MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Before they played the all-star game, high-profile recruits were playing games with one another.
The week of practices for Alabama all-star football seniors wasn’t just about the cream of the crop hanging out and working on their football skills.
“I really looked at it as just coming out, having fun,” said McGill-Toolen senior Jason Smith, before a smile crept across his face while adding, “and trying to recruit a little.”
Oh, yes, ‘tis the season for SEC schools to send their assistants for some closing statements before the NCAA-mandated dead period commences today, closing off recruiting contacts for the next 17 days.
It’s not just Auburn coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson competing against their Alabama counterparts (Doug Nussmeier and Kirby Smart) and so many other traveling coaches.
Smith, one of five Auburn verbal commits who participated in Saturday’s Alabama-Mississippi All-Star event, could also be that bug in the ear of some of his undecided buddies.
“We’re just cherishing the moment, knowing that some of us will be playing with each other in the future,” said Carver-Montgomery quarterback Jeremy Johnson, whose options remain open to the likes of LSU and Ole Miss but has maintained he’s trying to keep this Auburn class of 2013 together much as he can.
“We’re talking to each other, trying to get each other to come to the same school, but it wasn’t too much of that. We’re just having fun.”
Auburn High linebacker Reuben Foster, who has decommitted from both Alabama and Auburn, makes it clear with his peers he wants no part of that.
“They don’t talk to me about that,” the blue-chip prospect said, “because I tell them not to.”
Central-Phenix City head coach Woodrow Lowe, an assistant on the Alabama all-star staff, spoke privately for a few minutes postgame with Foster, who plays for one of Lowe’s and the Red Devils’ district rivals.
“This week, the theme has been your development. We tell the kids you’ve got to make the next step in everything,” Lowe said, speaking generally about his advice to football players getting ready for college. “You’re still in high school, and you need to finish this year, first with grades.
“We know you’ve got some friends in high school, but you’re going to have to leave most of them behind because there’s change coming and you’ve got to keep growing. These are the dynamics we try to prepare them for.”
Muscle Shoals defensive end Dee Liner, at last look still an Auburn verbal commit, declined to discuss anything regarding his recruitment or the Tigers’ new coaching staff.
“I met some dudes that I really didn’t know, just bonded with them along the way,” Liner said of the week spent in Montgomery. “Still gotta get your books and get in the weight room, and work hard.”
Smith was a top quarterback in high school, but could contribute in multiple positions in college. He flashed his receiving skills Saturday, catching six balls for 134 yards and being named Alabama’s team MVP.
More relevant in the long term, he created a tighter bond with Johnson, who as it sits will join him at Auburn if they each follow through on Feb. 6, National Signing Day.
“I got to know him a little bit more than everyone else, because (this week) he was my roommate,” Smith said. “That’s a great guy, and now I get to play with him at the next level too.”