The recent recruiting battles between Nick Saban and Gene Chizik have been epic, and the 2013 class could add another chapter to the bitter rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.
Rivalry weekend has finally arrived, but the recruiting trail is a place where battles are fought year round.
The Iron Bowl is a perfect example of this phenomenon, with Alabama and Auburn waging some of the most memorable recruiting dramas in recent memory.
Even though this season has spiraled southward for the Tigers and they enter this game as heavy underdogs, Nick Saban and his staff are still facing some stiff competition from Auburn for some of 2013’s top prep stars.
How are the Tide and Tigers faring thus far in the 2013 cycle?
Which recruits are still on the fence, and could possibly end up on either side of this rivalry next season?
And what could the outcome of this weekend’s tilt in Tuscaloosa have on each school’s class?
Find out those answers and more in this comprehensive breakdown of both in-state powers recruiting efforts.
In a class loaded with talented players across the board, Alabama has lured three standouts in positions of need that are among the nation’s top athletes in the 2013 class.
Jonathan Allen—a 6’3”, 255-pound outside linebacker from Virginia—is ranked as the 13th best player in the country regardless of position by 247 Sports.
In-state star OJ Howard is consensus choice amongst most major recruiting services as the top tight end in the country, with Rivals ranking the 6’6”, 220-pounder as the fifth best player in the class of 2013.
The Tide’s most recent pledge is from Florida phenom Derrick Henry, who is a physically imposing running back that set a national prep record for the most career rushing yards last weekend (h/t, Steve Berrey, flavarsity.com).
With a bevy of talented uncommitted prospect interested in Alabama, expect Saban and his staff to make a run at landing the nation's top class for the second consecutive season.
Despite the turmoil on the field for the Tigers, Gene Chizik and his staff have continued to find success on the recruiting trail with a 2013 class that currently ranks in the top 10 by the same three recruiting services mentioned earlier.
The biggest get for the Tigers is 5-star linebacker—and former Alabama commitment—Reuben Foster (more on him later).
Chizik also struck gold with a pair of freakish talents on the defensive line with in-state defensive tackle Dee Liner and Georgia defensive end Carl Lawson.
ESPN rates all three Tiger pledges as Top 25 prospects nationally, with Lawson pegged as the nation’s top pass-rushing end in the class of 2013.
With all of the uncertainty surrounding the program's future, it would be a major coup if the Tigers can hold onto most of the talented stars that are currently committed.
With both schools sitting on 19 verbal pledges, each club has limited spots left in its class.
However, there are still a few uncommitted prospects considering the last two national champions and a current Tigers commit that remains in play for the Tide.
Literally and figuratively, the biggest prize left on the board for Alabama and Auburn is 5-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams.
Adams—who has visited each SEC power for games this season, and made trips to Auburn and Tuscaloosa this summer—is considering the Tide and Tigers in addition to Clemson, Georgia and Florida.
Per Keith Neibuhr of 247 Sports, Adams could be present in Tuscaloosa this weekend to witness the showdown between two of his favorites.
Liner—who has been committed to Auburn for well over a year—has kept Tigers fans on edge after visiting Tuscaloosa twice in the last month.
Another player the Tide and the Tigers are in the hunt for is Georgia safety Vonn Bell.
Liner’s recruitment appears to be the latest in a series of power struggles between the hated rivals.
For example, a year ago at this time, T.J. Yeldon was bound to play his college football on the Plains.
In fact, current Tide players such as Cyrus Kouandijo, Brent Calloway and Jonathan Atchison were all committed to Auburn at one point in the recruiting process.
The switch of Foster—whose commitment to the Tigers is already permanent in at least one way—turned the recent string of decommitments in favor of Auburn, and was a big blow to Alabama’s class (h/t, Michael Carvell, ajc.com).
While Alabama has had the upper hand on the gridiron as of late, one thing that will never change is Auburn continuing the two teams’ never-ending feud on the recruiting trail.
This weekend’s game appears to be a classic case of two programs headed in two different directions.
At 10-1 and given a second chance to control its own destiny in the BCS title race, Alabama can lock up the SEC West crown and set up a national championship semifinal against Georgia in the SEC title game next weekend.
Meanwhile, Auburn limps into this contest at 3-8 with Chizik’s future in serious jeopardy, per the Sporting News.
For Alabama, the phrase "nail in the coffin" comes to mind—and a chance to earn its fourth win in five years over Auburn.
As for the recruiting subplot to the latest chapter in the Iron Bowl, a lopsided contest in favor of the home school could provide recruits with the greatest example of the gap between a program in flux and a perennial national title contender.