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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Alabama-LSU: Top 2014 recruiting battles

By Gary Laney and Greg Ostendorf

Editor's note: This week, GeauxTigerNation and TideNation will examine all aspects of the LSU-Alabama rivalry during the Nick Saban-Les Miles era. Today's stories focus on the past and future of the schools' recruiting battles.

The recruiting war between Alabama and LSU has never seen a year like 2014, with multiple five-stars and multiple ESPN 300 recruits in the sights of both schools. Here’s a look at the top five prospects who the Tide and Tigers will fight over all the way until signing day.

RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine)
6-foot, 226 pounds
ESPN 300 Rank: 1

What it would mean to LSU: Les Miles and his staff have created about as clear of a path for the nation's top player as possible. By not signing a running back in the 2013 class, the Tigers almost assure that Fournette would have a chance to start right away and be a three-year starter. What if LSU doesn't land Fournette? The Tigers are praying that scenario becomes irrelevant.

What it would mean to Alabama: It’s hard to argue with the Tide’s recent success at the running back position, but they did bring in four ESPN 300 backs in last year’s class. Still, Fournette is a game changer. He’s talented enough to see the field as a freshman even with all of the depth at the position. More than anything, Alabama doesn’t want to have to face Fournette in the future if he decides to stay in state and choose LSU.

OT Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe)
6-5, 320
ESPN 300 Rank: 7

What it would mean to LSU: Even in talent-rich Louisiana, elite offensive linemen don't grow on trees. So when the state produces the consensus No. 1 offensive lineman in the country, it's crucial for the Tigers to keep him at home. With La'El Collins in his junior season in 2013, making him draft eligible at season's end, Robinson would have a chance to play right away.

What it would mean to Alabama: There might not be a more important recruit for Alabama in the class of 2014. With starting left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio expected to leave early for the NFL, that leaves a void at a critical position for the Tide. Enter Big Cam Robinson. He has the size and talent to start from the beginning. Not to mention, he’s graduating early and would enroll in January.

S Laurence "Hootie" Jones (Monroe, La./Neville)
6-2, 208
ESPN 300 Rank: 23

What it would mean to LSU: When the Tigers beat Saban's Alabama teams, one can usually find heroics from LSU's "DBU" safeties. There was the sack and forced fumble by Chad Jones in 2007. There was the Eric Reid game-saving interception in 2011. Both were, like Jones, Louisiana products whose skill sets are perfect to make him a candidate to make similar plays in future Alabama-LSU games. The Tigers want him to be the next Reid, not the next Landon Collins.

What it would mean to Alabama: When Jones came to Alabama’s camp in June, the staff put him alongside Ole Miss safety commitment C.J. Hampton. They would love nothing more than to land both prospects as a package deal. Jones is the more physical, hard-hitting safety, in the same mold as former UA star Mark Barron. It won’t be easy to pry him out of Louisiana, but relationships could be key.

CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen)
6-0, 196
ESPN 300 Rank: 27

What it would mean to LSU: While Brown is the No. 5 player in the country at his position, he's the No. 1 cornerback on the board for LSU, a program that has been a factory of elite defensive backs lately (Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, to name a few). In a position where the Tigers are accumulating young talent, many think Brown would be the best one.

What it would mean to Alabama: The Tide already have two cornerback commitments and five-star Marlon Humphrey is likely to land in Tuscaloosa as well. Still, Brown has been coveted by the UA staff for a while now. A cornerback combination of he and Humphrey, who are both track stars, could make throwing against Alabama nearly impossible.

DL Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Karr)
6-3, 275
ESPN Rank: 29

What it would mean to LSU: It would mean LSU won't get shut out by one of the state's top football family. Willis' older brother is Alabama safety Landon Collins, who broke LSU hearts when he chose Alabama on national signing day in 2012. It would also mean LSU secures its state's best defensive lineman.

What it would mean to Alabama: Although Willis hasn’t mentioned the Tide among his top schools, you can never count out family. As long as his brother is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will be in the running. From a talent standpoint, Willis has proven himself as one of the top pass rushers in the class. He’d likely play up front in the Tide’s 3-4 base defense.