Bryan Harsin has been busy ever since he was hired to be the Auburn football coach in December. He put together a coaching staff in January, salvaged a recruiting class in February, led his team through spring practice for the first time in March and April and brought in five transfers in May.
So you know he’s not exaggerating when he says June is “going to be a crazy month.”
It certainly will. Partially because Auburn is set to welcome those transfers and incoming freshmen and begin player-run practices Harsin said will be “huge” for the team’s development. But mostly because the NCAA recruiting dead period instituted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was lifted Tuesday, after 15 months.
For the first time since Harsin took over the program, Auburn will be able to host recruits on official campus visits.
“We get one shot to make a first impression,” Harsin said. “That visit with that family and that player is going to be the most important we’ve had of any of the visits that we’ve had, because it’s face-to-face and they’re right here on this campus. So, what I’ve told our staff more than anything is we’ve got to do a great job of making sure we have energy, making sure that we take care of ourselves, making sure that we’re focused and we’ve communicated properly so that we can go out there and execute the plan we have in place.”
It’s the biggest step to date in Auburn trying to build a 2022 recruiting class that holds only three known commitments — four-star Savannah, Ga., quarterback Holden Geriner, three-star Opelika cornerback Jarrell Stinson, and three-star Auburn High linebacker Powell Gordon — and ranks 13th in the SEC according to the 247Sports Composite.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Harsin and nine of his 10 assistants are new to the Plains. You can understand why some recruits might want to wait to spend time with them in person before pledging to play for them.
That’s the case even for schools with established coaching staffs — only 12 schools have double-digit commitments so far, and none have more than 13. Nearly 60 percent of the top 300 recruits in the 2022 class (176) are uncommitted.
At least a dozen of those players are set to visit the Plains in June. Auburn has 23 official visits scheduled overall and nearly 20 more 2022 and 2023 prospects set to visit unofficially, according to 247Sports.
That list includes four-star Portland, Ore., wide receiver Darrius Clemons; four-star Orlando linebacker DeMario Tolan; four-star Clayton, N.C., running back Omarion Hampton; four-star Lanett defensive lineman Caden Story; three-star Fresh Meadows, N.Y., defensive lineman Kaleb Artis; and top placekicker target Alex McPherson, among others.
“We’ve done virtual visits, and all those things are cool, but there’s nothing like being here on campus,” Harsin said. “I’ve experienced it myself. I came here just a few months ago. And I got to go into Jordan-Hare Stadium. I got to be a part of places on campus or be on campus and see things and check it out. So we can talk about it, but until you experience it, it’s just different.”
Harsin hopes Auburn’s staff can sell that same feeling to every recruit it hosts this month. Not all of them are going to commit. Some, like four-star Park Crossing defensive lineman Khurtiss Perry, have shared plans to visit six or more schools in just a few weeks.
But if they leave Auburn with a good impression of the campus, facilities and coaches, maybe word will start to spread.
“At the end of the day, that’s where the relationships are built, right?” Harsin said. “You got to kind of see these players, see their families. They get to see you. I don’t think you quite get that passion or that feeling through a phone and FaceTime and all that like you do in person.
“Getting them here, and getting them in this community and being around the people that we have on this staff, and being around even our players and just our vibe of our football team, I think is going to be a good thing.”