Relationships tend to matter in recruiting.
Just ask four-star defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson, who spurned Ohio State, Georgia and Florida for Auburn on Thursday.
It would appear his four-year relationship with Tigers defensive line coach Rodney Garner helped swing the pendulum in Auburn’s favor when it was time for Jackson to make a final decision. Garner began recruiting him in 2011 during his time at Georgia.
“He was the first to offer me,” Jackson told SEC Country following his announcement. “That was important. We had a great connection.”
In front of a packed gymnasium, the 6-foot-2, 285-pound senior from Cedar Grove High School (Ellenwood, Ga.) announced he would be headed to the Plains for the next few years. He admitted he woke up around 5 a.m. on Thursday to brainstorm the decision a final time. It was relatively close, he says. Jackson admitted Ohio State would’ve likely been his second option, with Georgia and Florida trailing behind.
“I love the coaches and my connection with Auburn,” said Jackson, who took his fourth and final official visit of the fall to the program this past weekend.
A soon-to-be early enrollee, Jackson will participate in the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl held in San Antonio, Texas, in the coming weeks. He will return on Jan. 10 and will head to Auburn a day after.
Jackson, the No. 8 defensive tackle in the country, is a versatile lineman who can flash at the one, three or five-technique, according to his coach, Jermaine Smith.
But Smith believes Jackson can find success at one particular spot.
“If I had to put him in a position to be the most successful, I’d say the three-technique,” Smith told SEC Country. “He’s going to cause havoc or penetrate. Once he gets to that level and they coach him up, nobody is going to be able to block him.”
With Jackson’s pledge, Auburn has secured 16 verbal commitments for its 2016 class. Two junior college athletes, Paul James (defensive end) and John Franklin (athlete), have already signed their letters of intent.
Jackson becomes the seventh defensive lineman to have verbally committed to the Tigers. Per 247Sports.com, he is the second highest-rated defensive lineman on Auburn’s big board behind five-star defensive end Marlon Davidson.
He is rated as the No. 5 prospect in Georgia.