Between Alabama and South Carolina – home to Auburn and Clemson – sits Georgia, the state that may hold the key to success for both programs.
Auburn has been pulling top talent out of the Peach State for decades — Montravius Adams, Cam Newton, Ronnie Brown, Marcus McNeil, Takeo Spikes, Tracy Rocker, James Brooks. A list of Auburn’s greatest players may have more names from Georgia than Alabama.
Auburn signed six prospects from Georgia in its 2016 recruiting class, including five-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown, and added five more in its 2017 class.
Auburn wouldn’t be half the program it has been historically, or is today, without players from its neighbor to the east.
While Clemson always has had a recruiting presence in Georgia, Dabo Swinney has taken it to another level, and it’s no coincidence his program has shot up the national rankings at the same time.
In 2006, as the Tommy Bowden era was nearing an end after nine winning but ultimately unsatisfying seasons, Clemson listed 16 players on its roster from Georgia. The group included first-team All-ACC wide receiver Chansi Stuckey and future two-year starting quarterback Cullen Harper.
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In 2016, when Clemson won the national championship, the Tigers counted 20 Georgians. That number included the most decorated player in program history, quarterback Deshaun Watson, along with running back Wayne Gallman, who rushed for more 1,000 yards and was chosen in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, and first-team All-ACC offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt.
While the number of Georgia players isn’t much greater, the quality sure is. Expect that trend to continue.
The Tigers signed five prospects from the Peach State in their 2016 class, including a pair of four-star players: inside linebacker Tre Lamar and dual-threat quarterback Zerrick Cooper. Clemson signed four more Georgians in its 2017 class, including two more four stars: cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and LeAnthony Williams Jr.
The best may be yet to come as Swinney has the nation’s top-ranked pro-style quarterback and No. 2 overall prospect, Trevor Lawrence, from suburban Atlanta, committed as part of his 2018 class.
A direct, causal relationship exists between Clemson’s recruiting success in Georgia and its move up the college football standings.
The Bulldogs, of course, and Auburn always have taken their fair share of the top talent out of Georgia; for as long as Clemson is able to continue skimming cream off the top of that talent-rich state, expect the Tigers to be a fixture atop the national rankings.
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
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