Saturday, June 15, 2024

Predicting Auburn football’s 5 most impactful transfers: How many will start in 2024?

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AUBURN — Auburn football may still add a piece or two of depth from the portal before preseason practices begin, but the 2024 roster is essentially locked into place.

The Tigers have brought in 34 new scholarship players this offseason — 18 high school recruits, 14 transfers and two players from junior college. Of the nearly 80 scholarship players rostered, only 18 predate coach Hugh Freeze.

Auburn, by Freeze’s own admission, struggled some in the first portal window of the offseason. The Tigers were able to convince nine transfers to join them, but those additions were often made after Auburn struck out on someone else they were targeting. The Tigers were able to schedule visits with transfers, but those transfers often never make it to campus before committing elsewhere.

Something changed in the spring window. Auburn only brought in five transfers, but there seemed to be much fewer misses, and the Tigers were able to fight off at least one other SEC program (Texas A&M) during the recruitment of receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Of the 14 transfers, at least nine figure to be competing for starting roles.

Along with Lambert-Smith, here are four other incoming transfers we believe will make the biggest impacts for Auburn in 2024:

CHANGES: How Auburn football got out of ‘dreamland,’ had better portal results in spring window

HOOPS: Why the transfer portal was ‘not an option’ for Auburn basketball star Johni Broome

5. Buck LB Keyron Crawford (Arkansas State)

Auburn found success last season adding a transfer pass rusher from the Sun Belt in former Appalachian State playmaker Jalen McLeod, who finished 2023 with 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The Tigers are looking to do it again, this time with Arkansas State transfer Keyron Crawford. Crawford, a former three-star recruit in the Class of 2022, tallied 39 pressures last season. That would’ve led Auburn in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus.

4. WR Robert Lewis (Georgia State)

The Tigers made it a point to overhaul their group at receiver this offseason: “We had to restructure that room,” Freeze said May 8. “I hate saying it like that sometimes. But for what we want to do, we had to change that room.” Only two receivers from last season are back — Camden Brown and Caleb Burton III — and three of the newcomers are from the portal, including Georgia State transfer Robert Lewis. Another player from the Sun Belt, the transition to the SEC may be tough for Lewis, but he was productive as a redshirt junior in 2023 with 877 yards and seven touchdowns on 70 receptions.

3. S Jerrin Thompson (Texas)

Former Texas safety Jerrin Thompson was the starter all throughout spring practice for Auburn, and there’s no reason to think that’ll change come the season opener against Alabama A&M on Aug. 31. Thompson is a real veteran, appearing in nearly 50 games for the Longhorns over the last four years. That includes an appearance in the College Football Playoff last season, where he notched three tackles against Washington in a national semifinal.

2. WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (Penn State)

Between freshmen Cam Coleman, Perry Thompson, Bryce Cain and Malcolm Simmons, Auburn has no shortage of talent at receiver. That group is young, though, and that’s why bringing in Penn State’s leading receiver in 2023 was so important. Lambert-Smith tallied 673 yards last season, and his presence should at the very least take some pressure and attention away from Coleman and Auburn’s other talented rookies.

1. OT Percy Lewis (Mississippi State)

Offensive lineman aren’t flashy, but Mississippi State transfer Percy Lewis quickly locked down the role of starting left tackle during spring practice. The addition of Lewis allowed the Tigers to kick Dillon Wade inside to left guard, making the left side of the line a potential big strength. Lewis started the final seven games of 2023 for the Bulldogs.

Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at rsilva@gannett.com or on X, formerly known as Twitter, @rich_silva18.

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