Alabama Coach Nick Saban was an assistant coach in the National Football League when he saw a survey that showed the home states of NFL players. That Louisiana ranked high on the list per capita made an impression on Saban.
In the past he has said knowing the large number of quality football players in Louisiana had an influence on him leaving the head coaching job at Michigan State to take the same position at LSU in 2000.
And Saban continues to believe in football players from The Boot – the nickname of Louisiana owing to its shape.
Alabama’s latest recruiting class, ranked by Scout.com as the nation’s best and also the best ever by points, includes six players taken from Louisiana. The second best Saban recruiting class, also ranked number one in the nation, in 2014 had outstanding contributors from Louisiana.
(Above: National Signing Day tweet from father of Alabama signee Dylan Moses)
Saban has signed at least one four-star player from Louisiana in 10 of his 11 Crimson Tide signing classes. This year’s group includes three five-star signees — linebacker Dylan Moses of Baton Rouge via IMG Academy, who is the number one inside linebacker in the nation; wide receiver Devonta Smith of Amite; and defensive end Isaiah Buggs of Ruston via Mississippi Gulf Coach Community College. Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis of Monroe and outside linebacker Chris Allen of Baton Rouge are four-star Bama signees. Additionally, Alabama is expected to have placekicker Joseph Bulovas of Mandeville join the team for August practice as an unsigned player.
Saban thinks the fact that Alabama has signed players from Louisiana who have gone on to have successful careers with the Crimson Tide has kept that recruiting engine fueled.
It wasn’t lost on a former prospect that Alabama had a chicken-egg situation in Louisiana. "They've got a lot of Boot guys and have a lot of Boot guys who have been very successful at Alabama.”
Something that seemed to resonate with many in Louisiana, perhaps parents more than prospects, was that Saban’s time at the LSU coach for four years had built the Tigers into a national powerhouse, Saban winning a national championship for LSU in 2003 and many of his signees playing a role in a subsequent national title for the Tigers in 2007 under his successor, Les Miles.
When Saban came to Alabama in 2007, one of his initial coaching hires was Burton Burns, a New Orleans native from well-known Louisiana football heritage. Burns has been the key recruiter in his home state. In recent years, much of the recruiting success in Louisiana has been in the Monroe area in North Louisiana.
LSU partisans have been able to take some solace in having been able to keep some great players from leaving the state, notably members of the 2014 class like Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre. There is also a belief that Louisiana produces so many top players that some are bound to get away because LSU just doesn’t have room for all of them.
But one has to think that the Tigers would have made room for the likes of tailback Eddie Lacy (2009) and safety Landon Collins (2012), both of whom played in Geismar, La., just a few minutes from Baton Rouge. That set the table for that 2014 signing class that include Monroe area players tackle Cam Robinson, wide receiver Cam Sims, and safety Hootie Jones traveling East on I-20 to Tuscaloosa. Another member of that 2014 class was athlete Ronnie Clark, a Monroe native whose family had transplanted to Calera in Alabama following Hurricane Katrina.
Tackle D.J. Fluker, who signed with Bama in 2009, had been in New Orleans before Katrina moved his family to Foley.
Here are Alabama’s signees from Louisiana by year under Coach Nick Saban:
2007 (No. 22 ranked recruiting class)
Luther Davis, 4-Star, defensive end
2008 (No. 1)
Robby Green, 4-star, cornerback
2009 (No. 2)
Eddie Lacy, 4-star, running back
Kenny Ball, 4-star, wide receiver
Harrington Sentimore, 4-star, defensive tackle
(D.J. Fluker, 4-star, offensive tackle from New Orleans via Foley)
2010 (No. 4)
2011 (No. 7)
Bradley Sylve, 4-star, wide receiver
2012 (No. 2)
Landon Collins, 5-star, safety
Denzel Devall, 4-star, linebacker
2013 (No. 4)
Tim Williams, 4-star, defensive end
Raheem Efalkins, 3-star, wide receiver
2014 (No. 1)
Cam Robinson, 5-star, offensive tackle
Cam Sims, 4-star, wide receiver
Hootie Jones, 4-star, defensive back
O.J. Smith, 3-star, defensive tackle
(Ronnie Clark, 4-star athlete, from Monroe via Calera)
2015 (No. 2)
Dayton Charlot, 4-star, wide receiver
2016 (No. 1)
Shyheim Carter, 4-star, cornerback
Irv Smith, Jr., 3-star, tight end
2017 (No. 1)
Dylan Moses, 5-star, inside linebacker
Devonta Smith, 5-star, wide receiver
Isaiah Buggs, 5-star, defensive end
Phidarian Mathis, 4-star, defensive tackle
Chris Allen, 4-star, outside linebacker