AUBURN | The philosophical shift is taking hold.
Coach Gus Malzahn, assistant coach Dameyune Craig and the rest of Auburn's staff identified early -- within 24 hours of their first group meeting -- that Mobile would be a recruiting emphasis. A series of decisions made since then, in particular the push to create an auxiliary staff and hire reputable coaches for those new positions, all had Mobile in mind. Auburn's recruiting enterprise had to be better, more attentive, more adaptable, more intense, more noteworthy to players south of Satsuma.
And now it's happening.
Tre Williams of St. Paul's Episcopal in Mobile, Rivals.com's No. 2 inside linebacker and a four-star prospect, committed to Auburn on Wednesday afternoon. Alabama wanted him. Alabama wants him. Alabama thought its chances were good considering Williams plays at a high school that sent quarterback A.J. McCarron and safety Mark Barron to Tuscaloosa.
McCarron, in fact, stood along the sideline at St. Paul's first spring practice Wednesday. He didn't speak with Williams or teammate (and fellow Auburn commit) Joshua Casher, NCAA rules forbid such conversations, but everybody on campus recognizes the tattooed signal-caller.
He doesn't have to say anything.
Yet the team's two best prospects have walked away from the Tuscaloosa pipeline.
"There's a feeling not just here but all around Mobile that you're supposed to go to Alabama if they want you," Casher said after practice Monday afternoon. "I respect Alabama and they've been great to me, but I don't look at it like that. I'll pick what's best for me. Some people say you shouldn't go to Alabama because they have so many good players. That's not it. I like Auburn because of the players they have, the coaches they have. They've got something special going up there."
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