AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s Tiger Prowl recruiting tour crossed the state line for the first time in its two-year history, and Columbus’ Carver High was the first school on the schedule.
Six Tigers assistant coaches — Tracy Rocker, Tommy Thigpen, Phillip Lolley, Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper and Jay Boulware — arrived in a white, stretch Hummer limousine Tuesday morning, chatting with Carver coaches and acquiring information on prospective recruits as part of the spring evaluation period.
“It shows camaraderie on their part, trying to show prospects that they’re on a united front together,” said Carver coach Dell McGee, a cornerback on Auburn’s 1993 undefeated team. ‘’They’re targeting some of the better kids in Georgia and Alabama.”
Auburn hatched the idea last year, dispatching as many coaches as the NCAA allows to the same school in grand fashion, a move that drew plenty of publicity.
“We’re just going to … try to be on the edge with how we recruit and what we do in terms of just trying to be maybe a little bit different than most,” head coach Gene Chizik said last week at the Columbus/Phenix City Auburn Club.
Chizik’s staff stopped at Central-Phenix City and Smiths Station high schools last year.
That’s not to say Auburn hasn’t built a relationship with McGee. In fact, Chizik visited Carver the day after he was hired more than 16 months ago.
“From that day forward, he said he’ll make a commitment to recruiting the city of Columbus and making the city of Columbus a priority and just trying to get things back the way things used to be,” McGee said.
“Coach (Pat) Dye had a big, big influence and had a big hand over here in Columbus. So he’s kind of stayed true to his commitment in that regard.”
The Carver stop made sense. The Tigers have a pair of high-profile recruits for 2011 high on Auburn’s list: defensive lineman Gabe Wright and running back Isaiah Crowell. They made visits to Auburn in the offseason, although both have offers from nearly every team in the Southeast.
Wright, a 6-foot-3, 273-pound tackle, had 55 tackles and seven sacks as a junior last year. Crowell (5-11, 190) ran for more than 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns.
The limousines might have gotten their attention, but McGee didn’t think it would have a major impact on their final decisions.
“A lot of kids have different values and different impressions that they get from those type of things,” McGee said. “But that’s not going to be why they go to a school or not go to a school. They want to make sure they get comfortable with their position coach and the head coach … and (feel) comfortable with the university.”
Carver has had 10 recruits sign letters of intent with Football Bowl Subdivision schools the past two years, sending players to Southern Cal, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Maryland, among others.
But Auburn hasn’t had a Carver signee since DeRon Furr in 2008. Furr, a quarterback-turned-safety, left the Plains following a fight with teammates during two-a-days, transferring to Memphis before ever playing a game for Auburn.
McGee wouldn’t go as far as to say Auburn’s presence in Columbus has been lacking.
“They’ve been recruiting Columbus since I’ve been here,” he said. “And I just think it’s just a different focus. Coach Chizik and his staff have made it a point to make it a recruiting spot for them.”