If you were looking for some National Signing Day drama from the No.1 overall prospect, Robert Nkemdiche, look elsewhere. You probably already know by now he is taking his talents to Ole Miss just as we all expected.
But not too far back on the list of DE’s in this year’s recruiting class is Avon, Indiana’s Elijah Daniel. Daniel, just like Nkemdiche, was committed to Clemson at one point before switching his commitment to Ole Miss at the end of January. But just one day before National Signing Day, Daniel was sold on Auburn.
“I called Auburn and told them I’m not going to Ole Miss and then I called Ole Miss and I told them I don’t think I’m going to sign and they still tried to convince me. They had no idea I was going to Auburn but Auburn was always in the back of my mind,” Daniel said. “Coach Garner convinced me it was the right place and the right decision. He told me we can get Auburn back where it belongs.”
Former Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner was hired by Auburn in December and wasted no time moving the Tigers up the 2013 class rankings, stealing Daniel will only help. While Daniel signs, Auburn awaits the decisions of the No.24 S Antonio Conner and the No.4 CB Mackensie Alexander, two players the Tigers could use in their secondary if they want to bounce back from a season that saw zero SEC wins.
“Obviously every team always needs more,” Daniel said. “I’m hoping by the end of the day Auburn comes with more recruits but if not we will still work hard and get after it. No matter what we will out work other teams.”
One of those other teams is one state over and gaining a lot of steam, with or without Daniel, Ole Miss has their own agenda to take over the SEC. Although it seems like Daniel’s decision was influenced by solid recruiting efforts and that special feeling of “the right place” every prospect experiences, I can’t help but imagine if there was any influence on Nkemdiche sticking with the Rebels because both Nkemdiche and Daniels play the strong side position on the line.
“Not at all,” Daniel said. “I don’t know Robert personally other than spending time with him at the Under Armor All-American game but we didn’t talk about Ole Miss.”
For Auburn, adding Daniel was bigger than just a steal from their conference foe. The guy right behind Nkemdiche, Carl Lawson–the No.2 defensive end—committed to Auburn and will compliment Daniel’s skill set very well, especially considering Auburn had the worst rushing defense in the SEC last season. With the commitment of the No.2 DT Montravius Adams, Auburn may have one of the best defensive lines in the nation over the next three seasons. But that is far from the big picture for Daniel.
“I just want to help the team win games, SEC championships and get to the national championship,” Daniel said. “The rivalry with Alabama means a lot to me, too. It’s a real heated rivalry and it’s just awesome to me that the last four national titles have come from the state of Alabama.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to continue success somewhere by joining the movement and that would certainly be the case for any recruit who commits to Alabama. While other times it’s easy to jump in and be a part of something when you can already see the light at the end of the tunnel like the recruiting campaign Ole Miss is having. But after one of Auburn’s worst seasons ever that resulted in the firing of Gene Chizik, it’s evident that sometimes it’s a lot more admirable to be the one who started building something special. For Elijah Daniel and the rest of Auburn’s 2013 class they may very well be doing just that.