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August 21, 2013

Auburn commits rise up the rankings

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AUBURN | The Rivals.com prospect rankings were updated this week and there may not have been a bigger winner amongst college programs than Auburn.

Four Class of 2014 commitments earned bumps in the rankings, led by St. Paul's (Ala.) linebacker Tre Williams, whose dominant performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago landed him in elite company among the five-star prospects. He's now the nation's No. 22 overall prospect.

Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said of Williams, "Tre got his fifth star, that's the biggest deal you can get. He's one of the best coverage linebackers we saw this summer and I thought he was outstanding in Chicago. We liked him before that. He showed us not only that he's five-star caliber, but he's clearly the best linebacker in the state of Alabama."

Auburn has only signed seven high school five-stars since 2002.

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School quarterback Sean White won the Elite 11 quarterback competition in California and earned Offensive MVP honors at The Opening this summer. White's positive momentum continued on Tuesday when he vaulted into the Rivals250 as the nation's No. 181 overall prospect.

White committed to the Tigers on July 16 and would be the sixth Rivals250 quarterback Auburn's signed in the last 12 signing classes.

"Basically, it feels good because people are starting to take notice of the hard work," White told AuburnSports.com. "I don't think rankings mean everything, but I think with me and the other Auburn guys moving up, it shows the Auburn staff knew what they were talking about when they picked us."

White's accomplishments at the Elite 11 were significant, but Farrell and Co. analyzed White's game separate of the quarterback competition and came away deciding White's game was Rivals250 worthy.

"He is very, very good. His leadership skills are off the charts. He has great timing, great accuracy, pinpoint accuracy. We like him a lot. He's one of those fighters. He's not the prettiest quarterbacks in the world, but he's a competitor. He's one of those guy who can see willing himself to be a really good quarterback at the next level."

A pair of Atlanta-area commitments also earned bumps in the rankings. St. Pius X School (Ga.) corner Nicholas Ruffin and Monroe Area (Ga.) athlete Stanton Truitt rose to four-star status. Ruffin committed to the Tigers during Big Cat Weekend in May, while Truitt jumped on board the day after White.

"It feels good, feels great," Ruffin said. "People are starting to notice of me, I guess that's what it means. It doesn't mean my work stops though. It's an honor and I'm blessed for the opportunity."

Truitt echoes those sentiments.

"Not being at a specific position, just athlete, it's a big deal," said Truitt. "They are noticing my skills across the board and what I'll be doing in college. People notice your skills and they respect your ability."

The analysts of Rivals.com loved the athletic ability of Ruffin and Truitt. They were two of only eight prospects that earned bumps from three-stars to four-stars in the updated rankings.

"Truitt -- great athlete," said Farrell. "He's very, very sudden and fast. He's not very big. He's very versatile -- plays multiple positions. They'll use him whatever way they feel most comfortable to him. If they don't put the ball in his hands, it'll be a surprise.

"Ruffin -- He's another kid who I think has a little bit of swagger, but has a good frame to fill out. He'll have to be one of those guys you can challenge in individual situations at the next level. You can make him be the guy who makes the play. I think that's something they need on that side of the ball."

Auburn now possesses 14 total commitments. Among the four-star or better commits, Williams, White, Truitt and Ruffin are joined by Rivals100 running back Racean Thomas, Rivals250 defensive end Justin Thornton, and junior college standouts D'haquille Williams and Derrick Moncrief. The Auburn class is ranked No. 18 nationally, but the current quality of the Tigers' class is found beyond the team rankings.

Auburn's average rating per commit is 3.57. That's the fifth best average in the nation, behind only Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

"Fear the 'War Eagle'," Ruffin said. "We're building a great class and I'm excited, we all are. People are taking notice of our players and they should've been ranked higher earlier."

Farrell believes the Tigers' class grew stronger this summer and has plenty of room to grow.

"I think the most important commitment they've got didn't move up -- and that's 'Roc' Thomas. Some of the additions they've made to this class have been very, very impressive. We know the offense and we know that's going be revamped a little bit," said Farrell.

"I think there are some guys in this class who can make an immediate impact because they have that speed and that ability to make big plays. This is a class that, depending on how they finish, has a chance to finish in the top 10. I'm not going to bet against them. (D'haquille) Williams -- he could be a five-star wide receiver. Roc Thomas? Who knows what we're going to see out of him this season. There are guys out there who have an opportunity to increase their stock. That always plays into the unpredictability of the team rankings. You can't predict the bumps some guys will get."

Twitter: @JHokanson

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