June 21, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Tim Horton's recruiting compass is pointing east and west. North and south, too. Everywhere Auburn's new running back coach looks he says he sees talent.
"Because of our location," Horton says, "you can see kids almost on a daily basis."
But there's competition for that talent, too.
"To the north you have Alabama, to the east you have Georgia and Clemson, to the south you have Florida State and Florida, to the west you have the Mississippi schools," Horton says.
What is Auburn to do to counter the competition after a difficult season and now with a new coaching staff? Work harder at recruiting, says recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner.
"I always tell people, whenever people think that we're down, we always find our way to come together and do our best. I’m encouraged," Garner said. "We've got our work cut out for us, but if you're a competitor, that's what you want. We're going to compete. We're going to work. We're not going to be intimidated, I can tell you that. That's not happening."
Garner, a former Auburn player and then a coach and recruiting coordinator in the 1990s, knows where the Tigers need to recruit. It's a lot of the same area he worked as Georgia's recruiting coordinator most of the last 15 years. The recruiting focus will be Alabama, Georgia and Florida. But Auburn's recruiting strategy has also a little different take.
"We team recruit a whole lot more than I'm used to, but I like that," Horton said. "You get into your position recruiting a little sooner, and we've really done a good job of 'all of us will recruit this guy.' Very rarely will one person recruit a guy. I've enjoyed it."
Garner was looking for a recruiting edge in the spring. Auburn fans delivered it when 83,000 of them showed up for the A-Day Game.
"Wow. That speaks volumes to me, and I think it speaks volumes to the kids," Garner said.
Auburn is deep in recruiting experience thanks to nine assistant coaches who have been in the business a combined 199 years. Three of those coaches were recruiting coordinators last season in Garner at Georgia, Horton at Arkansas and Dameyune Craig at Florida State.
Auburn staged its Big Cat recruiting weekend last month. It's was a time for fun, not the hard sell. Garner said he was OK with that, and not just because his daughters were the water balloon champions.
"I think it was really positive. I thought it was a really neat concept. I felt like the young men enjoyed it and I think their parents enjoyed it," he said.
All the while, about 1,700 players have attended Auburn's summer camps. Auburn will top 2,000 players when the last camp is over in July.
That's a lot to think about, but Garner says he he's looking for "certain guys."
"We have to find the ones who fit."
Garner's "certain guys" are who he perceives as "Auburn guys."
"Auburn is different. You can't really describe it. It's special. There's a lot of tradition and a lot of history," Garner said.
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Goldberg on Twitter at