Marshall: Recruiting Rankings Misleading

Phillip Marshall takes a look at Auburn's formula for success and how many current Tigers were "unwanted" elsewhere.

When Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and his assistants say they're not worried about recruiting, I believe them.

Why would I believe them, when all the recruiting services say they are getting blown out of the water by Alabama and Nick Saban, when they are "ranked" in the 60s? It's very simple, really. It's a matter of record.

Tuberville looks with a great deal of disdain on what he calls "recruiting from magazines." He doesn't care how many stars are beside a player's name. In most cases, I doubt he knows.

Here's what the record says:

When Auburn opens its season against Kansas State on Sept. 1, no fewer than eight Georgians who were unwanted by the University of Georgia will probably play key roles. They are receivers Rod Smith, James Swinton and Robert Dunn; tight end Cole Bennett; safety Aairon Savage, tailback Brad Lester, tailback/kick returned Tristan Davis and nose guard Josh Thompson. Even Auburn didn't want Smith, who walked on and will be the Tigers' No. 1 receiver.

Those players will be joined by at least seven Alabamians who were unwanted by the University of Alabama. They are center Jason Bosley, defensive end Sen'Derrick Marks, wide receiver Terrell Zachery, quarterback Brandon Cox, linebacker Merrill Johnson, offensive tackle Andrew McCain and safety Zac Etheridge.

At least six Floridians – offensive tackle Oscar Gonzales, offensive guard Tyronne Green, defensive tackles Pat Sims and Mike Blanc, wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez and linebacker Craig Stevens – had to leave their home state if they were going to play at the highest level.

Smith is Auburn's No. 1 receiver and Roderick Hood is beginning his fifth season in the NFL. They were both AU walk-ons out of Georgia.

That adds up to 22 players from Georgia, Alabama and Florida who excited Auburn's coaches but didn't particularly excite "recruiting analysts" or even a lot of other coaches. And that's just the ones who seem certain to make contributions this season. Many of them have played significant roles in Auburn's 33-5 record over the past three seasons. Others are waiting their turns.

Blackmon and offensive guard Leon Hart are the only so-called five-star recruits who are expected to start for Auburn against Kansas State.

Believe it or not, developing players has always been the driving force in the Auburn program more than has signing high-profile prospects. Former coach Pat Dye would chuckle at those who believed he went into the state of Georgia and consistently outrecruited his alma mater.

He told me on numerous occasions that Auburn rarely outrecruited Georgia for a player. The best players Dye got out of Georgia, guys like the Rocker brothers, decided, for whatever reasons, they weren't going to Georgia before they decided they would go to Auburn. That was also the case when Terry Bowden's staff landed linebacker Takeo Spikes. Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill was headed for Georgia until Jim Donnan was fired.

There are exceptions, of course. The most notable one on the current Auburn team is Blackmon, who seriously considered Georgia and was recruited hard by the Bulldogs before deciding on Auburn.

Auburn has a geographic recruiting advantage in that players in three states live closer to Auburn than to any other big-time football school. But the drawback is that, other than in parts of Alabama, Auburn isn't the No. 1 recruiting power in any of those states.

There's something else Dye used to say: "There's enough players to go around for everybody. It's what you do with them after you get them that counts."

It's a matter of evaluating, developing and teaching. Obviously, Tuberville and his staff have gotten their share of talented players and have done a lot with them.

I see no reason to expect that to change anytime soon.

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