The Iron Bowl is played each year in November. However, fans across the state of Alabama tuned in for recruiting updates on National Signing Day, pulling for their team to come out on top. If you tell me that you did not root for your team to come out with a higher ranking than its rivals, then I believe your nose is growing, Pinocchio!
On National Signing Day, a second Iron Bowl of sorts played out between Alabama and Auburn with coaches and recruits as the combatants.
In football terms, let’s take a look at which team made the bigger plays and avoided turnovers to come out on top.
On the playing field, Alabama has always done well with strong finishes in the fourth quarter. A fast start by Alabama on National Signing Day eventually slowed to a snail's pace and the Tide suffered from dropped balls and turnovers.
This clearly gave the momentum to the Auburn Tigers, who started slow but finished strong. In November, Auburn led by one point when Alabama drove the entire length of the field to score what would be the winning touchdown.
On National Signing Day, Alabama led until a turnover gave Auburn the opportunity to put together a winning drive.
Although Alabama played good in the first three quarters of recruiting, Auburn matched them play for play.
The question now must be asked:
What happened to Alabama during the fourth quarter of recruiting?
Why couldn't Saban’s magic and the allure of a National Championship bring in the remaining blue chip prospects they were after?
How was Auburn able to bring attention to itself by landing some of the best recruits in the nation?
Perhaps the magic has switched to a man named Chizik? “It just felt like home” and “the coaches are the reason I signed with Auburn” were the statements that were made by most of the Auburn recruits when asked why they chose to be a Tiger.
Early in the game of recruiting, a critical turnover occurred when the Crimson Tide fumbled the 12th best weak side defensive end prospect, Craig Sanders to Auburn. The tigers scored points off of this turnover when Sanders signed his Letter of Intent to play for Coach Chizik.
Sanders explained to the media and to fans everywhere that Auburn coaches would call to make small talk. He eagerly admitted that he felt as if Auburn coaches cared more, when asked why he switched allegiances.
As time ticked away on National Signing Day, Nick Saban and Alabama lost the number one rated safety prospect, Keenan Allen, to Cal because they would not offer a scholarship to Allen’s half-brother, a transfer from the University of Buffalo.
The University of California Berkeley had no problem with offering a scholarship to Allen’s half-brother and as a result, they picked up one of the best overall recruits in the nation.
On the other side of the field, Auburn did not lose any of the commitments considered to be wavering towards other schools.
The third highest rated offensive tackle according to Rivals.com and the number one player in the state of Mississippi, Shon Coleman, actually took a visit to Alabama last week.
On National Signing Day, he signed with Auburn. Alabama had a chance to pick off that pass and run it back for six points. In actuality, they tipped the ball up in the air but Auburn came down with it and scored a touchdown of their own when Coleman signed his Letter of Intent to play for Coach Chizik.
Trovon Reed, rated as the 46th best player in the nation by Rivals.com and the number one player in the state of Louisiana also took a late visit to another school after he had given a verbal commitment to Auburn.
Fortunately, there was no turnover and Auburn put more points on the board when Trovon Reed signed his Letter of Intent to play for Gene Chizik's Tigers.
When Alabama got the ball back, they could not make a big play to put the game away. Nick Saban was counting on a commitment from offensive lineman, James Stone. However, new Tennessee coach, Derek Dooley, was able to convince Stone to sign with the Vols.
How? How could that happen to Nick Saban and the reigning National Champions? Isn’t Alabama supposed to be a lock for big time recruits? Apparently not!
Another new head coach, Jimbo Fisher, of Florida State, raised a few eyebrows when he landed a handful of big time recruits shortly after Bobby Bowden’s retirement. During the fourth quarter of recruiting on National Signing Day, Fisher had his eye on another star by the name of Corey Lemonier.
Once again, Coach Chizik and his staff came down with a big time play when Lemonier, ranked by Rivals.com as the 3rd best weakside defensive end, put on an Auburn hat and signed a Letter of Intent to play with the Tigers.
During the third quarter of recruiting, Auburn lost a verbal commitment by the name of D.J. Howard. Auburn recruited Howard to play in the secondary but he wanted to play running back.
Both Clemson and Kentucky offered Howard the opportunity to play in the backfield and he chose to sign with Clemson on National Signing Day. Somewhere during the fourth quarter, Auburn coaches called the right play when they offered a scholarship to three star safety prospect, Ryan Smith, of Cordova High School in Alabama.
Smith had pledged his commitment to Kentucky but when his beloved Tigers came calling, he chose to sign with Auburn without hesitation. As a result of this play, Auburn was able to put a few more points on the board after missing with D.J. Howard.
Give Alabama credit.
The Tide played well in the first three quarters and they made some big time plays by landing several of the nation's top high school athletes, a couple during the fourth quarter, National Signing Day.
But, as the fourth quarter came to a close, Alabama could not hang on when they were unable to capitalize on recruits like James Stone, Shon Coleman and Keenan Allen.
Time ran out and they lost this game to Auburn.
“Alabama got beat this year” admitted Birmingham News Sports Writer, Ray Melick.
"Alabama's signing day press conference lacked the anticipation, the buzz, the pizzazz of so many of its counterparts," wrote Melick.
I'll tell you why, Ray Melick.
Saban knew he had been beaten by those counterparts and due to Auburn's recruiting success, he knew that he would be in for a fight year after year for the top recruits in the state of Alabama, as well as the southeast. The pizzazz and the buzz were down south on the plains of Auburn. Yep! This year, Auburn stole that away!
During Saban’s press conference after the game, his words, his tone, and even his facial expressions clearly showed a man who had failed to accomplish all of the recruiting goals for 2010.
“Is there anybody ever in college football that didn’t have a good recruiting class, that they didn’t satisfy their needs,” was his reply. “I don’t want you to think that I am being glib in the way that I manage this,” Saban added. Why did he feel the need to say those things? I guess he was more down than up!
The mood and the words of Coach Gene Chizik on the plains of Auburn told a much different story than the mood and the words of Nick Saban.
“It’s a great day for Auburn,” exclaimed Chizik, as he assured the media and the Auburn family that his recruiting class for 2010 was merely a building block for the future and that other highly ranked recruiting classes will follow.
There was joy and jubilation in the faces of the Auburn coaches. Joy and jubilation was clearly missing from the faces of the Alabama coaching staff. They knew their fourth quarter recruiting drive had faltered.
When National Signing Day came to a close, Auburn finished with three five star recruits and 13 four star recruits while Alabama finished with one five star recruit and 15 four star recruits, according to Rivals.com.
This article is not based upon those numbers. This article is based upon the plays made and lost by both teams during the fourth quarter of recruiting.
Bottom line: Alabama was winning with minutes to play but it was Auburn who drove down the field this time to score the game winning touchdown. Alabama played well, just as everyone expected. Auburn simply finished the game a little stronger and as a result, they won the day.
Congratulations to the coaches of the Auburn Tigers!