The No. 15 Tigers’ starter, Kenny Irons, and their third-leading rusher, Brad Lester, both are Georgia natives.
“I’m sure they’ll have some extra incentives,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Irons, who is averaging 102.6 yards per game, is a native of Dacula who originally signed with South Carolina before transferring to Auburn. Lester signed with the Tigers out of Parkview High two years ago and redshirted last season. He will return to the lineup this week after missing the last three games due to a groin injury.
Georgia recruited both players, Richt said. Irons was the Gwinnett County back of the year in 2001, and Lester was considered one of the top players in the state in 2002.
“Those guys were very good backs,” Richt said. “I think once Kenny came back from South Carolina, I don’t know if we had anything available at that time, but we knew who those guys were, that’s for sure.”
Auburn’s recruiting success in Georgia is nothing new. The Tigers have 19 players from the Peach State, which is second only to Alabama in producing Auburn players this year. Five Tiger starters are from Georgia. By contrast, the Bulldogs have only one player from the state of Alabama on their roster, reserve offensive lineman Chester Adams.
“For Auburn to be good, they’ve always had the mind-set that they had to do well in the state of Georgia,” said Bulldog recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, who played at Auburn in the late ‘80s and coached there from 1990-’95. “It’s an in-state recruiting area for them. We’ve had a hard time getting kids out of there. We can’t afford to spend the amount of time in that state as they do in this state just because of the sheer numbers.”