Auburn’s Rodney Garner overcomes negative recruiting to flip UGA recruit

This year’s crowning achievement by former UGA recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner was flipping one of the state’s top defensive linemen from the Bulldogs to his current employers – the Auburn Tigers.

The defensive lineman was Dontavius Russell, the 4-star recruit from Carrollton High School who committed to UGA last spring but backed off the pledge after witnessing Auburn’s miracle upset over Alabama.

Rodney Garner (AP)

Ex-UGA assistant Rodney Garner (AP)

Garner also had some help in flipping Russell to Auburn. He was teammates at Auburn with Russell’s uncle, Dennis Wallace, who played safety for the Tigers.

In an interview with’s Jay G. Tate, Garner reflected on this year’s recruiting efforts, and had some interesting comments about hauling in Russell. Garner didn’t specifically name UGA (or anybody) but made it clear that Auburn had to overcome some “negative recruiting.”

“I knew that kid loved Auburn — because that’s the way he was raised,” Garner told the website. “Auburn was coming off a 3-9 season. There were people who were throwing all kinds of innuendos that Auburn was going to get into trouble … this and that. They got into the kid’s mind and clouded it. They took a kid who always wanted to be at Auburn and made him question that.”

Garner also commended Russell for being “man enough to change him mind.”

Last year, Garner had a dominating presence on the recruiting trail, including convincing Carl Lawson to sign with the Tigers even though Garner passed on the 5-star recruit while at UGA. Garner also signed Montravius Adams, who didn’t even make a final decision to visit Auburn until less than a week before signing day.


One of the biggest surprises in the final days leading up to signing day was Alabama signing former UGA tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, who played at Georgia Military junior college this past season.

Nick Saban

Nick Saban (AP)

Flournoy-Smith was dismissed after his freshman year at UGA for getting into trouble twice, including admitting to police he smoked pot in a dorm room and being arrested for filing a false report of a crime for cashing in text books that he had reported as stolen.

GMC’s coaches praised Flournoy-Smith for his behavior this past season. He appeared headed to Ole Miss, but the Rebels backed off. He got a last-minute offer from Alabama. To his credit, Flournoy-Smith said he’s learned from his dismissal from UGA in an interview with’s Andrew Bone.

“(Coach Nick Saban) asked me am I ready to commit. Not only ready to commit to do great on the football field, but also ready to commit to being a better person. I told him, ‘Hell yeah coach, let’s do it’ …  I am going to continue to take steps in the right direction. Hopefully, with this I can show kids you can overcome that adversity. If given a second chance you can run with it. It’s something I am willing to prove the next two years.”


One of Auburn’s top recruits. Camden County High School’s Kalvaraz Bessent, was arrested and charged with two drug felonies over the weekend.




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— By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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