- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When ESPN 150 defensive tackle Dee Liner (Muscle Shoals, Ala./Muscle Shoals) committed to Auburn during the summer prior to his junior season, it surprised a lot of people. After all, he was the state’s top player, and he was making his decision almost two and a half years before he would have to sign his national letter of intent.
Liner grew up a fan of the Tigers, so the choice shouldn’t have come as a surprise -- but why pull the trigger so early?
Looking back, Auburn was coming off a national championship and had a lot of momentum on the recruiting trail. The in-state native had just visited AU two weeks earlier for their Big Cat Weekend. He must have felt right.
However, with signing day fast approaching, the football landscape in the state of Alabama has changed drastically since Liner made that initial commitment.
The Crimson Tide just won their second national championship in three years, and if not for a loss to Texas A&M last weekend, they would be in the driver’s seat for a third. They also pulled in the nation’s top recruiting class a year ago.
On the other side of the state, Auburn just lost 38-0 to Georgia to drop the Tigers to 2-8 on the season and 0-7 in the SEC. Rumors concerning the future of AU head coach Gene Chizik have started to circulate across the Southeast.
If Chizik is let go, Auburn’s top-10 recruiting class might start falling by the wayside, and Liner could be one of the first to flip.
The big, 6-foot-4, 292-pound defensive lineman has been in Tuscaloosa for each of the Tide’s past two home games against Mississippi State and Texas A&M. He plans to return for the Iron Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 24.
Just by taking his visits, Liner has shown that he’s at least open to looking at other schools.
And really, why not Alabama? They’re the top in-state school right now. They’re winning. They’re sending players to the next level on a regular basis. And as long as Saban is sticking around, they’re not going anywhere for awhile.
On top of that, Liner fills one of the Tide’s needs in the 2013 class, a versatile defensive lineman who can play both inside and outside and have the ability to dominate up front. The UA coaches have been searching for the next Marcell Dareus, a former All-American and current NFL star, and Liner fits the bill.
The only potential road block could be his ties to Auburn growing up. Ask anybody in the state, and it’s clear, you don’t switch from Auburn to Alabama or vice versa. If Chizik is let go, will Liner turn his back on the Tigers for the Tide?
Regardless of what he decides to do, it will only add to the legacy of the rivalry.
6dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
6dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf