Recruiting Battles: Tennessee-Auburn

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For years now, Tennessee and Auburn have battled on the recruiting trail, with both teams winning key battles recently. We take an opportunity to look at the battles they have going in 2021 and beyond. 

Recent History

Tennessee and Auburn have had some heated battles in recent years, but none more interesting than Jay Hardy's recruitment last season. Hardy was all locked in with the Vols until a trip to the Plains the weekend before his commitment led to a commitment to Tennessee. Hardy gave multiple recruiting reporters, including myself, a commitment interview for Tennessee before his announcement, but then shocked the world and chose Auburn. The drama did not end there, however, as Hardy maintained that he would sign with a school during the late signing period, but he actually signed with Auburn during the early signing period, continuing to lead the Vols on. Hardy was a tough loss for the Vols, and he would have likely been on the field already in Knoxville. The Vols had a glaring need at tackle when Jeremy Pruitt took over, and they prioritized Wanya Morris, but so did Auburn. Tennessee won out as Morris chose to be a cornerstone for the Vols class, but Auburn continued to battle for him over the duration. On the same day Morris committed, his teammate, Owen Pappoe, chose the Tigers. Tennessee made a late push for his services but fell short. The Vols also beat out Auburn for Ramel Keyton in the 2019 class. 

The Present

Tennessee has out-dueled Auburn on the trail in 2021, so far. The Vols landed the commitment of Dylan Brooks over the Tigers and numerous others, while also grabbing verbal pledges from quarterback Kaidon Salter, running back Cody Brown, and receivers Roc Taylor and Julian Nixon. Auburn won an early battle by grabbing the commitment of in-state offensive tackle J'Marion Gooch, but Tennessee stayed in the race and flipped his commitment. The Vols are unblemished against the Tigers to this point, but the work is far from over. Auburn continues to reach out to Dylan Brooks and Cody Brown, but both have remained firm in their pledges to Tennessee. Big-framed wide receiver Roc Taylor remains a priority for Auburn, but the Vols appear to have a hold on his commitment. The Vols still have work to do as Auburn is not going to go away. Taylor recently updated his commitment status in the interview below. 

There are still plenty of battles playing out between the two schools. Nyland Green is considered one of the top defensive backs in the country, and at different points in his recruitment, each school has maintained momentum. Green recently updated his recruitment in the interview below. 

On Wednesday, elite linebacker Smael Mondon committed to Georgia. Both Tennessee and Auburn had prioritized Mondon, so it was a significant blow to their recruiting efforts. However, they have both turned focus to Boston College commitment, Trevin Wallace. Wallace has exploded onto the scene with numerous schools across the Southeast reaching out, and Tennessee will try to lean on extensive ties to South Georgia to land him. Auburn has firmly positioned itself in the race, and they could be the team the Vols are chasing. 

Staying on the theme of Georgia prospects, junior college edge rusher Byron Young has been a top priority for both schools. He is focusing on three schools heading into the early signing period, with Florida State also in the mix. Tennessee has a glaring need on the edge, so they have a lot to sell Young, but the Tigers' on-field production will weigh-in here as well. He will be one to watch over the next month. 

The Future

The main battle between the two teams in 2022 appears to be for Volunteer state QB Ty Simpson. Simpson is one of the top duel-threat Quarterbacks in America, and both schools love his skillset. It is eerily similar to that of Bo Nix's, and Auburn is making that a selling point. The two have a lot in common as well. Clemson and Alabama are also heavily involved for the young gun slinger. Other potential targets the teams could cross paths on are, offensive tackle Addison Nichols (Ga.), Khurtiss Perry (Ala.), and Jalon Walker (N.C.). 

There will be plenty of eyes on the matchup that will be featured at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN tomorrow.