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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Roundtable: Auburn's recruiting surge

By TideNation

TideNation writers answer Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf answer questions addressing a pressing topic regarding the Alabama football program. And with every Roundtable, we've sought out the opinion of a guest. Today's contributor is ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill.

Q: Are you surprised with Auburn’s recent surge in recruiting?

Tre Williams
The recent commitment of Tre Williams highlights Auburn's desire to strongly recruit its home state.
Luginbill: It's fairly normal to see an uptick in recruiting when a new staff gets hired. They have targeted guys that have been important to them and been the right fit for them and worked those guys hard, just like everybody. It is clear they made a real effort to focus on in-state kids. Their needs are just about everywhere, with the focus on the defensive front seven, wide receiver and running back.

Ostendorf: I wasn’t sure about the Gus Malzahn hire at first, but he put together a phenomenal staff in terms of recruiting, and the efforts are beginning to pay off. It’s never easy to compete with Alabama, but a high school coach from the state recently broke it down for me. He said Auburn can’t always compete with Alabama, but it needs to find recruits who fit what it does and have character. The Tigers are succeeding on both fronts. After adding three commitments last week alone, there’s excitement around the program again.

Scarborough: It shouldn't come as a surprise to see Auburn back in the class rankings. Malzahn knows what he's doing. If he hadn't left for Arkansas State late in 2011, T.J. Yeldon might be wearing orange and blue. And give credit for the staff he assembled, getting a pair of aces in Dameyune Craig and Rodney Garner. As I wrote at the time of Gene Chizik's dismissal, a change at head coach wasn't something Alabama fans should have applauded so loudly. If anything it brought new life into a program that had flatlined.

Q: What effect, if any, does it have on Alabama’s efforts?

Luginbill: Little to none. Remember, not every player is right for both programs. If Auburn offers a guy and Alabama doesn’t, there is likely a multitude of reasons. They both might agree the player is good, but might not be the right fit. Keep in mind Auburn had strong classes in 2010 and 2011, but many of those prospects are no longer with the program. While Auburn may have signed excellent players, the type of person they got what you need to win. I make this point because until you get the classes entrenched you just don’t know how strong they are.

Ostendorf: Auburn’s class is chock full of good prospects. But with the exception of Josh Casher and Tre' Williams, they are prospects Alabama didn’t show much interest in. Alabama has shown when you win national championships, you can recruit on a national scale. They’re spending more time on the evaluation process and not giving out committable offers for some players until they see them at camp. Credit Auburn, though, for taking advantage and landing some solid early commitments. Alabama still has the upper hand, but don’t be surprised if Auburn becomes more competitive on the field in two or three years.

Scarborough: The effect won't be immediate. Auburn's recent success on the recruiting trail is about gaining momentum, and at a certain point Alabama will have to, if you'll pardon the pun, turn the tide. A commitment here or there won't move the meter much, but string together four or five and you'll start to feel the effects. We'll start to see more heads-up recruiting battles between the two schools soon and then we'll get a real measure of the competition.

Q: What player in the state, committed or uncommitted, will be the most sought after by Alabama and Auburn?

Luginbill: Probably Racean Thomas. This is a kid that actually does fit for both programs. For Auburn because it is such a significant need and for Alabama because he would add an explosive dimension to the backfield. A close second would be Marlon Humphrey. Tall, fluid corners don’t grow on trees.

Ostendorf: The easy answer is Thomas. He was an early Tide lean, but the momentum is currently with the Tigers. However, I’m going to go with Casher, an Auburn commitment. He’s the top-ranked center in the country, a position that Alabama needs to address with this class. If he dominates UA’s OL/DL camp in June, expect the Tide to put on the full-court press.

Scarborough: Bo Scarbrough hasn't given any indication that his commitment is wavering, but you have to believe the heat is coming as he'll hear pitches against the Tide from now until February. Alabama has stolen a number of high-profile Auburn commitments over the past few years and it's probable that Malzahn and his staff target someone like Scarbrough to send the message that Auburn isn't out to fight over the Tide's scraps.