For Ariton (Ala.) four-star defensive end Craig Sanders, the Tide officially rolled into his life in May when he committed to play football for Alabama.
Wednesday, four months later, he decided to officially roll it back out.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder will instead sign with Auburn.
Sanders, one of the country’s top overall recruits, informed Tiger lead recruiter Jeff Grimes of the news Wednesday night during a telephone conversation.
“It feels good. It feels really good,” Sanders said of his Auburn commitment. “I talked to Coach Grimes and Coach (Gene) Chizik. When I told Coach Chizik, he said he was riding by Gold’s Gym and he was so pumped he was going to stop and go lift some weights.”
Sanders, his mother and stepfather visited the Plains earlier this month for the Tigers’ 41-30 win over West Virginia. The visit was all Sanders needed to see.
“That pretty much put the icing on the cake,” Sanders said. “I went up there and sat down with all of them. I met Coach Grimes’ whole family. I met Coach Chizik’s whole family. They were all so nice.
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“It’s just a family thing at Auburn. I feel at home up there.”
Sanders’ switch from Alabama to Auburn marks the first and only time in at least eight years the Tigers have “stolen” a Tide commitment.
Since 2004, the last six signing classes, the Tigers didn’t manage to persuade any Alabama commitment to switch. The Tide however, convinced four of Auburn’s pledges to switch and ultimately sign.
Marcus Carter and Ali Sharrief were both committed to Auburn before signing with Alabama in ’04. Josh Chapman switched to Alabama in ’07. Last year, it was Jonathan Atchison. Carter, Sharrief and Chapman were all in-state recruits.
Tommy Tuberville and staff may not have been able to switch a Tide commitment, but Chizik and crew found a way to do it. And it took them less than a year. Sanders said he can see why.
“With Auburn, it’s definitely the coaches. It starts with the coaches,” Sanders said. “I love those guys. Coach Grimes is a good Christian man. I just enjoy talking to him, and not just about recruiting.”
Sanders said he might have rushed his initial decision to commit to Alabama.
“Back in May, I made the popular choice and chose to go to Alabama,” he said. “After looking at it and praying about it, I realized my heart wasn’t with Alabama. It was with Auburn. I felt more at home at Auburn.”
Sanders plans to make the Plains his home a little sooner than most ’10 recruits.
“I’ll be in Auburn in January,” Sanders said of his early enrollment. “I already have senioritis. I’m ready to get there. I can’t wait.”
Rivals.com rates Sanders the No. 7 overall recruit in Alabama, the country’s No. 12 weakside defensive end and No. 199 overall prospect.
He is Auburn’s 17 commitment in the ’10 recruiting class, ninth in-state commitment and the third defensive end.