AUBURN — It’s the kind of play which a box score cannot begin to tell.
Peyton Barber’s 20-yard touchdown run for Milton (Ga.) against Lassiter on Oct. 19 has to be seen to be appreciated or fully believed – even by his own coach.
“I saw him leap over and I go ‘wow he got the first down’ and then all of a sudden I saw this red jersey breaking out of the pack and he scored a touchdown and I’m thinking ‘Jesus did I just see that?’ ” Milton coach Howie DeCristofaro recalled. “I couldn’t wait to get in the next day and look at the film and see how he did that. It was phenomenal.”
Barber, a three-star prospect who flipped his commitment from Ole Miss to Auburn on Sunday night, took a handoff to the left and with an offensive lineman down in front of him, decided the only way to go was over-the-top. The 5-11 215-pound running back took off from the 22-yard line and landed in a crowd about four yards downfield, bounced like a pinball off a tackler and broke free for the end zone.
So no, “Barber 20-yard run” is not sufficient to describe the one of 22 touchdowns along with 1,713 rushing yards he had for Milton this season.
“You see in practice and you see in games where he has the ability to stop and start and jump-cut here, jump-cut there,” DeCristofaro said. “His hurdling ability, he’s a kid who does it instinctively.”
Barber and his Milton teammate, five-star defensive end Carl Lawson, who reaffirmed his commitment to Auburn on Sunday, are among the 20 commitments to the Tigers heading into today’s National Signing Day. Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff can add up to seven more players because two of the junior college players will count towards last year’s class.
The late addition of Barber bolsters a backfield which lost Onterio McCalebb to graduation and Mike Blakely to transfer. Auburn may add another tailback in New Hope’s Johnathan Ford, a four-star prospect who will announce his decision between Auburn and Tennessee at an 11 a.m. ceremony.
Barber lost most of his junior season to a high ankle sprain, limiting his exposure. DeCristofaro feels there is “no doubt” Barber’s rating was due in part to his injury from a year ago.
“He power cleans 340 and bench presses 385,” DeCristofaro said. “He’s still got good football speed; he’s an 11-flat 100-meter guy. No problems with him as far as charter or his integrity. A real team leader, quiet leader, won’t say much but he works so hard other kids have to follow suit.”
Barber, who could not be reached for an interview, also runs track at Milton and his sprinting ability shows in his highlight films. Milton also runs the hurry-up, no-huddle offense, making the transition easier for Barber given his familiarity, and a reason why he was previously committed to Ole Miss.
As for Lawson, he may end up being the headliner of the 2013 Auburn class.
He remained firm to his commitment even when others left following the firing of Gene Chizik and the hiring of Malzahn. His reaffirming tweet came following his official visit to campus on Sunday.
“this will successfully end my recruitment I am an Auburn Tiger,” Lawson tweeted. “No questions will be answered no calls will be accepted.”
On Tuesday, Lawson spoke on ESPN2’s College Football Live about his recruitment and his decision to reaffirm with Auburn this past weekend.
“Over the last several weeks it’s just been crazy because I’ve had people in and out of my house every day,” he said in his first interview since Sunday’s decision. “I was overfilled with joy when I got back to Auburn this weekend because that’s where I feel my home is.”
An Under Amour All-American, Lawson is ranked as the No. 1 weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals and 247Sports and No. 4 overall prospect by Rivals.
“What stands out about Carl more than anybody that I’ve coached, Carl Lawson wants to compete; he wants to win,” DeCristofaro said. “This second place crap he’s not interested in. He likes to win in everything he does and works at it.”
As an example of Lawson’s work ethic, his coach said Lawson has missed the daily weight lifting he conducts at Milton just once in two years. DeCristofaro says Lawson is the strongest kid he’s coached in 30 years, benching 455 pounds, squatting 600 and clean lifting 330.
Lawson, who had 82 tackles including 36 tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks this season, was named Class AAAAAA All-State first team by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He is looking forward to the chance to rush the passer and believe Malzahn’s offense will help him and the defense.
“His offense, simply put, scores a lot of points, and to be able to produce points in a defensive-heavy system in the SEC is something special,” Lawson said. “It coexists with what I do. I like to rush the passer, and I can’t do that if no points are being scored.”
Lawson was nearly joined on the Plains by five-star linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn), the consensus top player in the state, but Foster flipped his commitment again, saying he will play at Alabama during a television show on Monday night. Lawson feel Foster’s decision won’t have much of an impact on the rest of Auburn’s class.
“I’m not saying I don’t care, but it really doesn’t affect me that much,” Lawson said. “It doesn’t affect me, and I don’t think it affects Auburn’s class.”
Auburn’s class is ranked No. 11 by Rivals, No. 16 by 247Sports and No. 20 by Scout but like many other schools, lots can change as more players announce decisions throughout today.
The Tigers are in the running for five-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who took an official visit last weekend. Adams is also considering Clemson, Georgia and Alabama but since Sunday, several recruiting websites have Auburn as the favorite for Adams, who will announce his decision on ESPNU during the 8 o’clock hour.
Defensive end commit Tashawn Bower (Somerville, NJ ) is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. CT according to his tweets on Tuesday.
Twins Mackensie and Mackenro Alexander from Immokalee, Fla. are also possible commits. Mackensie, a five-star corner, and Mackenro, a three-star safety, are announcing during a ceremony at their school.
Offensive line prospect Deon Mix, who was previously committed to Mississippi State, said he will announce at 10 a.m.
When the dust settles, Malzahn will speak at 3 p.m. and the class of 2013 will be more or less complete. The question is can the Tigers be like Barber and hurdle their competition?