As one of the Official Brothers of WBE put it in an e-mail subject line re: Ariton defensive end Craig Sanders decommitting from Alabama and simultaneously committing to Auburn: Don’t see that every day.
No, you don’t. According to Andy Bitter it’s been six years since a one-time Alabama commitment signed with Auburn, and of course right up until yesterday (or a little earlier, depending on what part of the Internet you’re hanging around in) it didn’t seem like that streak was in much danger with the Coachbot on the clock.
But it apparently wasn’t even a tough decision for Sanders, and it’s nothing but great news for Auburn’s recruiting efforts. Sanders is regarded by pretty much everybody as a high-end prospect: the No. 12 DE and No. 199 player overall to Rivals, the No. 20 DE to Scout, No. 40 DE to ESPN. Sanders is a solid four-star to the two traditional services and just misses the cut at ESPN. His offer sheet is about as good as it gets: Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Tennessee, Clemson, and obviously the team he’d been previously committed to. Sanders is a Big Deal.
But on top of being a potentially excellent addition to Auburn’s future roster, Sanders’ commitment is welcome news for a couple of other reasons. One is that Chizik and Co. are, as the recruiting saying goes, “finishing strong.” After the hot start and Big Cat Weekend hullaballoo, Auburn went a couple months picking up some solid “sleepers” but hadn’t produced any major headline-grabbing coups (Antonio Goodwin aside) for a while. Sanders and LaDarius Owens, however, make for two huge, high-profile commitments in the space of a few weeks–and that’s with four-star lineman Ed Christian now calling Auburn a “heavy favorite”, Michael Dyer still looking as orange-and-blue as ever, and various other major targets still on the board. Especially given the track record this staff established last year, it should be a very, very encouraging sprint to the Signing Day finish line.
The other nice thing about signing Sanders: he’s in-state. Chizik and Co. have sworn up-and-down that they’d get things turned around in Alabama, and lookie here: three of Rivals’ top 7, five of the B’ham News’s 12 Super Seniors, 5 of the state’s top 12 at Scout. The goal in-state, as always, isn’t to beat Alabama–it’s just to avoid the kind of flat shut-outs Auburn suffered in ’08 and ’09, when a prospect like Sanders that didn’t wind up with the Tide would have gone to Clemson or Georgia or some other place. Chizik and Co. have all but shut that door and between Owens and Sanders, started picking off players that the Tide actually, you know, kind of wanted. It’s yet another promise Chizik has made and kept.
(Speaking of the Tide: let’s not pretend this is some kind of huge blow for them. In Saban’s 3-4, Sanders would have played outside or “jack” linebacker, and we should all know that if there’s any position where the Tide can afford to hemorrhage prospects, it’s at linebacker. The bad news for them isn’t necessarily that Sanders is gone, though obviously Saban must have thought pretty highly of him to push him into committing in the first place; it’s that Sanders has gone to Auburn.)
A 4-0 start and recruits forsaking crimson for orange-and-blue? These are the good times, folks. Better enjoy them.
Photo via al.com.