Rankings Radar: How Alabama landed Louisiana players
Even though Nick Saban left LSU after the 2004 season, he never really left Louisiana.
After Saban's short stint with the Miami Dolphins, he resurfaced at Alabama and revitalized one of college football's blueblood programs, bringing the Crimson Tide back to the pinnacle of the sport. He has done this, at least in part, by dominating in recruiting, and Saban has had a lot of success poaching top talent from his old stomping grounds in Louisiana.
Rivals Texas/Louisiana Analyst Sam Spiegelman takes a look at some of the best prospects that Saban has signed out of Louisiana during his time with the Crimson Tide.
Allen was one of those recruits that, depending on the day and time, could be leaning toward either LSU or Alabama. Early on in his recruitment, he was all LSU, but he publicly declared the Tide as his leader. The converse was true as well. After going back and forth between LSU and Alabama, Allen gave a surprisingly early commitment to the Crimson Tide soon after the coaching change at LSU.
Cam Cameron, the Tigers' offensive coordinator, was the area recruiter for Allen and his departure weighed heavily on the four-star linebacker. Even though Allen committed to Alabama, he continued to visit LSU officially and unofficially, and rumor has it that Allen even brought an LSU hat to his Signing Day ceremony.
Bolden was a high school quarterback for West Monroe -- and an athletic one at that. At the time, LSU was ushering in Matt Canada's offense in Baton Rouge and was searching for athletes to plug into the slot. The same goes for Alabama, which tabbed Brian Daboll of the New England Patriots to do the same. LSU worked out Bolden at its elite summer camp, but then began to look at other receivers instead. Alabama pounced on Bolden and landed his commitment that summer.
Carter was front and center at one point in this LSU-Alabama rivalry. As a highly-touted underclassman, Carter visited both programs multiple times and was an early Crimson Tide pledge, but he backed off of that commitment right before his senior season. Georgia, Ole Miss, Miami and Baylor were heavily involved down the stretch, and right before National Signing Day, Carter made a secret, unreported visit back to LSU. He committed and signed with Alabama a few days later.
Harris had a very interesting recruitment that changed courses on multiple occasions largely because, well, he wasn't sure what position suited him at the next level. Alabama and Texas A&M were in a heated race for the jumbo-athlete as a junior before LSU finally extended an offer, late, in the spring prior to his senior season.
Perhaps LSU's overture was a little bit too late, because the Tigers had a lot of ground to make up here. LSU was willing to let Harris play offense or defense, and they really pushed a fit at linebacker. That push fell short, though, and Harris committed to Texas A&M that summer but flipped to Alabama after an official visit later in the fall. LSU was always playing from behind, while Alabama timed its push just right.
In what was a very unique recruitment, Mathis was an LSU-Alabama battle all the way to the finish. He played on the same Neville defensive front as current Tigers defensive end Rashard Lawrence and many felt he would be joining his former high school teammate in Baton Rouge whenever he decided to make a decision. However, Mathis was being recruited during LSU's coaching transition to Ed Orgeron, who tabbed his mentor Pete Jenkins as his defensive line coach.
Jenkins was a bit up there in age, so Austin Thomas received an NCAA waiver to recruit in his stead. A few weeks before Signing Day, Mathis held his commitment ceremony at a North Louisiana cemetery and announced in favor of Alabama. Afterward, he made bogus claims that he never spoke with Jenkins and LSU failed to recruit him heavily, which drew the ire of the LSU coaching staff.
Moses became a national sensation as an eighth-grader when he earned an offer from Les Miles during a summer prospect camp at LSU. He was an early commitment as a freshman at University Lab and eventually held offers from every program in the country.
Moses backed off his LSU commitment to look closer at other programs, namely Alabama. He relocated from University Lab to IMG Academy as a senior to help ease up some of the hometown pressure of staying home in Baton Rouge, but quietly, was still eyeing LSU as a fit. That was before Miles was fired. Days later, Moses committed to Alabama.
LSU, which was in dire need of linebackers in that 2017 class, was also to get Moses on campus on multiple occasions afterward, but the Tigers couldn't cut into the Tide's lead.
Smith will forever go down as one of the most sought-after prospects in LSU history and it's incredible how close the Tigers were to getting their guy on National Signing Day a few years back. Smith was an early Georgia commitment under Mark Richt, but when Richt lost the job Smith immediately began frequenting Alabama's campus because of the longstanding relationship with Amite native Sam Pettito, who was in the Tide's personnel department.
LSU was playing catch-up here and put first-year receivers coach Dameyune Craig in charge of this recruitment. Craig was able to get Smith on campus quite a bit and convinced the elite wideout that he'd be a key piece in the new-look passing attack in Baton Rouge. By the time National Signing Day arrived that year, Smith was down to LSU and Alabama and there was quietly a ton of momentum in the Tigers' corner. The impending departure of Craig weighed heavily on Smith's mind and he had more trust in Alabama's offensive blueprint.
Smith was a prospect that didn't get many looks until the spring of his senior year. Programs such as Mississippi State, TCU and Tennessee were all in on the three-star cornerback who was an intriguing do-it-all prospect for Salmen High School.
His size and athleticism intrigued LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, who got Smith on campus a few times in the spring and for games that fall but never offered. Smith committed to TCU at the start of the summer but backed off closer to the Early Signing Period. After official visits to Tennessee, Mississippi State and Alabama, Smith was a part of a loaded crop of corners to sign with the Tide.
One of the most drama-filled recruitments in recent memory, the clash between the Tide and the Tigers over Sopsher was one for the record books. LSU's failures to land players out of Tangipahoa Parish dating back to Shyheim Carter and DeVonta Smith put an even larger spotlight on the Tigers to land Sopsher, who for the bulk of his recruitment was touted as a five-star defensive tackle.
Ed Orgeron played a magnified role in the recruitment of Sopsher. He offered him as LSU's defensive line coach under Les Miles and then was one of several head coaches courting him up until National Signing Day last year. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda even sat with Sopsher's parents at the Class 2A state title game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last December as Sopsher's decision approached. Behind the scenes, Sopsher only spoke glowingly of Orgeron and LSU as well as Saban and Alabama.
The biggest source of drama came when Sopsher attended Alabama's homecoming game instead of LSU's upset of No. 2 Georgia in Baton Rouge. Ultimately, Alabama earned Sopsher's signature, but LSU fought tooth and nail late into the morning hours for the tackle.