LSU Tigers: Landon Collins
Never mind that the Tigers landed Leonard Fournette, the nation’s No. 1 player in 2014, and five of the top 10 Louisiana players in both 2013 and 2014. All fans wanted to focus on were the setbacks. They shouldn’t.
LSU and Miles continue to be the kings of The Pelican State and continued to prove it Wednesday with the additions of two local ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The Tigers added pledges from St. Francisville (La.) West Feliciana four-star receiver Jazz Ferguson and Mandeville (La.) Lakeshore four-star running back David Ducre.
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As far as sleepers, Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who had a coming out party in the Crimson Tide's Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, and Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche made the cut.
You can't argue with any of those guys. Nkemdiche can play any position on the defensive line and might make his hay inside in 2014. Hargreaves has shown signs of having true elite corner status -- and he'll be a true sophomore. And we all know that Gurley is capable of being the nation's best back when he's healthy.
So who are some other guys to keep an eye on in the SEC in 2014? Here are 15 other SEC players to keep an eye on next season (in alphabetical order):
Note: These aren't obvious big-name guys, like South Carolina running back Mike Davis, Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham or Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
- Caleb Azubike, DE, Vanderbilt: The junior defensive end quietly had four sacks and led the Commodores with 10 tackles for loss. He has all the athletic ability to be a star in this league. If he plays with the motor he's capable of, he could wreak havoc in 2014.
- Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M: As a freshman, Claiborne was a pleasant surprise on a bad Texas A&M defense. He finished the year with 69 tackles, hitting the double-digit mark in games five times. With Steven Jenkins gone, Claiborne could be relied up even more at linebacker, as he turns more into the quarterback of the defense.
- Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: He finished his freshman year with 1,026 rushing yards and four touchdowns. After rushing for 100-plus yards in four of his first five games, Collins failed to reach the century mark again. He's the pounder Bret Bielema wants, but he can also make moves and be a home run threat.[+] EnlargeNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsArkansas RB Alex Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and four TDs in his freshman season.
- Landon Collins, S, Alabama: The junior-to-be had a solid 2013 season. He filled in at both free and strong safety because of injuries and will see even more time on the field with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri leaving early for the NFL draft. He was second on the team with 70 tackles, defended eight passes and had two interceptions.
- Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: The 2013 season was supposed to be about Jordan Jenkins taking over for Jarvis Jones on the outside. But it was Floyd, a freshman, who stole the show at times at linebacker, leading the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks and was second with 10 tackles for loss.
- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: While he only caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns in his first season, Howard could have a bright future ahead. He's too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. Getting him on the field more this fall will go a long for Alabama's new quarterback.
- Chris Jones, DE, Mississippi State: He lived up to his billing as a top high school defensive end in Year 1. He finished the year with three sacks and seven tackles for loss, but was also credited with 10 quarterback hurries. He has all the qualities of an elite pass-rusher and could be even more of a problem for offenses in 2014.
- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn: Another freshman standout in 2013, Lawson finished the year with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He only had 20 tackles on the year, but with Dee Ford leaving, Lawson has a chance to see the field even more in 2014, but needs to get in the weight room and needs to be more consistent.
- Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia: He has had to sit and bide his time for a few years, but this is his team in 2014. He filled in for Aaron Murray (ACL) during the last two games of the season, passing for 619 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions as the starter. He'll have plenty of offensive weapons to use next fall as well.
- Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri: He filled in while starter James Franklin dealt with a shoulder injury, passing for 910 yards and 10 touchdowns as a starter. Mauk also went 3-1 during that span and helped the Tigers win the SEC East in their second season in the league. Now, he's the full-time starter in Columbia.
- Marquez North, WR, Tennessee: North made some noise as a freshman, leading the Vols with 496 yards on 38 catches. He only caught one touchdown, but showed flashes of being a consistent go-to threat for the Vols moving forward, and he certainly showed off his athleticism with this sweet catch against South Carolina. Getting more comfortable with the offense this spring will pay dividends.[+] EnlargeCharles Mitchell/Icon SMIWR Marquez North showed all the skills to be a big-time playmaker for the Vols.
- Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He spent most of the year switching in and out with Tyler Russell, but now takes over the offensive reins. After throwing for 283 yards with three touchdowns and rushing for another 78 yards and two more scores in the Bulldogs' bowl win over Rice, Prescott made a lot of heads turn. He's perfect for Dan Mullen's offense and should be even better with his top five receiving targets returning.
- Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU: Yet again, another freshman corner stepped up nicely for the Tigers. Robinson only started two games during the season, including the Outback Bowl, but displayed a lot of upside when he saw the field. He's fast, athletic and rangy, and could be even more of a nuisance for quarterbacks in 2014.
- Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida: Taylor saw his carries increase during the second half of the season. The son of former Florida great Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor rushed for 525 yards and four touchdowns. He doesn't have elite speed, but he's shifty and can grind out extra yards.
- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: With Donte Moncrief gone, Treadwell becomes the guy at receiver for the Rebels. He led Ole Miss with 72 catches and should improve on his 608 yards. The thing about Treadwell is he's so gifted athletically. He's the kind of person who can step on any field or court, or put a tennis racket in his hand, and he'll make something special happen.
- Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall's breakout season is the result of a second chance to shine in the SEC after the first one went by the wayside while he was at Georgia. After past mistakes, Marshall has shown much more maturity to help him reach this point.
- Alabama isn't certain which of Oklahoma's two quarterbacks it will see -- Trevor Knight or Blake Bell -- in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Before leaving for New Orleans, safety Landon Collins said they've only looked at one so far.
- Texas A&M got its first look at the Georgia Dome during a practice there ahead of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and discussed the transition to new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't elaborating on the suspensions of Sheldon Dawson and Josh Harvey-Clemons for the Gator Bowl.
- Ole Miss backup quarterback Barry Brunetti has had an interesting and, at times, strange journey during his college football career, but he leaves with a certain comfort, saying that "With the opportunity I had, I fulfilled it."
- LSU arrived in Tampa for the Outback Bowl and one of the key players everyone is watching is quarterback Anthony Jennings, the true freshman who will start in place of the injured Zach Mettenberger.
- South Carolina's defensive backfield is very aware of Wisconsin's receivers, led by standout Jared Abbrederis.
- Former Missouri receiver Jason Ray, who was a captain on the Tigers' 2007 team, will be on the opposite sideline in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, as he is Oklahoma State's receivers coach.
- New Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is excited about his new opportunity, but he still has a week of work to finish at his current place of employment, Duke.
- Vanderbilt sophomore running back Jerron Seymour needs just two touchdowns to break the school's single season rushing touchdown mark, set by Zac Stacy in 2011.
For our all-underclassmen team, we decided to use players who are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. That means Johnny Manziel, a redshirt sophomore, wasn't eligible. I mean he can't make every list!
The criteria for our other lists once again apply. We're basing things on the season they had in 2013, not who will be the better draft prospect in the future.
Here's what we came up with:
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Jerald Hawkins, LSU
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
C: Evan Boehm, Missouri
AP: Mike Davis, South Carolina
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Miss. State
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Rashard Robinson, LSU
DB: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Landon Foster, Kentucky
RS: Trey Williams, Texas A&M
These would be freshmen, redshirt freshmen and true sophomores -- or players not eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.
Of their top 25 underclassmen, 14 were from the SEC, including seven of the top 10.
In other words, don't look for the talent level in the SEC to drop off any over the next couple of years.
Not surprisingly, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was the No. 1 player on the list. Winston is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York City.
Some fans might be a little surprised at who was the top SEC player on the list. Florida true freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III checked in at No. 2. Granted, it was a forgettable season for the Gators, but Hargreaves was outstanding with his ability to cover and make plays. Even though he's only played one season of college football, a lot of the scouts like him as much or more than the Gators' other two heralded cornerbacks -- Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy.
The other SEC players in the top 10 were:
- No. 4 Georgia running back Toddy Gurley
- No. 5 Alabama receiver Amari Cooper
- No. 6 Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham
- No. 8 Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
- No. 9 Alabama safety Landon Collins
- No. 10 Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.
Ole Miss was next with three players, all members of the Rebels' top-5 2013 signing class. Receiver Laquon Treadwell was No. 16, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche No. 18 and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil No. 21.
Interestingly enough, seven of the 25 players on the list were true freshmen from the SEC. One that wasn't on there and will be is Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones, who blossomed as the season progressed and has a chance to be dominant.
Another true freshman from the SEC who will almost certainly play his way onto the list is LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson. Go back and watch him in the Texas A&M game and the job he did on Mike Evans. Robinson wasn't cleared academically until the week of the first game this season, so with an entire spring and an entire preseason camp under his belt next year, Robinson should emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC.
Here's a rundown of all 14 SEC players who made the list:
- 2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Fr.
- 4. Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB, So.
- 5. Amari Cooper, Alabama, WR, So.
- 6. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri, WR, So.
- 8. Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida, DE, So.
- 9. Landon Collins, Alabama, S, So.
- 10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, RB, So.
- 12. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama, DT, Fr.
- 15. O.J. Howard, Alabama, TE, Fr.
- 16. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR, Fr.
- 18. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, DT, Fr.
- 20. Mike Davis, South Carolina, RB, So.
- 21. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss, OT, Fr.
- 23. Carl Lawson, Auburn, DE, Fr.
When Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley looks at film of LSU's offense, he can find time to smile and grimace.
On one hand, Mosley likes the fact that the Tigers run a more traditional pro-style approach, but on the other, he's fully aware of the vast offensive improvements LSU has made.
"We already know what we're going to get," Mosley said. "They're going to line up and try to run the ball down our throats and, when they get the chance, go deep over our heads. It's not really too much that we haven't seen or something that they're going to do that we haven't seen before. It's all about who's going to be the most physical team."
That pretty much has summed up this game since Nick Saban and Les Miles joined this series a few years ago. Both teams are going to get punched in the mouth, bleed and limp out of the stadium.
"I think this is one of the best offensive teams, probably, we've faced all year," Saban said.
He's absolutely right. This will be the third time No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) has faced a team averaging more than 400 yards a game, and it's easily the most potent offense the Crimson Tide have played since Texas A&M.
This is an LSU offense that wants to bulldoze you up front then dismantle you with its vertical passing game. Running back Jeremy Hill is second in the SEC with 922 rushing yards, while quarterback Zach Mettenberger is second in passing, averaging 276.9 yards per game.
"Any chance you go out there and you're seeing yourself make these plays over and over again, it gets to a point where it doesn't matter who you're going against," LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "It's just what we do, and it's what we're built to do."
Compare that to recent offenses the Tide have faced and it's not really close. Of Alabama's six opponents since A&M, only Colorado State and Ole Miss rank within the top 50 nationally in total offense.
Alabama's defense has taken full advantage of the schedule. Check out these numbers ESPN Stats & Information gathered about Alabama's last six outings:
- Alabama has outscored teams 246-26, scored five more touchdowns (31) than opponents have points and allowed two touchdowns in 67 opponent drives (3 percent).
- Alabama hasn't allowed any first-half points in its past six games. In three, opponents didn't run a first-half play in Alabama territory.
- There have been nine first-half pass attempts by opponents in Alabama territory, with opponents throwing more interceptions (three) than completions (one).
Say what you will about Alabama's last six opponents (a combined record of 18-34), but the defense has done exactly what has been asked and then some.
"Every offense is good that we've played; we've just prepared to perfection," safety Landon Collins said. "We tried our best not to make any mistakes or give up any big plays. When we do that, that's the outcome of our defense. If we keep doing that and keep playing to our standards -- our Alabama way -- we all know what the outcome will be."
The Tigers might have two losses, but their offense will serve as a major test on the Tide's third-straight BCS title run.
"Their offense is explosive," Collins said. "Even though you know the play and you know what they're going to do, they're still going to execute to their full advantage. It's unstoppable sometimes."
LSU is second in the league at 7.4 yards per play and is averaging 106 more yards per game than last year and almost 130 more than 2011. One reason has been the maturation of Mettenberger, who had a breakout game against the Tide last year. He has flourished under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and has more command and comfort in the huddle.
He also has Hill to hand the ball to and Beckham and Jarvis Landry to throw to. That receiving duo has combined to catch 106 passes for 1,891 yards and 16 touchdowns.
"Really, my job's easy," Mettenberger said. "I just have to get [the ball] to some of the best athletes in the country and let them go to work.
"It's just my job to get those guys the ball. It's just what I have to do."
The thing is that even when Mettenberger struggles, this offense is still deadly with its running attack. It creates the conundrum of when to play two high safeties or stack the box.
So stay glued to the big uglies. Watch the trenches, because that's where Alabama wants to own things and create mayhem for the run and pass. Alabama wants to win the physical game in order to limit LSU's explosiveness.
"We know it’s going to be a dogfight, and it’s like that every year," Alabama defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said. "We want to try and come out and step on their throats, break their will and try and end the game as quick as possible and let some of our freshmen play."
1. Thursday night football: It gets started tonight with Mississippi State hosting Kentucky. Both teams are searching for their first SEC win of the season. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has seen his team take some lumps and has shuffled its quarterbacks. Maxwell Smith will get the start because Jalen Whitlow was injured against Alabama. Mississippi State had to turn to Dak Prescott after Tyler Russell was knocked out of the season opener against Oklahoma State with a concussion, and though Russell has since returned, Prescott is still getting playing time.
3. Can Mauk and Mizzou keep it going? Missouri freshman quarterback Maty Mauk made his first start last week in place of the injured James Franklin and was solid, completing 18-of-36 passes for 295 yards plus a touchdown and interception in a win over Florida. The Tigers (7-0, 3-0) hold at least a two-game lead in the loss column over the rest of the SEC East and host No. 21 South Carolina on Saturday. It's another test for the Tigers, who passed their last two -- at Georgia and versus Florida -- with flying colors.
4. Dylan Thompson gets the call for the Gamecocks: South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw sprained his left knee, and coach Steve Spurrier said Thompson will get the start Saturday against Missouri. Spurrier said Shaw could potentially be the backup and could take some snaps if the Gamecocks needed it, but Thompson will be the guy at game time. He has appeared in all but one game this season, completing 29-of-51 passes for 421 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
5. Shifting safeties for Bama: Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and will be replaced by sophomore Landon Collins. He already has two starts under his belt this season (when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was out), but now Collins will be lining up next to Clinton-Dix, who's returning from a suspension. Collins is eager for his chance, though losing the leadership that Sunseri provided isn't ideal.
6. Another Vols upset?: It'll be tough since Tennessee heads to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on No. 1 Alabama, but the Vols have raised eyebrows in recent weeks. They were within a blink of upsetting Georgia on Oct. 5, taking the Bulldogs to overtime before losing 34-31, and last week they came away with a 23-21 upset of South Carolina. The past two games have been in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, and the Vols must now go on the road against a juggernaut. Tennessee already has taken some lumps from Oregon and Florida on the road this season, but there's definitely a renewed optimism and energy permeating the program under Butch Jones right now.
7. Who's at QB for Vanderbilt? Starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels left last week's game in the second quarter with a left-leg injury and coach James Franklin's depth chart reads: Carta-Samuels or Patton Robinette. Robinette was 9-of-15 passing for 107 yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception in place of Carta-Samuels. Franklin hasn't publicly named a starter, as is the case with the Commodores' opponent -- Texas A&M -- so there's some uncertainty about who will take the first snap for each team when they meet at Kyle Field.
8. Nonconference tilts for three: LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss are all heavy favorites as each dips back into nonconference play this weekend. LSU is hosting Furman, Auburn takes on Florida Atlantic, and Ole Miss meets Idaho. LSU is looking to bounce back from last week's narrow loss at Ole Miss, Auburn hopes to continue the positive momentum from this season that hit a peak with a win at Texas A&M last week, and the Rebels (who upset LSU) are looking for their second straight win in the middle of a six-game homestand.
9. Recovery time for Arkansas, Florida, Georgia: Each of these teams has had its fair share of struggles and injuries, and they're getting a chance to shore those up as all three have a bye. Arkansas is searching for answers after getting beaten the past two weeks by a combined score of 104-7. Florida needs to kick-start a sputtering offense that has left the previously ranked team with two straight losses. Georgia, coming off two losses itself, is hoping to get Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back next week.
10. Keeping the top spot: Alabama started No. 1, and the Crimson Tide occupy the top spot in the debut of this season's BCS standings. Nick Saban & Co. have been downright dominant, with their only close call coming in College Station in a 49-42 win over Texas A&M. Since then, the Tide have allowed just 16 points in five games. They host Tennessee -- a team that's building some momentum itself -- on Saturday and then have a week off before their showdown with LSU on Nov. 9. For now, the Tide continue to carry the torch for the SEC.
- With Vinnie Sunseri out for the season with a knee injury, Alabama turns to Landon Collins to take his place at strong safety.
- Now that his first career start is in the rearview mirror, Mizzou freshman quarterback Maty Mauk prepares for round two against South Carolina.
- A heel injury didn't stop Auburn running back Tre Mason from shining against Texas A&M on Saturday, and he's beginning to show his toughness and durability.
- LSU coach Les Miles took the blame in the immediate aftermath of the Tigers' 27-24 loss to Ole Miss, and after reviewing the film he maintained that he needs to do better and "get their attention."
- There's no point in Texas A&M playing the "what if" game when looking back on its loss to Auburn. Instead, the Aggies must move on.
- South Carolina's offense struggled in its loss to Tennessee, and head coach Steve Spurrier said maybe the Gamecocks "thought we were too good."
- After a 52-0 loss to Alabama and an off week coming up, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks are searching for answers -- and their first SEC win.
- On the heels of having two players impacted by the new rule, Georgia coach Mark Richt offered some thoughts on targeting and how officials are handling it.
- As Tennessee has progressed, so has quarterback Justin Worley -- and it shows.
- Even though Jalen Whitlow's ankle injury isn't as serious as it might have originally appeared, Maxwell Smith gets the nod as Kentucky's starting quarterback when the Wildcats meet Mississippi State.
- Speaking of starting quarterbacks, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin isn't ready to name one yet for Saturday's game against Texas A&M, with Austin Carta-Samuels dealing with an injury. The Commodores' depth chart lists Carta-Samuels "or" Patton Robinette.
- Ole Miss had to face four ranked teams in its first seven games, but now the hardest part of the Rebels' schedule is behind them.
- Mississippi State's linebackers are working to be the SEC's best.
- Here's a look at why Florida's offense has struggled so much this season.
- With HaHa Clinton-Dix suspended indefinitely, Alabama will turn to sophomores Landon Collins and Geno Smith to fill the void. It’s a big opportunity for both players.
- Georgia’s Josh Harvey-Clemons was a linebacker coming out of high school, but he’s growing into his new role in the secondary.
- Before the season, there were plenty of questions about LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. But after his latest performance at Georgia, he’s put himself in the Heisman race.
- LSU tight end Travis Dickson grew up a Mississippi State fan. This weekend, he returns to the place where he once donned Bulldog attire and rang cowbells.
- Steve Spurrier knows the Stoops’ family well, and he believes Mark Stoops can win at Kentucky over time. The two SEC coaches will be on opposing sidelines this Saturday.
- Arkansas running back Alex Collins will make his return to the state of Florida this weekend to face the Gators. The freshman star has already caught the attention of UF coach Will Muschamp.
- It could be a track meet between Auburn and Ole Miss on Saturday. Head coaches Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze will likely push the limits on number of plays run.
- In year one of the rebuilding process, Malzahn and his Auburn Tigers could land a signature win against a resurgent Ole Miss squad.
- Missouri is 4-0 and eager to put last year’s SEC play behind them. The Tigers start the 2013 conference play this Saturday on the road at Vanderbilt.
- First-year coach Butch Jones took on a challenge when he took the job at Tennessee, but after a 3-2 start, can he lead the Volunteers to a bowl game?
LSU was used to taking all the top players in Louisiana without much competition from other schools. But Saban had other ideas. He immediately targeted his old stomping grounds and made the fertile state a priority for both the present and the future.
Alabama began to have moderate success in the Bayou State, plucking a four-star here and there. It wasn’t enough to cause LSU much concern, though, at least until the recruitment of Landon Collins.
The five-star safety lived just down the road from Baton Rouge. He went to the same high school as former LSU star Eric Reid. He had that look of another physical playmaker in the Tigers’ secondary, similar to Reid. All signs pointed to him to staying in state and playing for LSU.
In the past, schools might have conceded Collins to LSU, but not Alabama, not Saban. He made the Louisiana native a priority in the 2012 class. Collins was Saban’s right-hand man during the Tide’s camp, an experience unlike any other for a high school kid. He visited Tuscaloosa for the showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama.
When Collins put on the Alabama hat and flashed the script "A" gloves to the camera, Justin showed a look of surprise and dismay. She clearly wanted her son to stay close to home, but instead he chose to play for the Tide.
Looking back, it was one of the more memorable moments in recruiting history. But it was about more than a mother’s reaction. It signaled the end of LSU’s dominance in its own state. Stealing the top recruit in Louisiana, a recruit who lived so close to campus, proved that Alabama was here to stay. It took the recruiting side of the rivalry to the next level.
Now, two years later, it’s time for Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Edna Karr), Collins' younger brother, to make his college decision.
It’s unlikely he follows in his brother’s footsteps, as the Tide are not among his top schools at the moment, but you can’t count out family. Just like his brother, Willis plans to announce his decision at the Under Armour game in front of a television audience, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to make the same choice.
“I’m always going to be Landon Collins’ little brother, but I just want to be my own man, be my own name, leave my own legacy somewhere,” Willis said. “That’s my goal.”
The LSU-Alabama rivalry extends well beyond the football field. Since Nick Saban took over the Tide, he and Tigers coach Les Miles have clashed in some epic recruiting battles. Through that, both coaches have learned that you can’t get everybody on your wish list, regardless of ties or proximity.
Here’s a list of five prospects who got away from Alabama and five who got away from LSU in what has become one of the nation's top recruiting rivalries.
Five who got away from Alabama:
WR Chris Tolliver, 2008 (Rayville, La./Rayville): It was a classic Tide-Tigers battle for Tolliver, the nation's No. 11 wide receiver. He took official visits to Alabama and LSU in consecutive weeks right before he made his decision. Although he chose to stay in state, the Tide were able to steal his teammate and fellow wide receiver Kenny Bell the following year.
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"We'll probably build a freshman campus next," said football coach Benny Saia, who already is lamenting a land-locked campus where the band soon might have to share practice space with the football team if additional buildings spring up. "What will probably happen is they'll build a new school out in (nearby) Galvez."
"Everybody wants their kids in Dutchtown now," said Saia, a long-time Baton Rouge-area coach.
Including, it would appear, football players.
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There is truth to this notion, but also some exaggeration.
In most years, there are positions where LSU might feel compelled to leave the state to fill the need.
So that makes the 2014 class that much more remarkable.
Save quarterback, one can find major prospects in Louisiana at every position. This is a year when LSU can sign a great class without leaving the state. Here's how:
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Headlined by running back Leonard Fournette, offensive tackle Cameron Robinson and safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones, is expected to be a banner year for Louisiana, which is already a normally recruit-rich state.
LSU tries to get a jump start on its in-state recruiting every year with its "Boys from the Boot" event, an unofficial visit day for rising seniors that serves as a kickoff to the heart of the recruiting process for them.
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Mettenberger's Rehab Ahead Of Schedule
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35