Tennessee isn't the only SEC team that can benefit from legacy recruits, something Auburn proved Monday when it landed a commitment from 4-star class of 2016 athlete Stephen Davis Jr. from Dutch Fork High School in South Carolina.
Davis Jr. is the son of running back Stephen Davis, who starred at Auburn from 1993-1995 before going on to a successful NFL career. He confirmed his commitment with a tweet Monday afternoon, one day after taking an unofficial visit to campus to watch fall practice:
Junior is listed as an athlete but expected to play safety on the Plains. At 6'4", 215 pounds, he has great size for that position and is also capable of sliding down to outside linebacker should he fill out.
According to his junior evaluation from ESPN Scouts Inc. (subscription required), Davis Jr. also has the athleticism to play wide receiver but fits in best on defense. His speed and range, strong tackling and closing ability are all cited as strengths, while stiff hip movement and inconsistent production are cited as weaknesses.
Davis Jr. is the No. 234 overall prospect, the No. 16 athlete and the No. 4 player from the state of South Carolina in the 2016 class (high school juniors). He is the second-highest-rated of Auburn's four commits, trailing 5-star receiver Nate Craig and placing ahead of 3-star tight end Landon Rice and 3-star all-purpose back Jalin Buie.
No matter the timing, landing Davis Jr. would have been great news for the Tigers, but it's especially important after losing 4-star class of 2015 safety Ben Edwards, who decommitted from Auburn Sunday.
According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports, Edwards still has Auburn among the four teams he's considering, but the Tigers must now compete with Stanford, UCLA and Ohio State—another place to which he had previously committed—to secure Edwards' services.
Auburn already has one 4-star safety, Jordan Colbert, and one 3-star safety, Chris Westry, committed in the 2015 class, so the position was not exactly one of need. But it's always nice to replace one 4-star defender with another just one day after losing the first.
Plus, even though he'll arrive one year later, Davis Jr. might better fit what the Tigers want to do on defense anyway.
Edwards is only 6'0", and according to Davis, that is not exactly what defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is looking for.
"[The Tigers like] my tallness, how big I am," Davis told Niebuhr (subscription required). "They said they want a big secondary."
Colbert is 6'2" and Westry, despite being the lowest-rated of the group, is the same height as Davis (6'4"). Together they could help Auburn shape its secondary in a way that is built to stop modern offenses, not unlike the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
Big defensive backs are en vogue, and Auburn just landed one of the best in the 2016 class. Having NFL bloodlines doesn't hurt, either.
Good get for Malzahn and his staff.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT