When LSU’s Les Miles and Alabama’s Nick Saban aren’t outwitting each other on the sidelines, they’re fighting a war that could determine the future of their programs.
The Crimson Tide added another weapon to its arsenal when Laurence “Hootie” Jones, a 2014 four-star safety prospect from Monroe, committed to Alabama on Monday morning.
This isn’t the first time Saban has nabbed Louisiana recruits as of late.
In 2011, the Crimson Tide received a commitment from South Plaquemines: four-star receiver Bradley Sylve. A season later, five-star safety Landon Collins from Dutchtown joined Alabama’s defense despite being dissuaded by his own mother.
The 2013 Alabama recruiting class included four-star defensive end Tim Williams from Baton Rouge and four-star wide receiver Raheem Falkins from New Orleans.
This year’s Crimson Tide class has doubled the number of Louisiana natives.
As of now, four recruits will join Saban in Tuscaloosa, Ala., next season. Jones, five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, four-star wideout Cameron Sims and four-star defensive tackle O.J. Smith will be wearing crimson in 2014.
Louisiana has been quite the breeding ground.
The “Pelican State” has produced its fair share of top-tier talent in the 2014 class – Louisiana has 18 players on ESPN’s Top 300 list. Jason Howell, southwest/midlands recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said the amount of talent isn’t because of what’s in the bayou water.
“It’s a deep year,” Howell said. “You could go through the top 15 prospects in the state of Louisiana, and there’s a lot of people that colleges are going to be wanting. This year, a lot of things came together. It’s not like things are being done any differently this year. There’s just a lot of talent.”
A select group of top recruits from the state still remain up for grabs, and they are all considering LSU and Alabama as two possible destinations.
St. Augustine High School’s Leonard Fournette, who many scouting sites rank as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, is still deciding between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. The New Orleans native running back would heavily bolster whichever program he decides to join.
Howell said he believes Fournette is favoring LSU, especially with the campus being close to home.
Edna Karr High School in New Orleans is also producing talent both Miles and Saban wish to possess. Five-star athlete Speedy Noil, who can play on both offense and defense, ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash and still has a number of schools to choose from. Florida and Texas A&M are also in the running for him.
Howell said LSU’s 2013 performance could sway Noil’s decision.
“If I had to guess right now, I’d say [he’ll choose] LSU,” Howell said. “He’s planning to graduate early, and he’s not going to go down to the wire with Signing Day. That offense and what they’ve done this year under [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron really helped a lot to make a strong case for him.”
With LSU potentially losing two junior defensive tackles – Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson – to the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tigers may have a need for a lineman.
Gerald Willis III, a four-star defensive tackle recruit also from Edna Karr, has the same school choices as his teammate Noil. According to Howell, Willis could also be favoring LSU because of the campus’ distance from home.
One final Louisiana prospect, wide receiver Malachi Dupre from John Curtis Christian High School, caught Howell’s attention.
Dupre is ranked as the top wide receiver in the nation according to Rivals.com, and all signs point to him being a Tiger before Signing Day, Howell said.
“We really love his athleticism and what he can do as an outside receiver,” Howell said. “He can really stretch the field and he runs great routes. He does a lot of things at the receiver position that you just don’t see from an athlete his size. I definitely think LSU is up there for him.”
Landing both Dupre and Noil at wide receiver could ease the pain of losing junior receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to the NFL Draft. Both are expected to forgo their final season at LSU.
“You’re looking at two difference-maker type receivers who have a strong possibility of coming in from day one and making an impact,” Howell said. “These are two pretty special athletes.”