It’s not easy for Auburn, but Tigers have earned their place in college football

It’s not easy being Auburn in the fiercely competitive world of college football, and it’s gotten even harder these days.

In almost every state, The University of (name the state) has a recruiting advantage. Alabama is no different. What Auburn has accomplished over the years is actually pretty remarkable. Auburn, geographically, has an advantage over some similarly situated schools. There are players in Alabama, Florida and Georgia who actually live closer to Auburn in any other big-time football school.

But the problem is that Auburn is not the No. 1 recruiting power in any of those places.

Georgia players have played a major role at Auburn over the years, but none other than Pat Dye will tell you quickly that it was rare for Auburn to go head-to-head with the Bulldogs and win recruiting battles. The Rocker brothers, for instance, had decided they weren’t going to Georgia before they decided on Auburn. Same with Takeo Spikes and Ronnie Brown.

There are numerous exceptions, of course (see Tray Blackmon), but Auburn usually isn’t going to beat the major Florida schools for a Florida player or beat Georgia for a Georgia player. It will win a lot of head-to-head battles with Alabama, but historically, it loses more than it wins.

That’s why it is crucial for Auburn to find players that have qualities others might not see. Tyronne Green was a lightly recruited defensive lineman in Pensacola. Auburn coaches saw an offensive guard, and he’s one of the nation’s best. Zach Etheridge had no other offers when he committed early to Auburn and is now All-SEC caliber player. The same will be true of Aairon Savage, a Georgia kid who had no offer from Georgia, if he can stay healthy.

Obviously, the surest way to success is to sign class full of players about whom there is little question. When you sign a Carnell Williams, you can be pretty certain that he’s going to make an impact.

Auburn is going to get some of those kinds of players in most recruiting classes and it did in this one, but it usually isn’t going to get as many as Florida, Georgia, LSU or Alabama. That’s just a fact. It’s also a fact that Auburn has more than held its own on the field against those teams.

Auburn is No. 14 all-time in the Associated Press poll. The only schools higher that aren’t state universities are Notre Dame, Southern California and Miami. Notre Dame has a unique place in college football. USC and Miami are located in huge metropolitan areas and in talent-rich states.

Here’s a link to the list if you are interested:

http://www.secsports.com/index.php?s=&change_well_id=2&url_article_id=3891

Tommy Tuberville and every coach before him has recognized the reality of recruiting at Auburn. You have to cast a wider net, look a little deeper. The good thing is that you are casting that net in areas where there are a lot of good players.

In the final analysis, you win on the field with impact players and with depth. Auburn has both and, as a result, goes into next season with great optimism. The challenge is to keep it that way. With Urban Meyer at Florida at Mark Richt at Georgia and Nick Saban at Alabama, doing that is going to only get harder.

Some Auburn recruiting classes will be perceived as outstanding. Some won’t. But on the field, the only place it counts, history says Auburn will hold its own.

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