The consensus number one recruit in America, running back/linebacker Ernie Sims from North Florida Christian High in Tallahassee, was one of the 83,000-plus who got to witness the game in person. Making an unofficial visit to the Auburn campus over the weekend, Sims says he left a happy camper.
"I loved it," the 5-11, 225-pounder tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "Everybody was nice to me. Everybody treated me well. I love the coaches up there, coach (Eddie) Gran, coach (Bobby) Petrino and coach (Tommy) Tuberville. I loved talking to them and meeting them. The Tigerettes treated me real nice. The game was exciting itself. It went in three overtimes and I really enjoyed that. The team played very well and I think Auburn showed character by hanging in there after they were down in the first half. I really enjoyed it. It was a great game."
Saying that Auburn along with Georgia, Florida State, Florida and Miami are in his final five schools, Sims has very specific things he likes about each school. Georgia is a draw for Sims because of Coach Mark Richt and the fact that they lack depth at both tailback and linebacker. "I think I can go up there and get some playing time," he notes. "It's not too far away from home and neither is Auburn. That's a plus."
The other three schools on his list are no surprises for a player from the Sunshine State. Hometown Florida State, Florida and Miami are all colleges that Sims is interested in attending and will make visits to at some time during the season. "Florida State, it's always been a dream come true to play for them, but it might not be the place for me," Sims says. "I think that if I go there I'm going to have to fight for my position, but that's alright with me. I'll fight for anything."
The lure of home cooking with his parents close by will give Florida State a big advantage, but he notes that Miami and Florida both have some advantages as well. "I think they have a great thing going on over there," Sims says of head coach Ron Zook at Florida. "Even though they lost to Miami I think they're back on a roll now after they beat Tennessee."
Commenting on the Miami Hurricanes, Sims says, "I went down there this summer. I had fun down there. I like all the vegetation down there. It's nice and green. I really had fun down there and I like this atmosphere."
All five of his finalists will get a shot at landing Sims on national signing day in February and that's all a school can ask for at this point. Even with all the heavy competition, Auburn has definitely caught the eye of the big back from Florida.
"I love the coaches," Sims notes of the Auburn staff. "It's a great atmosphere and a small town. Everybody loves football. They offer what I want to major in (Veterinary medicine). I think that's a plus for them. I think I have a great chance to go in there and play. They run the ball like I want to. I don't get the ball at my school 40 times a game. I really like that about Auburn. No other school that I'm looking at does that. That's a big plus for them."
Sims is shown at the Nike Combine in Tuscaloosa earlier this year where he was extremely impressive.
Sims says that he plans to visit the Miami-Florida State game, the Florida State-Florida game and the Miami-Tennessee games in the coming weeks in addition to making at least one more trip to Auburn for a later game. He will do all that in addition to leading one of the top teams in Florida in its quest for a state title.
Averaging over 200 yards per game on just 16 attempts per outing through three games with four touchdowns, Sims has been a one-man wrecking crew this season for North Florida, but he's not satisfied with the numbers he's put up so far. A powerful runner at 225 pounds who also possesses speed better than 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Sims plays linebacker in addition to his duties at tailback. Picking one position will be the decision Sims has to make in the future, but right now he says his first goal is to win a state championship. He had 164 tackles, 12 sacks, 41 tackles for a loss and seven caused fumbles as a junior. He also rushed for 790 yards (9.6 per carry) and scored 17 touchdowns.