With National Signing Day approaching on Feb. 6, former Georgia defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner now aims to sway prospects toward a Southeastern Conference rival.
Garner, who also served as Georgia’s assistant head coach, accepted a job at Auburn in December to serve as assistant head coach and defensive line coach on Gus Malzahn’s staff. In his 15-year tenure at Georgia, Garner helped develop the Bulldogs’ defensive line as well as bring in some of the nation’s top defensive recruits.
Many of Garner’s prized recruits have come from inner parts of Atlanta, the most recent example being Georgia cornerback Branden Smith. FOX Sports recruiting analyst Chad Simmons credits Garner’s success in the inner city to the amount of work he puts in there.
“He has got a lot of good players,” Simmons said. “That is just an area where he has spent a lot of time and he has had a hand in the recruiting there.”
Garner played his college football at Auburn where he was named to the All-SEC offensive team in 1988. Garner later served as the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach from 1990 to 1995.
“With him being an Auburn alum, you cannot take that out of a guy,” Simmons said. “He still loves Auburn. He played there, he went to school there and he met his wife there so he has a lot of ties at Auburn.”
Garner’s recruiting skills have landed Georgia’s program among the nation’s best in the past. Those skills also landed Garner’s name in the middle of discussions about job openings at LSU, Auburn and Tennessee. However, Garner managed to serve only Georgia until recently.
“Anytime you get a chance to be in his shoes, you go back home and coach the school you once attended,” Simmons said. “I think he is going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of knowledge. It is like playing for your family.”
There is still time for Garner’s move to Auburn to affect the decisions of Georgia prospects. One major example is Dooly County defensive lineman Montravius Adams. Adams is ranked as one of the nation’s top players at his position.
“I think he [Garner] immediately put Auburn back in the game for a kid like Montravius Adams,” Simmons said. “Montravius at one time was leaning toward Auburn. The tough season and coaching changes kind of put them behind schools like Clemson, Florida and Georgia, but I think Rodney immediately brings them back into play.”
Georgia will continue to battle for undecided recruits over the next month, and many of those players may be leaning toward Auburn after the hiring of Garner. Outside of Adams, Simmons said Hutchinson [Kansas] defensive end Toby Johnson will be another uncommitted player to watch as signing day nears. Johnson’s hometown is College Park, an area where Garner has had recruiting success in the past.
“It is definitely not too late,” Simmons said. “Auburn and Georgia recruit a lot of the same players and I think Auburn is now a serious competitor for those guys.”