Tigers Nearly Finished With Recruiting

With national signing day set for Wednesday, columnist Phillip Marshall writes about football recruiting.

In honor of the approach of national signing day, it seems a good time to remember a few of my favorite recruiting stories. Some of the names will be omitted to protect the innocent and the guilty.

*The setting for the first one is in a small Florida town in the 1970s. A star running back has narrowed his choices to Florida and another SEC school. The coach from the other school is at the player's home, sipping on rot-gut whiskey with the man of the house.

As they chat, an assistant coach from Florida knocks on the door and is welcomed in. He looks at the bottle on the table and frowns. "At Florida, we drink Chevis Regal," he tells the man of the house.

The coach from the other school knows he has to act. He grabs the bottle on the table, takes several swigs and puts it down. He looks at the man of the house and proclaims: "This whiskey is plenty good enough for me!"

The man of the house looks at the Florida coach and tells him not to let the door hit him in the rear end on the way out. The coach from the other school excuses himself, goes outside and is sick.

The running back went to the other school and had a great career.

*Former Auburn coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan was visiting a highly regarded quarterback. He was showing the quarterback how Auburn was going to utilize his skills when the quarterback pointed out he didn't think the play Jordan was drawing would work.

Jordan looked at the quarterback and shook his head. "I'll be damned," he said. "I thought we were recruiting a quarterback. I didn't know we were recruiting a damned coach."

Jordan got in his car and left. The quarterback, obviously, did not sign with Auburn.

*In the old days, coaches routinely hid players out to keep other coaches from talking to them as signing day neared. So it was in this case.

The coach and the player were sharing a motel room. The coach asked the player if he wanted anything and the player said he'd like a cold beer. The coach dutifully went and bought a six-pack.

The coach was propped up on one bed and the player on the other, both sipping on their beers, when the local sports news came on. The sportscaster excitedly announced that the player had committed to the rival school.

The coach, stunned, looked at the player. The player looked back, flashed a big smile and took another swig of beer.

*Erk grew up an Alabama fan in Ensley. He'd never given serious thought to playing for any team other than the Crimson Tide.

In the summer of 1946, Russell and some of his high school teammates had gone to Tuscaloosa after graduation from Ensley High School. Under the lax rules of the time, tryouts were permissible. Russell had made a quick impression.

"They put us in pads and those maroon-looking jerseys they used to call crimson," Russell says. "We worked out and they offered me a scholarship. I went home and told my dad, who was a strong Alabama fan, that I was going to Alabama. We were all thrilled."

Little did Russell know that he would never again wear an Alabama jersey.

Two days after Russell told his family he would play at Alabama, Jeff Beard, the Auburn athletic business manager who would later become athletic director, showed up at his house.

"Come on, boy, we're going to Auburn," Beard told Russell.

"I told him I was going to Alabama, but he said, ‘No, you can't go until you see Auburn,'" Russell says. "He picked me and two or three other guys up and we went to Auburn. We went to Gulf Shores for two days of fishing. We visited around Auburn for a day or two. I came home and told my daddy I'd changed my mind."

Russell went on to become one of Auburn's all-time great defensive ends.

Back to the present…

*Don't look for any signing day surprises for Auburn. The Tigers will welcome any of the handful of prospects they are still working, but if they don't get them, they will not look to replace them with others. Even with the players who are already committed, scholarship numbers are tight.

*Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville continues to say what he's said all along, that even without a single addition, the current recruiting class will be as strong as any of which he has been a part.

*Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick complained that another coach was acting unethically by continuing to recruit a player who had verbally committed to the Rams. Good thing he's not in the SEC.

*New Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron is getting a lot of praise for getting commitments from nine Louisiana players. I'm not sure you get to the top of the division when more than 1/3 of your singing class is made up of Louisiana players who LSU didn't want.

Until next time…

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