How Auburn's Dameyune Craig Is Reclaiming the Mobile Pipeline for the Tigers

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How Auburn's Dameyune Craig Is Reclaiming the Mobile Pipeline for the Tigers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Auburn assistant offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig

From four-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Anderson to Lombardi Award-winning national champion Nick Fairley, Auburn has seen success over the years in recruiting players from the Mobile area, a region stocked with some of Alabama's top high school football talent.

Perhaps the most famous football alum from Alabama's Bay Area for Auburn fans is Dameyune Craig.

After leading Mobile's Mattie T. Blount High School to a pair of state championships, Craig had a record-breaking career as Auburn's dual-threat quarterback from 1994-1997.

Craig backed up current Auburn radio color commentator Stan White for his first two seasons and was the starter for his final two, becoming the Tigers' all-time single-season passing leader with 3,277 yards in a 10-win senior season.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Craig during his Auburn playing days

The Mobile native had a short stint in the NFL and later NFL Europa, the now-defunct league in which he set the world professional football record for passing yards in a game with 611 yards as a member of the Scottish Claymores.

He had greater success in the coaching ranks, moving from high school assistant to quarterbacks coach at Florida State in the span of seven years, with stops in the SEC and the NFL along the way.

After four seasons under head coach Jimbo Fisher, Craig returned to his alma mater in 2013, when new head coach Gus Malzahn hired him to be co-offensive coordinator.

Under Malzahn, Craig has three major responsibilities: assist with running the hurry-up offense, coach wide receivers and make Auburn a force once again in his old stomping grounds.

Rick Osentoski/Associated Press/Associated Press
Former TIger and Mobile native Nick Fairley

"This is football country," Malzahn said earlier this month at one of his Tiger Trek stops in Mobile. "If you look at Auburn's history, they've done extremely well when they've done well in Mobile."

In the days of Anderson and Craig, Auburn had a strong foothold in the area, winning recruiting battles against the likes of Florida, LSU and Tennessee.

But Nick Saban's arrival at rival Alabama in 2007 started a mass exodus from Mobile to Tuscaloosa.

While Auburn was still able to snag under-the-radar Mobile prospects like Fairley, Alabama simply dominated the recruiting war for the region's blue-chip prospects:

Notable Recruits from the Mobile Area, 2008-2013
WR Julio Jones 5-star 2008 Alabama
S Mark Barron 5-star 2008 Alabama
ATH B.J. Scott 5-star 2008 Alabama
DT D.J. Fluker 5-star 2009 Alabama
QB AJ McCarron 4-star 2009 Alabama
LB C.J. Mosley 5-star 2010 Alabama
S Jarrick Williams 4-star 2010 Alabama
RB Jalston Fowler 4-star 2010 Alabama
WR Marvin Shinn 4-star 2011 Alabama
C Reese Dismukes 4-star 2011 Auburn
WR Danny Woodson 4-star 2011 Alabama
DE Chris Casher 5-star 2012 Florida State
RB T.J. Yeldon 5-star 2012 Alabama
LB Ryan Anderson 4-star 2012 Alabama
OT Alphonse Taylor 4-star 2012 Alabama
DT Darius Paige 4-star 2013 Alabama

247Sports

When Malzahn hired Craig, who had a reputation for building relationships with some of his home state's top talent for the ACC's Seminoles, Auburn immediately became a major player in the Mobile area.

Auburn recently signed three players from the region—5-star linebacker Tre' Williams from St. Paul's Episcopal in Mobile, 4-star defensive end Justin Thornton from Vigor in Pritchard and 3-star linebacker De'Shaun Davis, also from Vigor—while Alabama signed only one, 4-star center Josh Casher, who was Williams' high school teammate.

"That area is very important," Malzahn said. "Dameyune Craig did a great job down there. We got three players that are all impact players. That’s exciting for the future."

247Sports
Tre Williams

As the area's top player in the class of 2014, Williams' highly publicized recruitment came down to a decision between Auburn and Alabama. 

The 5-star linebacker was originally a Craig recruit for Florida State, but when he made the move back to Auburn, Williams decided to follow and make his commitment to play for the Tigers back in May 2013.

"Coach Craig recruited me since my freshman year," Williams told AL.com's John Talty. "He was at two separate schools, but he was still the same guy. He didn't pressure me; he was just always real with me."

Thornton was also a Mobile recruit who stayed solid in his long-term commitment to the Tigers through their wild run to the SEC title.

247Sports
Justin Thornton

"Once I made my decision my mom said 'You aren't going against your word, once you commit you are locked in,'" Thornton told Talty. "Auburn hasn't given me a reason to decommit. If it did, it'd be a different story."

Thornton's teammate Davis had a chance to become one of the state's best recruits in the class of 2014, but a leg injury kept him out for his senior season. Even with the drop to three stars in recruiting ratings, Malzahn and his staff looked at the Vigor star as a key recruit to their class.

"He's just a hard-nosed physical guy that just has the nose for the football," Malzahn said. "If he would have played this year, he would have been very highly recruited. We really feel great about him."

Although the area appears to have a down class of 2015 with only two 4-star recruits—current Alabama running back commitment Desherrius Flowers and Auburn junior college athlete commitment Jason SmithMalzahn has stressed the importance of continuing to mine the area for talent.

"We got some very good players out of this last class, and we'll continue to recruit this area," Malzahn said.

247Sports
Darius Whitfield

One of Alabama's top players in the early projections for the class of 2016 is Darius Whitfield, an offensive guard who was a former teammate of Williams at St. Paul's. The Crimson Tide appear to be the early leaders, but Auburn will still be in the hunt with Craig leading the recruiting efforts.

After all, with the success the Tigers had in Mobile with this latest class, Williams does not see anything slowing down for Malzahn, Craig and Co. in the southwest corner of the state.

"Auburn owns Mobile," Williams said, according to Talty. "They will own Mobile until we leave."

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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