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November 17, 2005

Iron Bowl a huge recruiting weekend

This weekend will be the biggest of the year for Auburn. Of course, the Tigers will host Alabama in the annual Iron Bowl, but there will be more at-stake than just bragging rights for Auburn this weekend.

Five official visitors and more than 150 unofficial visitors are expected to be on the Plains as many of the nation's top recruits flock to Auburn for the annual Iron Bowl.

Up until 1989, Auburn and Alabama played the game in Birmingham. Since however, the Tigers have had their home games moved to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Every other year, they've had the luxury of not only hosting the game on campus, but bringing in hundreds of recruits to see the atmosphere first-hand.

"It's the biggest weekend every year if you're playing it here," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. "The advantage of playing the Iron Bowl here is that we have the opportunity to bring people in on visits. The recruits get to see the atmosphere and the Tiger Walk, which is something that I would imagine is bigger than most. It's a good selling opportunity for us."

Auburn has only hosted two official visitors prior to this weekend. Cincinnati (Ohio) Princeton four-star lineman Aaron Brown and Newark (Md.) Snow Hill four-star running back Benjamin Tate both officially tripped to the Plains for the season opener. Brown later committed to Virginia Tech while Tate had committed to Auburn in July.

Lack of big home games on the Tigers' schedule this year has kept the official visitors to a minimum, but Tuberville doesn't mind. He'd rather recruits take official visits during non-game weekends. Obviously with the preparation and attention for the Iron Bowl the top priority, the coaches won't be able to spend as much time as they would like with the recruits.

"We've had a couple of official visitors for the Georgia Tech game, but I don't really like bringing them to games because I don't get enough time to spend with them," he said. "A lot of them would rather do it, though, so if they like doing them for the game, we'll go with it."

Among the five official visitors this weekend will be a current Tiger commitment in Lovejoy (Ga.) four-star athlete Mario Fannin, his teammate and three-star lineman Byron Isom, Columbus (Ohio) Franklin Heights four-star lineman Lee Tilley, Augusta (Ga.) Josey three-star lineman Lawrence Marsh and Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson four-star defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

Fannin and Isom will be making their second trip to Auburn this season. Fannin unofficially visited for the Tech game and Isom made the trip to Auburn for the Ole Miss game. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Fannin committed to Auburn in the summer and his pledge to the Tigers has grown stronger with time. He's scheduled to take another official visit to Florida next weekend, but a good trip to the Plains this weekend could shore-up any doubts.

Fannin went into detail about his upcoming visit and his commitment to the Tigers in a story from AuburnSports.com earlier this week. See what he had to say here.

Isom was blown away by his visit for the Ole Miss game and left the Plains with Auburn a leader over South Carolina. Fannin has been helping the Tigers with their recruitment of Isom and a commitment from the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder could be sooner than later. Isom is planning an official visit to Columbia later in the season, but could he be doing it as a Tiger commitment?

Get the latest from Isom as he talks about his top two schools as well as his upcoming visit to the Plains here.

Tilley was thought to have practically eliminated Auburn after not showing much interest since an unofficial visit to the Plains in the summer. But that all changed after the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder took official visits to LSU, Arizona State, Oklahoma and South Carolina and returned without a clear leader. After the four visits, Tilley was still not certain of his decision and called Auburn wanting to take his fifth and final visit the weekend of the Iron Bowl. The Tigers jumped right back in the hunt for the lineman. Although Tilley will take his visit this weekend, he claims to have already made up his mind on his college choice and is set to announce his decision Monday morning on Rivals Radio.

Tilley talked about his upcoming visit to Auburn and his thoughts about the Tigers here.

Marsh will be making his second trip to Auburn as he and his Josey teammates participated in a passing camp on the Plains in the summer. He's already taken an official visit to Notre Dame and is set to trip to Florida next weekend. Being from the Peach State, Marsh has also taken several unofficial visits to Georgia this season and the in-state Bulldogs are expected to be a major player for his signature.

Does Auburn have a chance to pull him away from the 'Dogs? Marsh talks about his favorites and his upcoming visit here.

Cunningham is one of the top defensive ends in the country this year and his recruiting resume helps validate that claim. He's got offers from schools across the nation, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has narrowed down his list. It appears to be a two-team battle for his signature between Auburn and Florida. Cunningham has officially visited Virginia Tech and Tennessee and following his visit to Auburn will trek to Florida next weekend. A decision is expected to come shortly thereafter.

Can Auburn edge out the Gators for Cunningham? They'll likely need him to have a good visit this weekend for that to happen. Cunningham talked about the visit here.

Along with the five official visitors, Auburn will be swamped with other top prospects from around the South. Included on the list is Birmingham (Ala.) Huffman five-star lineman Andre Smith, Homewood (Ala.) four-star wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, four-star defensive end Deantwan Whitehead of Birmingham (Ala.) West End, four-star athlete Earl Alexander of Phenix City (Ala.) Central, four-star Tennessee commitment Jacques McClendon and many more including a Rivals100 running back and another handful of four-star studs.

For a more complete look at the expected visitors including some of the nation's top 2007 prospects as well, check out our Visitor List only on our premium message board The Bunker.


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