Not that long ago, it looked as if Auburn's defensive line recruiting in the 2014 cycle was lagging behind its efforts in other areas.
Russell is Garner's latest huge pickup.
Not so much.
On Friday, the Tigers landed a commitment from 4-star tackle Dontavius Russell of Carrollton (Ga.). That verbal came on the heels of Auburn's pickup Dec. 18 of 4-star junior college tackle/end DaVonte Lambert of Georgia Military College.
The common thread: Rodney Garner.
The Auburn defensive line coach, who helped score a major haul for the Tigers last February, was the primary recruiter with both Russell and Lambert. As recently as a month ago, most thought Russell and Lambert were firm in their pledges to Georgia and Tennessee, respectively.
But Garner had other ideas.
After Russell's verbal, he's up to No. 19 in this cycle -- a jump of eight spots Friday -- in the 247Sports Recruiter Rankings.
In addition to Russell and Lambert, Garner has been the primary recruiter with Auburn commits Raashed Kennion, Devaroe Lawrence and Dalvon Stuckey -- all defensive linemen. Also, he played secondary roles in the recruitments of 5-star running back Racean Thomas and 4-star defensive end Justin Thornton.
Garner landed Lambert on Dec. 18.
In the previous class, Garner landed three 5-star defensive linemen for the Tigers --Montravius Adams, Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson (Lawson committed to the previous staff; Garner helped convince him to stick). All three have played a prominent role this season.
Garner finished No. 10 in the 247Sports Recruiter Rankings for the SEC in 2013.
One key to Garner's success: "He," Stuckey told Auburn Undercover, "puts guys in the league."
A native of Leeds, Ala., Garner is the Tigers' associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. He's also a former All-SEC performer at Auburn who spent 15 years at Georgia before arriving in Auburn with first-year head coach Gus Malzhan last offseason.
Per his official Auburn bio, "At Georgia, he coached five NFL first round draft choices -- Richard Seymour (Patriots) and Marcus Stroud (Jaguars), both Pro Bowl starters; David Pollack (Bengals); Charles Grant (Saints); and Johnathan Sullivan (Saints)."
With Garner, though, it may be about more than his track record.
"Obviously, prospects connect with Rodney Garner," 247Sports national analyst Kipp Adams said. "He does well with the parents, as far as bringing spirituality up. He has the Christian values that seem to connect well with parents."
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