom came from Oklahoma State. Luper recruited Rollison and Taylor recruited Benton.

Chizik said that was important in getting players like Benton to make official visits to campus.

“We feel like anytime we get them here on campus and they see the pride and tradition and all the things that Auburn has to offer, we feel like we’ve got a shot,” he said. “That’s what happened. We got him on campus, we threw our hat in the ring and we battled for him.

“That was never an easy get, all the way up to the time we actually received the fax. It was a big deal for us.”

A list of Auburn’s football signees on Wednesday:

Dontae Aycock, rb, 5-10, 216, Chamberlain HS, Tampa, Fla.

Daren Bates, db, 5-11, 195, Olive Branch (MS) HS

DeAngelo Benton, wr, 6-3, 205, Bastrop (La.) HS

Emory Blake, wr, 6-1, 194, Stephen F. Austin HS, Austin, Texas

Terrence Coleman, dl, 6-1, 251, Williamson HS, Mobile, Ala.

Robert Cooper, ath, 6-4, 204, Daphne HS, Mobile, Ala.

Nosa Eguae, dl, 6-3, 234, Summit HS, Mansfield, Texas

Jonathan Evans, lb, 5-11, 202, Blount HS, Prichard, Ala.

Nick Fairley, dl, 6-4, 295, Copiah-Lincoln CC, Mobile, Ala.

Dee Ford, de, 6-3, 205, St. Clair County, Odenville, Ala.

…Eltoro Freeman, lb, 6-0, 223, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Alexander City, Ala.

Harris Gaston, lb, 6-3, 210, Bessemer (Ala.) Academy

Anthony Gulley, ath, 5-11, 185 Brantley (Ala.) HS

Andre Harris, ol, 6-4, 300, Lovejoy (Ga.) HS

Josh Jackson, dl, 6-2, 260, Gainesville (Ga.) HS

Brandon Jacobs, rb, 6-0, 237, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.

LaVoyd James, wr, 5-10, 180, Williamson HS, Mobile, Ala.

Izauea Lanier, db, 6-0, 185, Gordo (Ala.) HS

Philip Lutzenkirchen, te, 6-4, 240, Lassiter HS, Marietta, Ga.

…Onterio McCalebb, RB, 6-0, 175, Hargrave Military Acad., Fort Meade, Fla.

Clint Moseley, qb, 6-4, 196, Leroy (Ala.) HS

Taikwon Paige, db, 5-10, 175, Georgia Military College, Aiken, S.C.

Tyrik Rollison, qb, 6-2, 185, Sulphur Springs (Texas) HS

Travante Stallworth, wr, 5-9, 180, Leesville (La.) HS

John Sullen, ol, 6-5, 325, Auburn (Ala.) HS

Reggie Taylor, db, 5-10, 165, Peach County HS, Fort Valley, Ga.

Jamar Travis, dl, 6-1, 298, W.S. Neal HS, Brewton, Ala.

Demond Washington, ath, 5-9, 185, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Tallassee, Ala.

…_Already enrolled.