Florida Gators Football Recruiting Challenges Auburn: Q&A with Fly War Eagle


National Signing Day is Feb. 4 and the Florida Gators are playing catch-up in recruiting, as the football staff under Jim McElwain look to move beyond the Will Muschamp years and bring in new talent. Only problem? Muschamp takes the defensive coordinator position, creating an instant recruiting rivalry between Auburn and Florida. Hail Florida Hail talked with our sister site Fly War Eagle editor Nicholas Ian Allen about recruiting for both teams. Here’s what they’re saying on the Plains about the SEC recruiting battle between the Tigers and Gators:

Florida Gators
Florida Gators /

Florida Gators

The recent addition of former Gator head coach Will Muschamp notwithstanding, how much recruiting has Auburn traditionally done in the state of Florida? Is there a region of the state that the Tigers target?

Traditionally, Florida has been Auburn’s third most recruited state behind Alabama and Georgia, and in recent year’s it’s been a distant third. In fact, in the 2014 Auburn recruiting class, the Tigers signed nine players from Georgia, eight from Alabama and just two from Florida. Overall, the 2014 roster had 14 players that hailed from the Sunshine State, thanks in large part to the work of Auburn receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig (who is a former Florida State assistant).

However, with the addition of Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson now on the staff, the Tigers are hitting the state of Florida harder than ever before. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Auburn recruit Florida as much, if not more, than Georgia in the future.

Auburn and Florida have several common recruits, including offensive lineman Martez Ivey, defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson, and linebacker Jeffrey Holland. In Florida’s case, all could make an early impact, but particularly Ivey, as the Gators are thin at the offensive line. How deep is Auburn at these areas and can the Tigers offer the same opportunity for impact that the Gators can?

Currently, Auburn is deepest on the offensive line. The Tigers are expected to return three starters on the O-Line in 2015, plus two others with starting experience. There’s also Alex Kozan – a Freshman All-American in 2013 that missed the season with a back injury – and two more that are expected to compete for a starting spot next season, including Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson. Still, a player as talented as Ivey would have a chance to earn a starting role immediately.

On the defensive line, the Tigers are very thin inside due to the graduation of four seniors, but have both returning defensive ends returning as well as 2013 Freshman All-American Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Because of the current makeup of the roster, some players will probably shift positions. For example, DaVonte Lambert is likely to move to defensive tackle this fall, which would create additional playing time for newcomers. Cowart and Jefferson would certainly be in the rotation from day one, and could win starting jobs as true freshmen.

In the linebacker corps, the Tigers return two starters and the top three reserves from last year’s squad, but switching to Muschamp’s multiple 4-3 scheme from former Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 means Auburn is in need of depth at the position. Holland would probably contribute some on defense but more on special teams until stepping in to a starting role in 2016.

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The recruiting rivalry developing between Florida and Auburn mainly centers around top defensive talent, mostly those that Muschamp targeted. But with the hiring of new head coach Jim McElwain, the Gators are gunning for more offensive talent. Are there any offensive recruits fromt the state of Florida that Auburn has gotten to commit or are aggressively pursuing?

The only two committed players from Florida are safety Tim Irvin and fullback Chandler Cox, who are both early enrollees. Cox is a very interesting prospect not only because he has the talent to push for a starting spot as a true freshman (the Tigers are very thin at H-back), but also because he was a teammate of Martez Ivey at Apopka High School and has been recruiting Ivey hard in hopes he’ll join Cox at AU.

In addition to Ivey, the Tigers are targeting a handful of Florida natives on the offensive side of the football – primarily at the wide receiver position. John Burt is one of Auburn’s top targets, and Ryan Davis isn’t far behind. Devante Peete might make a visit next weekend, but he’s a long shot to sign.

Auburn’s recruiting class is ranked around 10th according to some projections. What other top talent are the Tigers bringing in this year?

The highest rated commit so far is running back Kerryon Johnson, who recently earned the title of Mr. Football in the state of Alabama, as well as a fifth star from ESPN, and will compete for carries right away alongside top JUCO recruit Jovon Robinson, who is already on campus. 

Aside from those two, it’s a solid group, but few others are likely to have a major impact immediately. Linebacker Richard McBryde and safety Jordan Colbert could push for playing time next season, as will safety Tim Irvin. JUCO defensive lineman Maurice Swain could be a starter at defensive tackle.

With the recruiting rivalry developing off the field, it’s a shame that the Gators and Tigers won’t meet on the field this season. Or will they? Though not on the schedule, we could meet in the 2015 SEC Championship game. The Gators are a lock. What’s Auburn’s chances of getting there? 

It would be terrific if Florida and Auburn played more often. It’s a rivalry that has been hurt the most by SEC expansion for sure. Of course, it would be even better if the teams met in Atlanta next year.


Despite a disappointing 8-5 record in 2014, there is a lot of optimism surrounding the Auburn football program and expectations are high for 2015. Sports Illustrated recently pegged the Tigers No. 3 in their Way-Too-Early Top 25 behind Ohio State and TCU, and last week a Bleacher Report article made a strong case for Auburn to be the SEC favorite. According to Vegas, Alabama and Georgia have slightly better odds of winning it all, but Auburn is in the mix for sure.

Thanks for this great review Nicholas, stay tuned on Feb. 4 to see how the recruiting battle plays out.