Five-star Alabama commit to visit Michigan, USC; Saban says 'have fun'

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- Alabama and USC will officially meet on September 3, as one of the marquee matchups of a loaded opening weekend in college football. But the Crimson Tide and Trojans have been slugging it out on the recruiting trail in recent years, as both programs have walked away with wins.

Five-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood will be involved in a tug-of-war this year, as the nation’s No. 9 overall prospect committed to the Crimson Tide in early June but the Trojans continue to push. Leatherwood visited USC for the Trojans’ summer camp and said he plans to use one of his five official visits to see USC again.

“I will be taking one to USC and also taking one to Michigan, and of course I’ll be taking one to Alabama,” Leatherwood said of his official visits, adding that he’ll use all five trips, but doesn’t know destinations for his final two at this point.

Leatherwood, from Pensaclo, Florida, said the Michigan visit could be for the game against Wisconsin on October 1, but the USC visit likely won’t involve a game.

“The USC official visit will be after the season, so I can spend more time with the coaches and see the city,” Leatherwood said.

The big offensive tackle won’t be the only Alabama commitment targeted by the Trojans in this class. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa committed to the Crimson Tide over the Trojans, but said this week that both schools will receive official visits. Running back Najee Harris, the nation’s No. 4 prospect, made an early pledge to Alabama, but is still in contact with USC, along with several other programs.

While USC is trying to make up ground on these three recruits in this class, it was the Trojans that gained the upper hand in the 2014 class, when ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao originally committed to Alabama before flipping to USC. The Trojans also flipped 2015 quarterback Ricky Town away from an early pledge to the Crimson Tide, though Town ultimately transferred to Arkansas.

Nick Saban’s program won’t take a back seat when it comes to recruiting battles with any program in the nation, but with former USC head coach Lane Kiffin serving as offensive coordinator, these run-ins with the Trojans for prospects -- especially considering the upcoming clash on the field -- should be especially fun to watch.

After dominating the recruiting landscape for the past several years, Saban likely has the right to feel confident when it comes to keeping recruits he covets.

Leatherwood, the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle, likely falls into that group. While some coaches do everything in their power to discourage committed recruits from taking visits, Leatherwood said the Alabama head coach had a simple directive when informed that Leatherwood would be taking all of his official visits.

“I told coach Saban about my official visits,” Leatherwood said. “He was like, ‘Have fun.’”