This year might be different and one of the reasons why is a big, fast and smart quarterback named Will Herring who has definitely caught the attention of the Auburn coaching staff.
A 6-3, 201-pounder, who consistently runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5s, Herring is a third-year starter at quarterback for McCracken, a former standout center at Auburn who came to OHS from Lee of Montgomery.
The Bulldogs are off to a great start in 2001, crushing Central of Tuscaloosa on the road with Herring sloshing for 190 rushing yards on a rain-soaked field. Last week at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, his Bulldogs coasted past Carver High 42-12 as Herring hit 8-14 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown. He also added 60 rushing yards on seven carries and scored two more times on the ground.
However, as good as his quarterback skills are, Auburn is looking at Herring as an athlete, a guy who could make an impact in the secondary or maybe as the whip outside linebacker. Colleges have also discussed playing him at receiver, Herring says.
Although he has seen spot duty on defense as a free safety the past two years, he has not played any defense this season and probably will play little if any. "Coach McCracken likes to have separate offensive and defensive teams," Herring notes.
"We are coming along really well as a team," Herring says. "We have a lot of young players who are really coming around and we have an outstanding offensive line. On defense, our line does a great job of shutting down the run. They have given up so few yards it is ridiculous." One of reasons why the Bulldogs are hard to run on is that defensive tackle Tommy "T.J." Jackson, perhaps the top defensive line prospect in the state, anchors the DL. Auburn is also recruiting Jackson.
Herring broke into the starting lineup at OHS as a 6-2, 175-pound sophomore. He is taller, heavier, stronger and significantly faster than he was then and was a standout at both the Jackson Hospital Capital City Combine in Montgomery and the Nike Combine in Baton Rouge, La. He was also one of the best athletes in an Auburn camp and stood out at camps at the University of Tennessee, Georgia and Middle Tennessee State.
While most colleges, including Auburn, see Herring as a potential defensive back, Middle Tennessee State is the one Division I college that is telling him he is a quarterback all the way if he signs with them. While that is enticing, growing up close to Auburn Herring knows that SEC football is king in the South. That gives Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia, the other three colleges he is recruiting, a big edge.
"Pat Washington (the former Auburn quarterback) is recruiting me for Tennessee," Herring says. When he visited UT, the Vols looked at him as both a quarterback and athlete.
Joe Whitt, Noel Mazzone and head coach Tommy Tuberville have all talked to Herring about becoming an Auburn Tiger and he is obviously interested. The OHS senior says, "I am looking for a place to go to college that I am comfortable being around. I want to go to a place where the players have a good relationship with the coaches, a winning tradition and a place that I feel has a bright future ahead of it where I can really help be a part of it.
"I really like everything I am seeing about Auburn," Herring adds. "I grew up an Auburn fan and have gone to most of the games. I like Coach Tuberville and his staff. I get along with them real well. They are real friendly and they showed a lot of interest in me this summer."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn's signee from Opelika High last season, Parade All-American Lemarcus Rowell, is having to sit out of football this fall after not qualifying academically. Herring shouldn't have any problems in that area with a 3.95 grade point average and a 24 on the ACT. "My only B was in Latin as a sophomore," says Herring, who is interested in the field of medicine as a course of study "I had an 89 average (one point shy of an A) and the teacher wouldn't let me do any bonus work to get an A."....Just because he hasn't played defense this year, that doesn't mean that Herring is a one-position guy. He also does the deep snapping of field goals, extra points and punts. "I just did it to mess around as a sophomore, but we had a senior who was good at it," Herring says. "Last year we didn't have anybody who could do it so I got the chance even though at first the coaches didn't want their quarterback doing that."...Herring was on the Auburn campus last week for an unofficial visit to watch the Tigers defeat Ole Miss. He has not set any official visits yet....He is a member of the National Honor Society at OHS.
Herring made a scouting trip to Georgia last Friday night when his Bulldogs had no game after playing in Montgomery on a Thursday. He watched Area rival Central of Phenix City get pounded by Shaw of Columbus, the defending Georgia state champions and a team that sent Antarrious Williams to Auburn this year. Herring says, "I got caught in the traffic jam on the interstate with of all the people going there to see the game. By the time I got there, Shaw was already ahead 28-0. I couldn't believe all of the athletes Shaw has. They look like a college team." Shaw called the dogs off early and won the game 34-7.