Typically, the choices made by recruits in the latter part of their junior seasons and early part of their senior seasons do not tell observers too much. Often, an early decision is made by a player long considered a “lock” to a particular school or a prospect that could change his mind a number of times before National Signing Day. Most “major” recruiting news happens in the final months, weeks, and days leading up to the day recruits put pen to paper.
Yesterday’s decision by Alabama linebacker Tre Williams of St. Paul’s in Mobile choosing Auburn over the long-favored Tide was seismic in the early part of this recruiting cycle.
Williams is the #3 player in the state, #2 player at his position, and the #35 overall prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com, but his significance to the Auburn program goes far beyond those numbers.
In pulling Williams, the Tigers have dealt a kidney blow in the heart of Alabama’s recruiting fortress. The Mobile area, easily the most talent-rich area in the state and among the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation, has long been a pipeline to Tuscaloosa and a precursor to national championships for the Tide. First round selections like Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and D.J. Fluker all hail from the area.
Moreover, St. Paul’s is the alma mater of Barron as well as Alabama starting quarterback A.J. McCarron.
As the first major prospect from Mobile to choose the Tigers in a number of years, Williams highlights what may be a more competitive in-state battle between the two most recent national champions. While former Auburn coach Gene Chizik was able to put together some outstanding recruiting classes, the Crimson Tide have dominated with in-state prospects.
New Tigers coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have worked relentlessly to change that dynamic beginning with hiring coaches experienced with the Alabama recruiting terrain, most notably former Auburn standout Dameyune Craig, who is tasked with recruiting the Mobile area. Secondly, Malzahn went out and hired an auxiliary staff consisting mostly of former high school coaches from around the state who will attempt to build the relationships with the high school coaches and their programs needed to identify prospects early and get an early lead.
This new commitment will only highlight a sense of optimism that is growing on the Plains despite a 3-9 season. Although, the Birmingham News and the pro-Alabama media in the state will dismiss the pick up as due to depth for the Tide, it is clear that recruiting battles in the Yellowhammer state are set to be hot once more.