In one of his first acts as a head coach, Gus Malzahn wasn’t leaving Auburn for Arkansas State without at least testing the waters with local product Cody Core.
Unfortunately for the ex-Auburn offensive coordinator, the Auburn High receiver was already determined on signing with Ole Miss.
“I thought he was a good player,” second-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday. “I think me and (offensive coordinator) Rhett (Lashlee) came down here to Auburn, we tried to convince him to come to Arkansas State and he ended up coming to Ole Miss.”
No. 4 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) travels to play Core and No. 7 Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) in Oxford, Mississippi.
A three-star prospect in Auburn’s own backyard, Core’s hometown program didn’t show much interest in him until closer to National Signing Day 2012.
By that point it was too late.
Before that, newly-hired Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn and then-Red Wolves receivers coach Casey Woods (now Auburn’s director of player personnel) sat in Core’s Auburn home and made their pitch the same night Lashlee attended one of Core’s high school basketball games.
“I think he was starting to develop into a really good player his senior year, like a lot of players do, and I think that had a lot to do with it,” Malzahn said of Auburn’s later recruitment.
Core, a legacy at Troy where his father Thad Core was a tight end in the early 1990s, broke out as a senior at Auburn High, earning All-State honorable mention when he combined for 10 touchdowns and 749 total yards on offense to go along with 31 tackles and three interceptions in four games at defensive back.
A late bloomer in high school, Core has emerged as a playmaker in his third season at Ole Miss after struggling to find a place on the team last year, when he primarily rotated between special teams, receiver and defensive back. But through eight games this season, including six starts at receiver, Core leads Rebels receivers with five touchdowns and 390 receiving yards on 26 catches. Core also has 43 yards rushing on two carries this season.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Malzahn said of Core’s success. “We were trying to get him to play for us (at Arkansas State).”