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NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: Watch out SEC ... Auburn cleaned up

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's Gene Chizik endured a few anxious moments as signing day came and went, like any other coach.

Mostly, though, he got the results he wanted when the Tigers completed a haul of prospects Wednesday that was heavy on big men and included players ranked among the nation's top quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

The Tigers' 27-man class -- plus five that have already enrolled and count toward last year -- got a big signing-day boost when uncommitted defensive end Corey Lemonier of Hialeah, Fla., chose Auburn over Florida State. A couple of hours later, Louisiana wide receiver Trovon Reed stuck to his pledge to Auburn over home-state power LSU.

"I'm anxious until we get the fax in," Chizik said, referring to the letters of intent that make recruits' destinations official.

His first full-year recruiting effort resulted in a class that was picked third by Rivals.com and fifth by Scout.com in preliminary rankings.

It also met some pressing needs with six players each on the offensive and defensive lines, five defensive backs and four linebackers.

The 32 total players included junior college quarterback Cameron Newton, who is already on campus and is rated the nation's top junior college prospect by Rivals.

Michael Dyer is rated the nation's top running back by ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc., and the No. 5 overall player in the ESPNU 150. SuperPrep lists Reed, a high school quarterback, as the fifth-best receiver prospect.

The defensive line got a huge boost this week. Lemonier was rated the No. 3 weakside defensive end and fourth-best player in Florida by Rivals.

"Coach (Tracy) Rocker never told me anything bad or anything like that," Lemonier said in an announcement televised by ESPNU. "He told me if I come I'll have to work. That's the truth, so I believe in him."

On Monday, highly rated defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker delivered his pledge to Auburn over Georgia and Miami.

"It's huge. Jeff is obviously one of the top defensive linemen in the country," Chizik said. "He's a physical presence in the middle of the defense.

"The better you are on defense is probably directly correlated to how good you are in the front four. That's where it starts. We think Jeff really brings just a great deal of talent to that position. He's going to have to get used to the college game but he's exactly what we're looking for here."

Auburn also landed the top-rated players in Arkansas (Dyer), Mississippi (offensive lineman Shon Coleman) and Louisiana (Reed).

Chizik said beefing up the offensive and defensive line numbers was "imperative," along with bringing in some linebackers.

But the needs hardly stopped there for a team that went 8-5 in Chizik's debut season but lacked depth at most positions. Four offensive line starters will be seniors next season.

"Obviously our goal was to always upgrade athletic ability and speed across the whole football team," Chizik said. "That's always at the forefront of what we're trying to do. But in terms of numbers on our football team, those numbers at those three positions were very important for us to address."

But, he added, "We need upgrades everywhere on our football team."

Count Dyer among the players who could make an immediate impact with the departure of tailback Ben Tate. The 5-8, 201-pounder rushed for 2,502 yards and 31 touchdowns at Little Rock Christian Academy as a senior.

Dyer's signing eased the loss of top running back Marcus Lattimore, who announced Tuesday evening that he picked South Carolina over Auburn.

"He's extremely powerful," Chizik said of Dyer. "He's probably one of the strongest running backs in terms of power running, breaking tackles, being able to run through two and three guys at times. Yet he's got great vision. He can make the cuts you need him to make.

"Then when he hits a crease and he's got to outrun everybody, he's certainly capable of doing that. He brings a rare ability to the backfield being able to really do both and have a combination of both power and speed."