As the clocked ticked down to zero at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Monday night and crimson confetti filled the air for the third time in four years, a season that seemed like it would never cease for Auburn fans finally came to an abrupt end.
Suffering through a 3-9 season is bad enough. Having to go through that while watching your biggest rival lift the crystal football and seal what ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit deemed the “greatest dynasty” he’s seen in college football is even worse.
Herbstreit on Tide titles: "I think we're in the middle of it. In my lifetime, I believe this is the best dynasty I've seen in CFB."— Jon Solomon (@jonsol) January 8, 2013
As much as Auburn fans do not want to admit it, Alabama is currently the measuring stick that all college football teams must measure up against. To put where Auburn measures up to Alabama right now in a football perspective, you could say that Alabama is the varsity team and Auburn is the local peewee team. Or you could just simply use 49-0 as a measuring stick.
But there’s hope.
College football is arguably the most cyclical sport out there. And the cycles happen fast. It wasn’t long ago that you could drive through “The Magic City” of Birmingham, AL and see Auburn winning the all-important car flag war.
Alabama can and will be caught eventually.
The first step that Auburn must take in catching up to Alabama is to secure an elite 2013 recruiting class. Sure, Auburn has recruited at a high level since 2009 but as many of us have witnessed over the past four years, that talent was either not developed or did not stay in the program.
With a staff of proven recruiters and developers assembled for 2013, player development should no longer be as big of a problem.
The old and new coaching staffs—as well as the recruits—deserve praise for keeping a highly touted 2013 recruiting class mostly intact during a winless SEC season and a coaching change. After a small wave of decommitments, the recruiting waters have calmed.
Here is how Auburn can take that first step back to being an annual subject in the SEC Championship chatter on national signing day, February 6.
With the recent commitments of RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Danzey, S Brandon King and Bradley (who may bring teammate Toby Johnson along with him), the Tigers’ recruiting class is currently ranked No. 15 in the 247sports composite rankings. An elite (a.k.a. top-10) recruiting class is shockingly not out of the realm of possibility for Malzahn’s first recruiting rodeo.
The Auburn staff would likely need to hang on to one or both of the two 5-star recruits currently committed, DE Carl Lawson and DT Dee Liner. It would also need to regain the pledge of a former Auburn commitment, LB Reuben Foster. Things are on the up-and-up for the Tigers in Foster's recruitment.
Finally, Auburn would need to make a splash on signing day with a big name(s). RB Derrick Greene, DT Montravius Adams or LB Zach Cunningham would certainly fit that mold. As we all know, surprises happen on signing day.
In 2012, OT Avery Young surprised many when he signed with the Tigers. As did OG Alex Kozan, who signed 26 days after national signing day.
Landing an elite recruiting class will not be the cure-all for the Auburn program. Auburn’s problems go much deeper. However, it will give Malzahn and his staff momentum heading into spring practice and the 2013 season.
It will also be the first step in catching up to an Alabama program that appears to be on cruise control.