Minutes after Auburn’s win in the Iron Bowl, with the crowd still spilling out of the stands, three smiling faces charged out of the locker room tunnel after a brief huddle. Arm-in-arm and leaping with excitement, Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams, Tigers linebacker commit Michael Harris and 4-star linebacker prospect Zakoby McClain joined the orange and blue flood in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The contents of that trio’s tunnel conversation shall be kept confidential — but the gist was made clear Tuesday night.
McClain committed to Auburn over LSU and West Virginia two days after leaving his Iron Bowl visit to become the Tigers’ 18th commitment in the Class of 2018. With McClain’s commitment, Auburn jumps to No. 10 to crack the top 10 of the 247Sports composite team rankings for the first time this cycle.
“They play fast. I love it,” McClain said after the game Saturday.
That feeling fits nicely with McClain’s style of play.
The No. 16-ranked outside linebacker in the country blows people away with his speed. He stands 6-feet and 205 pounds, which some might call slight for a linebacker, but he makes up for it with his sideline-to-sideline tenacity. The linebacker duo of Harris and McClain makes for a fast, high-motor combination.
Ultimately, it was McClain’s relationship with Williams and his fit in the defensive scheme that made Auburn the clear choice.
“It just comes down to mine and coach T-Will’s relationship. He’s like a father figure to me. We already know each other and all that stuff,” McClain told SEC Country earlier in the year. “His message is always just to work hard in everything you do and be a leader on the team.”
McClain’s decision adds to a 4-star trend in the last two weeks. Since the Tuesday following the Georgia win, Auburn has added four 4-star prospects — cornerback Christian Tutt, linebacker/defensive end Richard Jibunor, wide receiver Seth Williams and now McClain.
All four fill gaps at major positions of need in the class and each gradually pushed Auburn up the recruiting rankings. There is still work left to do for the Tigers to finish with a top 10 class, but with some of the targets left on the board, it’s certainly well within reach.
It’s also possible McClain isn’t the last linebacker to join Auburn’s 2018 class. Harris and McClain are clear-cut linebackers. Jibunor’s position placement will depend on his physical development, but he has pass-rush skill set. The Tigers will look to add another versatile linebacker option, if it’s the right guy.
For now, that list keys in on three people: Alabama commit Quay Walker, Channing Tindall and JJ Peterson. Those are the three high-quality prospects who Williams has strong relationship with that Auburn would be most willing to take as vacancies dwindle in Auburn’s 2018 class.
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