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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Auburn Staff Makes Difference For Thomas

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxAuburn landed the running back it covets last Friday when Racean Thomas from Oxford (Ala.) High School gave his pledge to the Tigers.

Thomas picked Auburn over offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Oregon and several others. Auburn’s coaching staff helped put the Tigers over the top.

“Would I have committed without (Gus) Malzahn and the new staff? Probably not,” Thomas told on Monday. “I really respect Coach Malzahn, he’s a great coach. I like the way he handles his team and how he does things. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Thomas has earned plenty of respect for his running ability. He’s ranked the nation’s No. 8 running back by Rivals, giving Auburn an elite talent to use in Malzahn’s offense.

“It’s a great fit for me,” Thomas said. “They went very in-depth, they showed me plays they run that my team runs here. That will be a great fit. They run the ball a lot and they get the ball to their playmakers, and I’ll be a good playmaker. Also, they put the back out in the field and I have good hands.”

Auburn has 14 commitments for the class of 2014, with Thomas joining Kamryn Pettway from Prattville (Ala.) High School at running back.

Thomas has the skills to help Auburn’s offense both as a runner and receiver, according to ESPN RecruitingNation‘s scouting report.

“Thomas is an explosive running back with impressive production and big-play ability. A threat every time he touches the ball with his ability to both break and elude second-level tacklers. Hands and receiving skills are polished and he has the toughness and leverage to be a competent blocker. Overall, Thomas flashes very good every-down qualities at the next level and a decisive style that should translate well with continued physical development.”

Thomas told AuburnSports he plans to visit other schools this fall. But he maintains his commitment to Auburn is solid.

“I want to be done with it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to make the decision and not be 100 percent sure. I don’t want to decommit.”

Auburn fans don’t want him to decommit, either. The Tigers are still trying to catch several teams in the SEC, where seven teams are ranked higher in the Rivals team rankings for 2014.


Lambert close to decision

Defensive end DaVonte Lambert from Georgia Military College will announce his decision on Tuesday. He’s considering Auburn, Florida and Tennessee.

Tennessee is considered the favorite to land Lambert, according to the most recent predictions from 247Sports. All 10 predictions made on Thursday went to the Vols, giving Tennessee 53 percent of the overall predictions.

Lambert took an official visit to Tennessee on June 21.

“Tennessee, the facilities and the coaches’ and the players’ bonds are just phenomenal,” he told 247Sports. “And the coaches, the way that they went through my film and showed me how I stepped wrong and everything, it was just crazy how they just told me how I can better myself as a player with my technique.”

Available playing time will be a critical factor in Lambert’s decision. But it’s difficult to tell which school that might help.

“Playing time, of course, is always a factor, because I don’t want to come into a place that has a bunch of sophomores and juniors and everything,” Lambert said. “I want to come in and play right away. All three (finalists), actually, are telling me the same thing about playing time.

Lambert is ranked the nation’s No. 1 junior college defensive end and the seventh-best JUCO prospect overall.


Hand’s announcement date: Nov. 14

Highly-touted defensive end Da’Shawn Hand from Woodbridge (Va.) Senior High School will announce his college decision on Nov. 14.

Alabama, Florida and Michigan are sure to receive visits. LSU and Southern California are also possibilities, according to his mentor, John Harris.

“Those two (LSU and USC) are secondary right now,” Harris told ESPN. “It would probably be difficult for us to get out there for visits. I know he wants to get the first three (Alabama, Florida and Michigan) out of the way. He’ll be at Michigan on September 7, and we haven’t figured the rest out yet.”

Hand, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 defensive end by ESPN, recorded 78 unassisted tackles and 16 sacks as a junior last season.

Hand has focused on more than just football through the recruiting process. He dropped South Carolina and Virginia Tech from his list in June because of academic concerns at those two schools.

“I eliminated Virginia Tech because they don’t offer a sports marketing program,” Hand said at the time, according to SB Nation. “And with South Carolina, the professor just didn’t wow us. I have the utmost respect for Virginia Tech and South Carolina and their coaches and wish them the best of luck.”


Carter down to seven

Defensive end Lorenzo Carter from Norcross (Ga.) High School is down to a list of seven schools: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon.

Carter, who discussed his list with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, named Florida his leader earlier in the summer. It appears Alabama and Georgia have put themselves in a close position with Florida.

“I really wouldn’t say they’re too far out ahead of Alabama and Georgia,” Carter said. “I feel like it’s a closer leader. Alabama, Georgia and Florida are the big three for me. I think everybody else really has a chance but they have ground to make up.”

One of those schools could create more ground between itself and the other schools if it were to land linebacker Raekwon McMillan from Hinesville, Ga. Carter told the AJC it would be a “major plus” if McMillan chose one of the schools he’s considering.

“I feel comfortable with him behind me,” Carter said. “Me and him, we’ve seen each other at camps. We know what each other can do. I think if both of us got together, it could do some damage to the offense.”

Carter said he hopes to eliminate his list to five schools this fall so he can schedule his official visits. He plans to announce his decision on signing day.




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