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November 19, 2013

2016 TE follows his heart to Auburn

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Auburn landed their first commitment for the Class of 2016 on Tuesday night when Rome (Ga.) tight end/defensive end Landon Rice committed to the Tigers.

Rice attended Auburn's thrilling win against Georgia on Saturday. He grew up a Georgia fan. But on Saturday, that all changed.

"From day one, my experiences down there, it was the right fit. Auburn fits me like a glove," Rice told AuburnSports.com.

"Georgia has always been my team. I've got Georgia pillows in my room. When they were playing Auburn, I just decided to go with Auburn. You could tell on the field, my heart started for cheering for Auburn. The way they've treated me, it's a great decision."

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Rice is being recruited to play tight end on the Plains. Assistants Tim Horton and Scott Fountain recruited Rice to Auburn.

"Coach Horton and the coaches wanted me to go ahead and commit and be the face of the 2016 class and I decided not to wait. There's no reason to wait and I could go ahead and get ready to have the 'AU' on my helmet. I'll work on my hands and prepare for Auburn.

"I talk to Coach Fountain when I visit and we talk about the future and Auburn football. They are all great guys."

Rice landed an Auburn offer after camping with the Tigers this summer.

"When I got the offer, I thought it was awesome. I started seeing Auburn win and talking to the coaches and building relationships. I've taken many visits and been to practices, I just kept building up. People would ask if I was going to go ahead and commit. My dad called Coach Horton and they wanted me to be the face of the class. I talked to my parents and thought it was the best thing for my family."

Despite making an extremely early decision, Rice isn't worried about what the future may hold regarding his recruitment. He believes he's found his college home.

"There's no worry for me," Rice said. "To me, the only thing that would change my mind is if Coach (Gus) Malzahn left Auburn and the staff left. The main reason why I like Auburn is their coaching staff and the direction of the program. What they stand for and how they treat their players, that's why I committed.

"Auburn has a bright future."

Rice joins North Cobb (Ga.) 2015 four-star quarterback Tyler Queen as underclassmen committed to Auburn. The duo have talked on numerous trips to Auburn and believe they could develop into a formidable duo in the years to come.

"I'll have Tyler at quarterback most likely, he's really talented and we feel like we'll be implementing the tight end more as Auburn's offense evolves from different quarterbacks," Rice said. "I'm a very versatile tight end and they can use me in different ways."

Queen is happy, too.

"Having a freshman that size is huge for me," Queen told AuburnSports.com "He is a big target in the throw game, and he is also big enough to help block in the run game. He has the size to comedown and almost add an extra tackle, but he is also a big target to throw to."

And the significance of Auburn's win over Georgia, especially in such dramatic fashion that caught the nation's attention, isn't lost on Queen.

"I think the Georgia-Auburn game is going to play a huge role going forward," he said. "A lot of kids from Georgia know that Georgia tries to keep us at home. For us to beat Georgia and to pickup more Georgia kids just days after the game is big time."

Beyond the visits and budding relationships, Rice undoubtedly sees an Auburn program on the rise. From 3-9 last season to 10-1 and No. 6 in the latest BCS Standings one season later, Malzahn and Co. are making noise.

"They are winning," said Rice. "But them coming out and beating Georgia, that's a huge rivalry. Winning doesn't hurt. The family feel, it felt like family in Auburn. I can go to the coaches about anything. They've treated me right from day one."

Rice's older brother, Logan, will be a preferred walk-on punter in this year's class. He will join the Tigers' program next summer.

"That's a huge deal," said Rice. "If my brother wasn't going to Auburn though, I'd still have the same feeling about Auburn. That wouldn't change, but it's really nice to be on the same team with my brother and wear the same jersey."

Twitter: @JHokanson



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