Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn took in the baseball team's College World Series opener against Mississippi State with men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl on Sunday night in Omaha, Nebraska, and by Monday, he was back in the south for an AMBUSH tour stop in Columbus, Georgia.
Here's a rundown of some of the things Malzahn discussed Monday, including Auburn's latest entry into the transfer portal and additions on the recruiting trail, injury updates on defense, excitement about a potential football-only complex, and how the team's top two quarterbacks have progressed since the end of spring practice:
Richard Jibunor moving on
Malzahn confirmed reports that Jibunor, a rising sophomore on defense, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
"He'll be somewhere else next year," Malzahn said. "We wish him the best.
The former four-star outside linebacker recruit out of Athens, Georgia (by way of Delta State, Nigeria), was expected to play in a rotational role at defensive end and was in line to potentially become a starter later in his career. He appeared in six games as a true freshman last year, totaling eight tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Auburn still has plenty of depth at that spot without Jibunor, though. Nick Coe spent all of last season as the starter at Buck. Juniors T.D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant have plenty of experience at the position, and true freshmen Derick Hall and Colby Wooden are capable of playing there.
"We've got plenty of depth on the defensive line," Malzahn said. "I think we'll be fine."
Jibunor is the third Auburn player to enter the transfer portal since the spring, along with wide receiver Kolbi Fuqua and quarterback Malik Willis.
2020 recruiting class taking shape
At this time last week, Auburn didn't have any linebackers committed to its 2020 recruiting class. This weekend, position coach Travis Williams reeled in verbal pledges from two big ones.
On Friday, it was four-star Charlotte, North Carolina, product Trenton Simpson, who ranks as the No. 4 player at his position and No. 52 overall nationally. On Saturday, it was four-star Evergreen native Cameron Riley, who ranks 23rd at outside linebacker.
Those two commitments bring Auburn's total to 11. That class currently ranks 16th nationally and eighth in the SEC, according to the 247Sports composite.
Defensive lineman Daquan Newkirk and defensive back Jordyn Peters both missed all of spring practice due to foot injuries, but Malzahn said both are "ahead of schedule" in their recoveries and that the team is "hopeful to have them at the first of the season" against Oregon in Arlington, Texas.
Newkirk is expected to eventually compete with Tyrone Truesdell and Coynis Miller Jr. for playing time at the defensive tackle spot vacated by graduated senior Dontavius Russell. Peters will likely continue to provide depth in the secondary at the nickel and safety spots and is an ace on special teams.
Count Malzahn is happy to hear that Auburn University president Steven Leath put together a working group to explore the potential of building a new football-only complex on campus.
"Excited that our board is in favor of putting a working group together. It's really exciting. That project is moving forward. I really appreciate our president and our board of trustees," Malzahn said. "The ball's really rolling in the right direction."
Leath asked that the committee — which is chaired by the university's chief operating officer, Ron Burgess, and will include trustee Mike DeMaioribus and Tigers Unlimited board member Earlon McWhorter — provide recommendations by the fall. The project is estimated to cost close to $60 million.
Quarterback battle continues
Part of the reason Malzahn decided to publicly narrow Auburn's quarterback race from four players down to two (Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix) on May 1 was so those two quarterbacks could develop a rapport with the offense and establish themselves as leaders.
The head coach has seen both players do that in the eight weeks since, though nothing has changed in the competition — it will rage on into fall camp.
"I think it's really good for those two young guys, because we can't be out there with the balls and all that. It gives them an opportunity to really work on their leadership skills in front of their teammates," Malzahn said. "A lot of times, that's when teams grow; without the coaches. We do have really, really strong leaders on, really, both sides of the ball. It gives a chance for them to develop themselves and establish themselves as a leader and take charge. I think it's a good thing.
"As far as what we're hearing and all that, it's kind of one of those deals that as a coach, you just wait until you get out there in fall camp — and you usually know pretty quick how things stand from a leadership standpoint."