- David Helman, Reporter, RecruitingNation
So, Alabama and LSU don't play this weekend. The Crimson Tide must get past No. 11 Mississippi State before the upcoming trip to Baton Rouge for a third Game of the Century in the past year. But the fact that the two rivals aren't playing hasn't stopped anyone from talking about this rivalry for the past 10 months -- Nick Saban and his squad have been one of the main topics of debate in the Pelican State for most of this year. So who cares if we get a little ahead of ourselves?
The Tigers and Tide have squared off for so many bluechip prospects in the last few years, there needs to be a series just for alums of this game. Next week, when the game is actually looming, we'll delve into the current side of the fight.
WR Rueben Randle (Bastrop, La./Bastrop)
As a recruit: Randle was ranked the No. 1 wide receiver in the class of 2009 and No. 10 overall in the ESPN 150.
How it went down: Randle is one of the big names in a long line of north Louisiana players who have been courted by the Tide as well as the Tigers. The decision came down to national signing day, as has been the case with several players in this recruiting battle. That morning, the 6-foot-3 prospect inked with the home state school, much to the relief of LSU fans everywhere.
After he enrolled: It's fair to say things worked out pretty well for Randle. LSU's herky-jerky passing game probably hampered his bottom line, if you want to be nit-picky. But Randle finished his three-year career with 97 receptions for 1,634 yards and 13 touchdowns and helped last year's team to the SEC title. He parlayed that success into a second round selection in the NFL draft.
DE Barkevious Mingo (Monroe, La./West Monroe)
As a recruit: More under the radar, but still coveted, Mingo was ranked the No. 34 outside linebacker in his class but held offers from LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut and Michigan.
How it went down: Same story, different position. Mingo's size and speed make him a ferocious defensive end, as LSU fans are by now well aware. But his skill set made him a tantalizing option to play linebacker in Saban's 3-4 defensive scheme. Mingo made local fans sweat by taking four visits during a hectic January schedule. He eventually opted with LSU the day before national signing day, keeping Alabama from prying away another local talent.
Since he enrolled: Mingo redshirted to start his career and served as a backup in 2010. He exploded onto the scene with 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks during a fantastic redshirt sophomore campaign in 2011. Mingo has 23 tackles and three sacks with a whopping nine quarterback hurries this season, and he's projected as a first round draft pick next spring -- should he choose to leave school early.
WR Kenny Bell (Rayville, La./Rayville)
As a recruit: Bell was considered the No. 49 receiver in the country in 2009 and one of the top playmakers in Louisiana for his class.
How it went down: While Randle sorted out his recruitment in nearby Bastrop, Bell was considered a talented secondary option for the class and a much more likely lock to stay home and play for LSU. But not all recruiting battles can be wins, and Bell opted to go out of state on national signing day -- perhaps because of Randle's eventual decision to play in Baton Rouge.
Since he enrolled: Bell redshirted and had a negligible impact in his redshirt freshman season. He caught on somewhat during the Tide's 2011 national title campaign with 17 total receptions for 256 yards and two scores. He has already matched that production this season with 11 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns.
RB Trent Richardson (Pensacola, Fla./Escambia)
As a recruit: Considered the top running back in the class of 2009, the second-best player in the talent-rich state of Florida and the No. 6 player in the ESPN 150. Richardson starred in that year's Under Armour All-America Game.
How it went down: Not all LSU-Bama recruiting battles are going to come on the home front -- these two programs have reached a level of prominence to recruit anywhere they want. The Tigers and Tide were the top two suitors for Richardson's services, with Florida a distant third largely thanks to Urban Meyer's spread offense being a poor fit for the running back's skill set. He eventually settled on Alabama the summer before his senior season and stuck it out until national signing day.
Since he enrolled: It's fair to say he did OK. He rushed for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns in his three seasons with Alabama, highlighted by his 1,679-yard, 21-touchdown junior campaign while leading the Tide to the 2011 national title. He won the Doak Walker Award and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. His efforts helped him become the No. 3 overall pick in last spring's NFL draft. Yeah, he did just fine.
So, Alabama and LSU don't play this weekend. The Crimson Tide must get past No. 11 Mississippi State before the upcoming trip to Baton Rouge for a third Game of the Century in the past year.