With national signing day fast approaching, the Auburn coaching staff is scrambling to put the finishing touches on its 2014 signing class—hoping to bring in a boon of new talent that will help make the Tigers contenders for years to come.
Recruiting can be everything in the college football world, and one only has to look back to recent history to find out why.
Because of the deciduous nature of college football, a single group of young men can take a program to the next level, make it reach its potential in an instant and bring home championship glory, or provide a foundation for the school to build on in years to come.
In the spirit of recruiting season and the onset of national signing day, here are the Tigers' most talented signing classes from the BCS era.
While the signing class from the spring of 2005 never won a championship for the Tigers, it did fuel the back end of one of their most successful stretches in the modern era from 2004 to 2007—and it put Auburn back on the map during the resurgent 2009 season.
Big names from the 2005 signing class included Jerraud Powers, Sen'Derrick Marks and Jonathan Wilhite—all now NFL stalwarts—who led the Tigers to an 11-2 season in 2006.
The signing class also included a group of late bloomers—like Antonio Coleman, Andrew McCain and Walter McFadden—who helped turn the Auburn program back around in 2009 and lay the first bricks in the foundation for a national championship a year later.
While star players like Cam Newton and Mike Dyer got a lot of attention during Auburn's national championship run in 2010, players from the 2007 signing class were the heart and soul of that team.
Josh Bynes, Lee Ziemba, Kodi Burns, Ryan Pugh and Antoine Carter were all senior leaders on the 2010 team, keeping the group together through all of the adversity it faced on and off the field. They served as the glue of that team right until Wes Byrum, another 2007 signee, kicked through the championship-winning field goal.
Tre Mason and Reese Dismukes
If the 2007 class is what fueled the Tigers' run to the national championship game in 2010, the 2011 class is what brought Auburn to the Big Dance in 2013.
Studs like Tre Mason and Greg Robinson were part of the 2011 class—and now they're both bound for this May's NFL draft.
Other stars from the 2013 season—like Sammie Coates, Reese Dismukes, C.J. Uzomah and Gabe Wright—are all still on the Plains with even more potential left to fulfill, looking to bring home more hardware after winning the SEC championship in December.
A select few players from the 2010 signing class can say something that no other Auburn football player has ever been able to say: that they have played in two national championship games.
Going down the list of signees from that class, it's easy to see why that group stands as one of the most important to come through Auburn in recent memory.
One of the two best football players in Auburn history—and one of the greatest collegiate players of all time—was a part of that class: Cam Newton.
Another NFL talent in Corey Lemonier was a part of this signing class, as was Mike Dyer, another huge piece to the Tigers' championship-winning season that fall.
Years later, players like Chris Davis, Jonathon Mincy and Chad Slade brought another SEC championship back to the Plains.
It's hard to argue against legends, and between guys like Newton—who crushed and bewildered opponents like no other player in the sport—and Davis, who became a household name in just one second, the 2010 signing class can claim several...along with two conference titles.
But while the group from 2010 may have claim to the most hardware, the 2002 signing class is Auburn's best in recent memory in terms of sheer talent.
The 2002 signing class can claim four NFL Pro Bowl appearances—two each between Marcus McNeill and Ben Grubbs—and several other NFL talents like Ben Obomanu and Will Herring.
Those were all multi-year starters for the Tigers, as were Brandon Cox, Devin Aromashodu, Anthony Mix and Karibi Dede.
That group helped lead Auburn to an undefeated season and an SEC championship in 2004 and put together one of the Tigers' best stretches in recently history. Auburn went 33-5 from 2004 to 2006 with this core group of players under Tommy Tuberville.
Other signing classes may have featured bigger names, and their successes may be fresher in the mind, but the 2002 class was the deepest from top to bottom and stands as the Tigers' best signing class in the BCS era.