SAN ANTONIO — It’s time to finally eliminate Auburn from contention for one linebacker target.
JJ Peterson has been one of the Tigers’ top linebacker options for a while. His relationship with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams kept the Tigers in it when it looked like Alabama would be an impossible team to beat. Now it’s Tennessee that has crept into the lead.
As for Auburn, the communication has tapered off as the Tigers have hauled in more linebackers.
“I talk with him sometimes, off and on. We don’t really talk a ton. We’ve got a good relationship still though,” Peterson told SEC Country. “It just faded. They got other recruits, other linebackers, and it just faded.”
Auburn has four prospects committed who could fit in at linebacker. Michael Harris and Zakoby McClain are the clear-cut linebackers of the group. Richard Jibunor is listed as a linebacker, but Auburn sees him fitting in as a Buck pass-rusher in its defense. Josh Marsh is also called a linebacker for now, but he could end up at safety.
When McClain committed, it caught Peterson’s interest. The two have a close relationship thanks to their south Georgia connection. McClain’s decision made Peterson think harder about Auburn momentarily, but as he looked at the linebacker depth, it didn’t look like a realistic fit.
“With Zakoby, that was one where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m about to float there.’ I didn’t know he didn’t tell me nothing, but when he did, I was interested,” Peterson said. “But they told me they already has some committed. It’s no hard feelings, but it’s the way I gotta go though.”
My sources have told me Auburn still wants Peterson. Any conversations that suggest there aren’t linebacker spots available for him have been a miscommunication. With that said, contact has been minimized recently, especially since the additions of McClain and Jibunor. The Tigers will still recruit Alabama linebacker commit Quay Walker heavily leading up to National Signing Day, so available linebacker spots are the concern.
In Peterson’s case, most of it has to do with his relationship with new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt who was his lead recruiter at Alabama. His primary recruiter at Georgia was linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer who recently took that Tennessee defensive coordinator job under Pruitt.
Combine that with his high school friendship with Tennessee players Shawn Shamburger and Ja’Quain Blakely, and it’s starting to look like a longtime Alabama lean will end up at Tennessee.
“My first official I’m going to the Vols on Jan. 12,” he said. “If I find a hat, it’s over.”
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