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Carver safety Juwon Gaston signed in February. Former Park Crossing defensive lineman Marcus Harris joined as a transfer in May after two seasons in Kansas.

And that might have been just the start of Auburn football's recruiting push into Montgomery under new coach Bryan Harsin.

The Tigers hosted three of the area’s top 2022 and 2023 recruits during the first two days of the open period this week. Junior Carver teammates James Smith (a five-star defensive lineman) and Jaquavious Russaw (a three-star edge rusher) visited Tuesday. Park Crossing senior Khurtiss Perry (a four-star defensive lineman) visited Wednesday.

All three of them left impressed with what they saw.

“It was a great experience. They taught me a lot,” Perry told reporters after his visit. “They showed me a lot of new things. They’re a great staff. I like (defensive coordinator) coach (Derek) Mason. He’s a great dude. He’s understandable. (Cornerbacks) Coach Zac (Etheridge), coach Harsin, they’re great coaches all around.

“Auburn is a great factor, a big factor in my recruitment.”

It’s still very early in the process, of course. The 15-month-long dead period just ended Tuesday. Perry visited Alabama before coming to Auburn and also has stops scheduled at Ohio State, Central Florida, LSU and Texas later this month. He doesn’t plan to make a decision until after his senior season.

And Smith and Russaw are just getting started. Both said they had fun at Auburn on Tuesday, but that was the first real college visit they had ever taken — they don’t have anything to compare it to yet.

"I might want to go down the street. I might want to go 12 hours away," Smith said. "You never know. They're definitely a factor. Just keep doing what they're doing."

That’s an important trio of recruits over the next two classes, especially given Harsin’s desire to win Auburn’s backyard. Perry is the No. 44 player in the country and No. 3 player in the state in 2022, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 267 pounds and can play any spot across the defensive line.

Smith is ranked No. 6 nationally in 2023. Russaw hasn’t earned a composite rating yet, but Tracy Varner, his trainer at MadHouse Athletic Training in Montgomery, believes he could be top-100 or even top-50.

“He could move all the way up to a five-star,” Varner said. “Qua only played like five games at Carver last year. So people don’t really know him. I mean, the kid’s 6-2.5, 230 pounds, runs a 4.4. He’s strong. And he’s only 15 years old.”

Auburn will have its work cut out trying to land them. But it will have help, too. All three of those players train at MadHouse, as do Harris and former Tigers Marlon Davidson and Daniel Thomas.

Russaw has worked out with Davidson and said the second-year Atlanta Falcon told him that Auburn is “a good environment and that I should go.” Perry is close with Harris, who took him under his wing when he arrived at Park Crossing.

“That’s my brother,” Perry said. “He got a chance to move in today (Wednesday) so it’s like both of us got a chance to get on campus at the same time. He’s a great dude.”

Maybe they’ll be teammates again at Auburn.

“There’s a lot of talent in Montgomery the next few years, for sure,” Varner said.

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This article originally ran on annistonstar.com.

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