Nearly three decades after former Auburn assistant Joe Whitt had the city of Mobile, Alabama on a recruiting lockdown, another Mobile native that is an Auburn assistant coach isn't losing many recruiting battles in and around the Port City.
I guess history repeats itself after all.
Auburn assistant coach Dameyune Craig has put the Tigers on the minds of top prospects in Mobile, just like he was hired to do. More than anything else, Craig was courted by head coach Gus Malzahn (twice) for the purpose of loosening the stranglehold that Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have had in the area since Saban's arrival in 2007. In what feels like a snap of the finger, Auburn is once again a recruiting force in the important battleground of Mobile.
Nothing proves that more than when Tre' Williams (shown above), the state's top LB (according to 247Sports) committed to Auburn on Wednesday, May 8. Many recruiting experts believe that another Mobile product, Justin Thorton, will pledge to the Tigers on Sunday. Two other highly touted prospects from Mobile have already pledged to the Tigers: De'Shaun Davis and Joshua Casher.
All four prospects have a common theme; Craig is their lead recruiter.
Why is the Mobile area so important?
For starters, if you examine the history of successful eras in Alabama and Auburn football, there is a strong positive correlation between recruiting success in Mobile and on-field success.
During Alabama's run that has made the Tide a modern-day dynasty, a lot of credit can go to talent that came out of Mobile. Former wide receiver Julio Jones, QB AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon are just a few that can be named. According to Kevin Scarbinsky of al.com, four of the Tide's 11 first-round draft picks in the last three years have came from the Mobile area.
Not too long ago, when Alabama was "fearing the thumb" of former head coach Tommy Tuberville and the Tigers were consistently challenging for SEC West titles, it was Auburn who had its flag claiming ownership of the southern city by the bay.
"If you look back at the successful teams that Auburn has had, there's been quite a few players from this area," Malzahn told Brandon Marcello of al.com on Thursday in Daphne, Alabama before meeting with the Mobile Auburn club.
As soon as Malzahn convinced Craig to come home to his alma mater from Florida State, anyone with knowledge of the football-crazed state of Alabama saw the imminent recruiting battle that was going to happen in Mobile.
Gerry Hamilton, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, predicted the battle nearly two months ago:
For the foreseeable future, the region will become a battleground for some of the country’s top recruiters, including Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama assistant Lance Thompson and Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig.
Take a quick look at the scoreboard. Against Florida State's Pruitt and Alabama's Thompson, Craig leads 2-0 (Casher and Williams). If Auburn lands Thorton on Sunday, make it 3-0 in favor of Craig.
Only time will tell if the recruiting scoreboard stays in favor of Craig and Auburn, but as of now, he and the Tigers have sprinted ahead of the pack.
If nothing else, there's now at least a kink in the main supply line from Mobile to Tuscaloosa. If Auburn can win at least half the recruiting battles, history says that success on the field isn't too far behind.