The Great Wall of Saban

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

Our worst nightmare is now a reality.

Not only did we lose to Alabama three straight times on the field, we're now losing hordes of our own homegrown athletes to them on the recruiting trail. But then again, the two go hand-in-hand, don't they?

Just last week, the Tide scooped up the No. 2 safety in the country, Louisiana's own Laurence "Hootie" Jones of Neville High. He's a four-star recruit and the 22nd overall prospect in the ESPN 300.

Jones joined three other northern Louisiana prospects that have spurned LSU this year to go to Alabama instead.

The nation's third-ranked recruit in tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe), No. 65 prospect in receiver Cameron Sims (Ouachita Parish) and No. 221 prospect in defensive tackle O.J. Smith (Airline) have all chosen to roll with the Tide.

That's nothing new. Over the last few years, Nick Saban has raided the Louisiana pantry and stolen a stash of goodies.

There was Dutchtown's own Landon Collins in 2011. He was the nation's top safety prospect. Now, he's starting as a sophomore for the Tide and showing flashes of brilliance every week.

Another Dutchtown star in Eddie Lacy chose Tuscaloosa over Baton Rouge before Collins ever did. He just went on to be the BCS Championship Game MVP in Alabama's crushing 42-14 title win over Notre Dame last year.

LSU lost both of these coveted recruits as they sat right in the Tigers' backyard.

Heck, they even lost a player to Alabama that wasn't in their back yard; he wasn't even in their front yard. He was sitting right on their lap.

Saban came in and swiped linebacker Tim Williams last year--a U-High standout that was teammates with Les Miles' own son, Manny.

It's clear that recruits these days are less enamored by the allure of Tiger Stadium and the opportunity to represent their home state and more captivated by the glistening of the crystal ball.

They see Alabama being a juggernaut and winning three championships in four years, and they want to walk into that kingdom of football superiority.

It's really an uphill battle for LSU. Les Miles is no Nick Saban and as long as Saban is just two states over and recruiting within the same conference, Alabama will always have the advantage.

Not only is Saban a great recruiter, he has the resumé and championship rings in his favor, and he knows Louisiana like the back of his hand. All those years coaching at LSU and building up those Louisiana connections are really coming back to bite us now.

Les and the Tigers need to start tightening up the screws and focusing on the diminishment of these Alabama defections.

Louisiana is such a talent-rich area. It produces more NFL players per capita than any other state.

Texas, Florida and Mississippi are always key in LSU's recruiting plan, but they should take a back seat to Louisiana. Keeping those players in-state should always be the No. 1 priority.

And with no other big-time Division I threats to compete with in the state, the Tigers should be getting almost all of these kids.

Alabama has to fend off Auburn, Ole Miss has to clash with Mississippi State, Georgia has to fight with Georgia Tech and Florida has to go to war with Florida State and Miami. But LSU, they should have a monopoly on Louisiana's top recruits.

The great coaches always put up an imaginary wall around their states and make sure no outsider crosses said wall.

Unfortunately, I have a hunch more highly-touted prospects are going to leap that wall and keep running until they reach "T-Town."

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if one of those guys turns out to be New Orleans' own Leonard Fournette--the nation's top running back and overall No. 1 prospect in the ESPN 300.

If Fournette does join the long list of Louisiana recruits to shun LSU in favor of Alabama, we should just go ahead and name that imaginary wall surrounding the state the "Great Wall of Saban."