Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Different strategies for Alabama, Auburn
By Greg Ostendorf
This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but Alabama is in the midst of putting together yet another historic recruiting class. The Crimson Tide's 2015 class already has 19 commitments, 16 ranked in the ESPN 300, and it's only July. What's maybe more impressive is that 10 different states are represented in the class.
There's just one problem. When you recruit on a national level, it allows your in-state rival, in this case Auburn, to take kids out of your own backyard.
Last week, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers landed commitments from ESPN 300 offensive lineman Tyler Carr and three-star tight end Jalen Harris, two in-state prospects who had offers from Alabama but chose to go to Auburn instead.
"It was really just a gut instinct," Carr told ESPN.com after he committed. "I felt a little bit more at home at Auburn. I just had to go with what I felt was right."
In April, ESPN 300 athlete Kerryon Johnson, the state's top prospect, committed to Auburn over the likes of both Alabama and Florida State. It was a huge recruiting victory for the Tigers, and if it holds it will be the first time they have landed the No. 1 player in the state since 2011 and only the second time in the last eight years.
So what's the reason for balance of power shifting in the state of Alabama?
"I just think when Gus came back that people saw a new Auburn," Johnson said. "He brings a lot of energy to that place. They're fired up to play football now, and that's enticing to [anybody]. There's a lot of people at Bama, there's a lot of people who still choose Bama, but it's just that new fire there that's hard to pull away from."
The ‘kick six' in last year's Iron Bowl also gave the Tigers a boost.
"That's how easy momentum can shift," Johnson said. "One game, an in-state game like that, and it's just over."
Still, it's not as if Auburn is dominating the state. In fact, the Tide had the same number of in-state commitments in the 2014 class, and they have the same number of in-state commitments so far in 2015. If anything, the two are on a level playing field ... both on the field and in recruiting their home state.
But it wasn't long ago when Alabama was dominating the state, taking all of the best players. Those days have since passed.
Auburn already has five in-state commitments for 2015, and the Tigers are in good position with at least three others in the top 10 including outside linebacker Richard McBryde and offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy.
"I think it's a great thing," Carr said. "It's definitely going to help us out later on. It's something to have people from in state because it means a little bit more to them I think, but it will be really interesting to see how it goes."
Come signing day, both schools will have their fair share of in-state commitments. More importantly, both schools will have elite recruiting classes. It's the reason why they have combined to play in the last five national championship games, and it's the reason why they will be be a part of the CFB Playoff conversation for the foreseeable future.
The balance of power in Alabama might be shifting, but it's only making both sides stronger.