ATHENS, Ga.— The two schools meeting in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta do battle in that city the other 364 days a year as well. Auburn University, located 108 miles from Atlanta, and the University of Georgia, located 72 miles from Atlanta, both stock their roster with top talent from the Atlanta metro area which has become one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in America.
Kirby Smart was asked about recruiting against his school’s SEC West rival and their frequent duels for elite prospects.
“It happens a lot,” Smart said. “I would say that, yeah Auburn – between Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Clemson. I mean, those are the ones. I can’t say that we go up against Auburn more than anybody else, but as much as certainly. There’s a lot of overlap with them recruiting in the state of Georgia.”
Georgia defensive end David Marshall was once committed to the Tigers, but ended up flipping on National Signing Day. Marshall says that he is still on good terms with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner who recruited him.
“We still have a relationship,” Marshall said. “We just speak and then walk away (after games). But, we still have a great relationship.”
Marshall says that he also has a good relationship with Auburn 2017 defensive end signee, Big Kat Bryant. The freshman lineman is also a Cordele, Ga. native.
Auburn also reached into Georgia to pick up standout defensive tackle Derrick Brown. The Buford (Ga.) Lanier product was also considering UGA on Signing Day.
Brown might have gotten away, but wide receiver Terry Godwin did not. Godwin’s hometown of Hogansville, Ga. is closer to Auburn, than it is to UGA.
Godwin almost chose Auburn before making his intentions known that he was a Bulldog. Because of this, every game against the Tigers is special.
“It does,” Godwin said. “But at the end of day, I’m here and I chose to go here. So this is where I want to be and this is where I am. So we’re going to go out there to be the other team. Whoever it is.”
Atlanta is at the crossroads of the SEC, both for recruiting and fans. More Auburn graduates live in Atlanta than any city outside the state of Alabama. Orange and blue gear is seen in the hallways of northern Georgia high schools almost as much as red and black.
Smart has been recruiting players from these high schools for over a decade. He even enjoys following the careers of the players who don’t end up on his sideline.
“Certainly, when you look across the field, you see guys that you know well and that you develop relationships with, but I’m not one of those people,” Smart said. “I look at it as I enjoy getting to see those kids I’ve gotten to know. I enjoy seeing them grow up.”
Depending on what exactly you consider the Atlanta “metro area,” Georgia lists 36 players who call that part of the state home while Auburn lists 11.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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