Where things stand with Auburn’s roster, positions of need in the transfer portal after a busy weekend

Auburn’s roster for Year 1 of the Hugh Freeze era is taking shape as the spring semester gets underway.

The program enjoyed a busy, productive weekend on that front, with the Tigers picking up four additions through the transfer portal, two more 2023 high school signees and welcomed 13 mid-year enrollees onto campus for the start of spring. And Auburn isn’t done yet with the retooling of its personnel for the 2023 season.

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After a flurry of movement over the weekend, Auburn sits at 82 projected scholarship players on the roster for the upcoming season. The NCAA limit is 85, leaving Auburn with a few spots to fill before the season begins in a little less than eight months. There will be more shuffling, of course; the fall transfer window ends Jan. 18, while National Signing Day is Feb. 1, followed by the spring transfer window from May 1-15.

While Auburn’s roster has filled out nicely since Freeze was hired at the end of November, there are still some areas for the Tigers to address this offseason, so let’s take a closer look at where things stand for the program as the spring semester begins.

Weekend additions

First, let’s recap who Auburn brought to the fold over the weekend, with six new commitments — or at least newly announced commitments — joining the fray.

The action picked up for Auburn on Thursday, when Western Kentucky transfer Gunner Britton committed to the program following a visit to the Plains. Britton is the seventh offensive line addition for Auburn since Freeze took over, as the program has worked to quickly overhaul its numbers in the trenches. Britton, who started every game for WKU last season, signed with Auburn two days later, on Saturday, when the Tigers also got two more pickups.

Three-star 2023 cornerback Tyler Scott announced his commitment to Auburn during the All-American Bowl. Scott signed with Auburn last month but held off until the all-star game to unveil his decision. Later that day, the Tigers also added Maryland transfer defensive lineman Mosiah Nasili-Kite, who committed following a visit to campus.

The action continued into Sunday, as LSU transfer and former four-star linebacker DeMario Tolan committed to and signed with Auburn. That was followed by another portal addition in the form of Purdue defensive line transfer Lawrence Johnson. Then 2023 three-star safety CJ Johnson announced he had signed with the Tigers, wrapping up a whirlwind weekend of additions for the program.

Midyear enrollees

Auburn welcomed a baker’s dozen of spring enrollees to campus for move-in day Sunday, providing a wealth of new faces for the program to mix in for spring practices. Among the midyear enrollees are eight true freshmen, one junior college transfer and three portal additions.

On the transfer front, former Tulsa offensive tackle Dillon Wade, Vanderbilt edge rusher Elijah McAllister, FIU tight end Rivaldo Fairweather and the aforementioned Britton all arrived on campus. As did junior college offensive tackle Izavion Miller. The freshmen enrollees included four-star defensive end Keldric Faulk, four-star offensive lineman Clay Wedin and four-star corner Kayin Lee, as well as three-star defensive lineman Stephen Johnson, three-star offensive lineman Bradyn Joiner, three-star center Connor Lew, three-star defensive lineman Wilky Denaud and three-star edge Brenton Williams.

Positions still need to be addressed

With a few scholarship slots still open, Auburn has a chance to address a few more positions of need before the start of the 2023 season. Roster management is a fluid situation, of course, and more spots could open up if any more returning players choose to transfer out of the program, but as it stands, limited spots remain before the Tigers hit the 85-scholarship limit, so Freeze and staff will have to be selective in how they supplement the current roster.

Looking at the Tigers’ scholarship distribution by position and class (as detailed in this evolving 2023 projected scholarship chart), there are still some key areas Auburn stands to address this offseason, with some targets still on the board.

Freeze has gone on record saying that Auburn would still like to add a quarterback through the transfer portal, as long as it’s the right fit. The Tigers return starter Robby Ashford, TJ Finley (the starter entering last season), redshirt freshman Holden Geriner and welcome freshman Hank Brown. Auburn had interest in Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall before he opted to return to the Chanticleers, as well as NC State transfer Devin Leary before he committed to Kentucky, and while Freeze has expressed enthusiasm about working with Ashford, Auburn has yet to find a quarterback to add to the fray – but optimism remains that one could become available.

“If it’s the right one, that we believe we can win games with,” Freeze said last month. “And we’ve gone back and forth on our rankings of them and we’re kind of looking at that list right now, and in conversations with the next man up, and hopefully we’ll get the right one.”

The Tigers would also like to add another player to their running back room, especially after leading rusher Tank Bigsby declared for the NFL Draft last month. Auburn returns Jarquez Hunter, as well as Damari Alston and Sean Jackson, and four-star 2023 commit Jeremiah Cobb is still expected to sign with the program next month. Still, Auburn would like to bring in another experienced back to work in tandem with Hunter. The program over the weekend hosted USF transfer Brian Battie, according to his Instagram story and multiple reports. Battie was the AAC’s third-leading rusher last season (1,186 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 6.74 yards per carry) and was a consensus All-American in 2021 as a kick return specialist.

Elsewhere on offense, Auburn remains in the mix for Cincinnati transfer wide receiver Nick Mardner, who previously played for new Auburn wide receivers coach Marcus Davis at Hawaii in 2021. The 6-foot-6 Mardner, who visited Auburn last week, will reportedly choose between Auburn and Cal this week as a grad transfer, according to 247Sports. He enjoyed his best season — 46 receptions for 913 yards and five touchdowns — while playing for Davis two years ago.

Although Auburn has already undergone extensive retooling along both lines of scrimmage, it’s possible the program still adds more to its numbers up front on either side of the ball. Auburn has added seven offensive linemen this cycle — with four high school signees, a JUCO pickup and two key transfer additions at offensive tackle — but it’s still in the mix for Baylor transfer Micah Mazzccua, who will announce a decision Tuesday night from a final three of Auburn, Florida and Nebraska. Mazzccua was a two-year starter at Baylor, where he primarily played left guard. On the defensive side, where Auburn has already added three transfers up front, the Tigers are reportedly in the mix for Kentucky defensive tackle transfer Justin Rogers.

Even with the recent addition of Tolan over the weekend, Auburn could stand to add an additional linebacker to its corps. The Tigers have a top-heavy distribution of scholarships in that room, with five seniors for 2023, and could use another underclassman to help even things out in the long run with the likes of Tolan (a rising sophomore) and redshirt freshmen Robert Woodyard and Powell Gordon.

Again, there should be plenty more movement over the next eight months before the 2023 season kicks off, but this is a snapshot of where things stand for Auburn at the start of the spring semester.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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