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Fact or Fiction: Can Bryan Harsin be an effective recruiter at Auburn?

Bryan Harsin
Bryan Harsin (USA Today Sports Images)

The recruiting results for Auburn’s 2023 class are a far cry from what its fans are accustomed to seeing. The Tigers are a perennial fixture in the top 20 of the Team Recruiting Rankings, but just cracked the top 50 in mid-September with verbal commitments from three-stars Jamarrion Harkless and Gernorris Wilson. Is the low ranking just a moment in time to be resolved by the Early Signing Period or a sign of problems at Auburn?

Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright and senior editor Bryan Matthews cover three Auburn recruiting questions as the Early Signing Period approaches.


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1. Can Bryan Harsin and his staff effectively recruit in the South?

Wright’s take: FICTION. Auburn’s program is historic with two claimed national championships; the program recruits itself. From Pat Dye to Gus Malzahn, coaches controlling the sidelines have had little trouble getting top players to Auburn. Each coach may have had a down year here or there, but Bryan Harsin has yet to put together “that class” to help catapult him to success in the SEC entering his third try.

The 2021 class had just four four-star recruits but a rebound of sorts happened in the 2022 cycle securing 12 four-star players to finish inside the top-20. The staff pulled from all over the country with seven of the 12 four-stars from different states showing promise. The low ranking, 10 total commits, and just three in-state commits for the 2023 class sends a signal.

Matthews’ take: FACT. Yes, they can but they're not getting it done at a high enough level at this time. Auburn had to rally to finish with the country's No. 18 class last season and head into the end of September ranked No. 58 in the country and No. 13 in the SEC with just eight commitments.

Harsin has a staff with plenty of SEC experience either as a coach, player, or both including Cadillac Williams, Zac Etheridge, Jimmy Brumbaugh, Christian Robinson, Ike Hilliard and Will Friend. Harsin and Auburn would benefit from a more aggressive approach and better coordination with NIL.


2. Is Bryan Harsin’s tenuous hold as head coach hurting recruiting?

Wright’s take: FICTION. Winning cures all ills in the world of college football, and Harsin hasn’t done enough to make the boosters and fans at Auburn believe that victories will start piling up in the future. Tommy Tuberville’s start in Auburn was rough (5-6), but progress was shown. Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn had winning starts, perhaps spoiling the fanbase placing high expectations on all future coaches. But the 3-3 start to this season with lopsided losses to Penn State and Georgia isn’t helping Harsin, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Regardless of the on-the-field start, the need for top high school talent can be sold along with early playing time. A strong recruiting class paired with the 2022 haul, could help change hearts and minds on The Plains. The staff is getting highly sought-after players on campus, the verbal commitments are just not following the visits; that is what is hurting Harsin’s recruiting efforts.

Matthews’ take: FACT. It's definitely a big obstacle, one of the biggest facing this staff right now. Auburn has a history of these self-inflicted wounds, and the public investigation of Harsin in February was a doozy. Auburn letting go of AD Allen Greene, who hired Harsin, didn't help the situation either. The only real solution is just win, baby.


3. Is the lack of NIL deals hurting Auburn’s recruiting? 

Wright’s take: FACT. Like it or not, all players are getting paid, even walk-ons at certain programs. SEC recruiting has always been high stakes collecting the largest amount of five- and four-stars year after year. Most SEC teams can tout development and culture. If the relationships are being built, the opportunity to play in the SEC is there with the potential for early playing time, the difference between liking Auburn and committing to Auburn can come down to finances. If Auburn is not competitive with the greenbacks, life in the SEC just became even more challenging.

Matthews’ take: FACT. Definitely. Auburn recently reorganized its NIL collective and renamed it “On To Victory” which should help recruiting. It's only a couple of weeks old so the returns aren't in just yet but there's a lot of confidence the new group can get it done.