Devonta Smith (Photo by Chad Simmons)

LSU-Alabama Key Recruiting Battles:

Tiger Blitz publisher Billy Embody and Bama Mag's recruiting analyst John Garcia, Jr. break down the LSU-Alabama recruiting battles and where they see each top target going as of now.

5-star WR Devonta Smith

John Garcia, Jr.: "Back and forth we go...Smith had been a 'Bama lock since virtually the moment he backed off of his Georgia commitment in January, but everything else has fluctuated plenty. The Crimson Tide, with his close friend Shyheim Carter on the roster along with Jeremy Pruitt and Sam Petitto losing red and black for crimson and white, helped UA get out to a massive lead for his signature come February 1. LSU made a push before Miles was fired before fading out of his top group. The Tigers are back in the mix following the coaching change, but just how much? Time is on the in-state school's side for sure. 

"Even with LSU's apparent surge, Smith selecting any program but Alabama would be a fairly large surprise in the college football recruiting world. While the push-back from an initial commitment date of August 15 kept others in the race, there is a notion UA's lead for the five-star is somewhat insurmountable. It's never easy to pluck top prospects from Louisiana, but Nick Saban has been able to do it on the most consistent basis and landing the dynamic Smith in a cycle when the wide receiver position has been prioritized could lead to his biggest Pelican State haul yet."

Embody: "Probably the most interesting battle on this list just because of how long is left until Devonta Smith announces, but as of now, the Tide are the likely leader still for the 5-star receiver's signature. LSU reentered the mix as soon as Ed Orgeron was named interim coach with Dameyune Craig reconnecting, explaining some things, and secured a visit from Smith for the Ole Miss game, which was his first time at Tiger Stadium. LSU being close by allows Smith to pop over whenever he feels like it. The staff will push for an official visit after the season to make an even bigger push and impression on the Amite product, but will it be enough? In September, Smith said for LSU to really get back into it for him it would take, "a lot," and he repeated himself a few times on that. So far, LSU has been doing its best to not allow the No. 1 player in Louisiana escape the Tigers' grasp. As one source put it, "he's a kid that needs to be a Tiger." The same can be said for Dylan Moses too, but LSU just didn't show enough love under Les Miles. That won't be an issue under Orgeron's direction, who puts the full court press on just about anyone he targets with constant contact from the entire staff. This one isn't over and luckily for LSU, there's still plenty of time."

4-star safety Todd Harris

Garcia: "One of the top cover safety prospects in the country, Harris seemed like an LSU lock for the duration of his recruitment. But late in the summertime, he camped in Tuscaloosa well enough to earn a scholarship offer from Nick Saban and has since admitted the achievement was a major turning point in the recruiting process. He has since returned to Alabama with family to learn more about the program and has admitted to the Crimson Tide steadily rising up his list. 

"Harris famously, or infamously depending on who you converse with, held a commitment ceremony a few weeks after UA shook up his recruitment, only to announce his intent to pledge to his current high school. There was a brief sense that UA's momentum could lead to a snap-decision, but now Harris is expecting to take the process very deep, perhaps all the way into 2017 with LSU, Ole Miss and Miami as additional contenders. But most expect the race to come down to the Tide and Tigers, something we see every year, though the coaching change has made his recruitment just as interesting. LSU has a pair of blue-chip safety pledges on board while Alabama has yet to add a player at the position, and that has been a major selling point to the Louisiana native. Will it be enough? UA's need over LSU's want typically is, but this one is incredibly close. Harris may not yet know, himself."

Embody: "Harris has been a constant visitor to LSU this season. While he's also made trips to Ole Miss and has been high on Alabama, this is telling. He's best friends with LSU commit Patrick Queen and that could be enough to tip the scales. Harris wants to announce at the Under Armour All-American game and by then, everything with LSU should be settled. With Grant Delpit also looking around, LSU might end up needing Harris if the Tigers lose out on Delpit here. LSU has playing time to sell to any freshmen that end up in Baton Rouge with Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson departing. Harris will need to bulk up to withstand the pounding of the SEC, but he's talented enough to play as a freshmen. He's high on Corey Raymond, who's watched a game of his this season and continues to keep up with LSU a lot. He'll be here for the Alabama game this weekend. A good showing by LSU and Orgeron earning the job could seal the deal for LSU to land Harris."

Todd Harris (© Chad Simmons / Scout)

4-star linebacker Chris Allen

Garcia: "Allen may be the Louisianan who has fluctuated most between Alabama and LSU. The Baton Rouge native was an easy peg to the hometown Tigers early in his recruitment before surprising with a public deceleration for UA as his leader in the spring. Then the two were co-leaders, then LSU was the sole leader and since the coaching change he tells Scout it's back to co-leader status. Allen has been to each campus throughout the last calendar year and now isn't seemingly in a rush to pick between the rivals. 

"As the case with many top prospects, the end game for the LSU coaching situation will probably play a large role in Allen's decision. Should the bulk of the defensive staff remain on board after the final call is made, perhaps the Tigers are a shoe-in to keep the versatile linebacker home. Sources in Tuscaloosa have long felt very good about pulling him away from LSU as Tosh Lupoi and others on the staff have sold him on replacing fellow Baton Rouge native Tim Williams as one of the program's next great pass rusher for some time now. The sooner he would pledge the better for Alabama, so with Allen taking his time and apparently waiting out the Tiger hire, it could be best news for the local program."

Embody: "I've said this for the last couple weeks that Allen is looking for an excuse to commit to LSU. I think even with Allen's recent visit to Alabama, that still holds true. He's been another consistent visitor this fall to Tiger Stadium. Developing a relationship with Dave Aranda was key for him and he's done that since Aranda was hired. LSU is in desperate need of linebackers and early playing time is something LSU can offer Allen with Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley departing. Allen is watching the direction of the teams and Bama is Bama, but LSU is on the rise especially if Orgeron gets the job, which could encourage Allen even more. If Bama blows out LSU, which I think is unlikely, and the Tigers regress down the stretch, it could hurt, but for now, things are trending nicely for LSU and Allen."

4-star defensive end Isaiah Buggs

Garcia: "There's not a whole lot to say about Buggs and Alabama. He has long been interested in the program and the program has long been interested in him, but he still has yet to set foot in Tuscaloosa as a college football prospect. He has been to homestate LSU countless times and the same can be said for the rest of his finalists in Auburn and Ole Miss. But Alabama remains the anomaly despite clear mutual interest. And there's no expected visit, unofficial or otherwise, in sight right now as far as we know. 

"What could help UA is that Buggs is another in no rush to make a final decision, and he will see the Crimson Tide play in person for this 'Bama-LSU showdown, so the ability to see arguably the top front in the country live along with the departing stars on the line could positively influence him. But when is the last time a big-time prospect picked a program without visiting it? I don't remember, either, so until he makes the trek to Tuscaloosa he isn't likely to end up apart of this Crimson Tide class."

Embody: "Buggs had been quiet about his LSU interest, but all of the sudden made his way to LSU following the Tigers watching his game that week for a visit and was impressed. Buggs is ready to rock for whatever program lands him and he's kept things close to the vest as far as his recruitment. It's a feel thing for him and if he does in fact find himself back at LSU this weekend, even though the Tigers are playing the competing Tide, it bodes well. A decision could really come at any time for a kid like Buggs. Until LSU has its coaching situation figured out, it's tough to see him committing to LSU. That being said, he's said coaches come and go and that it's about finding the most comfortable place for him to go to school. At this point, it's too tough to call. LSU also signed a wealth of depth in the 2016 class along the defensive line front and has three commits along the line already. Buggs is a guy who can contribute right away, but can he do it at LSU? He'd have to get up to speed and enter the mix for playing time quickly."

5-star running back Cam Akers

Garcia: "A longtime Alabama commitment before backing off of the pledge in the spring, Akers is a talent every college coach would like on his roster for next season. Even with the top prospect in America, Najee Harris, as well as local star Brian Robinson already committed at the running back position, Alabama has scratched and clawed its way back into Akers' favor after seeming like an afterthought for many months in 2016. 

"LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and in-state Ole Miss have all been the trendy pick at some point for Akers and he is far from ending the process with many trips still to be taken. Alabama was scheduled to host him officially last month when it hosted Texas A&M, but the five-star admitted too much had been put on his plate of late and didn't make it in. One source tells Scout he'll look to reschedule the trip to Tuscaloosa, but even if he does most of the other programs mentioned seem like more realistic options. It's not often a program loses a commitment and regains it later on, though Alabama has accomplished the feat in multiple cases over the last few recruiting cycles. I wouldn't bet on Akers adding to that trend, however."

Embody: "LSU already has a running back committed in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but the Tigers are looking for a second back that can really be a workhorse. LSU's ability to feature two backs under Ed Orgeron, could be a major selling point to Akers who could step in and get immediate playing time with Fournette's departure.

It seems like it will be very tough for Akers to leave the South, which has LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama in the mix. LSU is certainly pushing for him and has visited him recently to catch his game, but will it be enough with the turnover? Stability at the LSU coaching position would go a long way to helping LSU jump firmly back into place. For now, I think he's headed to Ole Miss. Akers is set to visit for the Alabama game, which could go a long way for the Tigers. Akers also didn't make his Alabama visit, which I believe he'll reschedule, but not making that trip raised my eyebrows a bit."

4-star defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis

Garcia: "One of the newest names on this Tide-Tigers battle list is the big Monroe defensive line prospect, Phidarian Mathis. He has progressed in recent years and his showcasing play hit an apex in the springtime when most major programs jumped in the race for his services. Alabama was able to do so in that window and has surged at or near the top of his list since that point, as Mathis has been on campus several times this year. 

"But LSU, Florida, Georgia, Miami and others are also campaigning to get him on campus and the Tigers get that shot once again on Saturday in what will be his first game in Tiger Stadium. Mathis is fresh off of his first SEC game period after taking in UA-TAMU, where he admitted Alabama is recruiting him the hardest following the trip. But Mathis has been adamant about taking all of his visits to see what the other programs in the mix have to offer. We envision him getting to a handful of schools, but few believe it will become more than another Tide-Tigers race for his services. 'Bama is the safer bet at this time but he won't be making the final call until after his senior football season wraps up in December."

Embody: "Another player that keeps his recruiting close to the vest is Mathis, who recently visited Alabama and will attend the LSU-Alabama game in Baton Rouge this weekend. Mathis is a huge prospect and while Bama might lead for him right now after loving his trip to Tuscaloosa, he's a month out from a decision I'd imagine. One thing LSU has going for them is former teammate at Neville, Rashard Lawrence, who has stayed in contact with Mathis during his recruitment. A solid trip to LSU with a Tigers win, could go a long way. Again, LSU's depth in the class and in Baton Rouge along the line could play a factor too. I'd say Bama leads at this point. It could actually end up being one school gets Mathis and the other gets Buggs. Will be interesting to see if one forces the other's hand relatively quickly when decision time comes."

5-star linebacker Dylan Moses

Garcia: "Perhaps the longest-standing prospect in the history of the Alabama-LSU recruiting rivalry, it began when Moses was a middle school prospect and football phenom. At that point, LSU was going to be the pick basically no matter what because of the Baton Rouge native's relationship with Les Miles as well as assistant coach Corey Raymond, who he is related to. It resulted in an early commitment and it looked like the inevitable as long as Miles was at the helm. 

"Three days after Miles was let go by LSU brass, Moses let Alabama assistant coach Tosh Lupoi know he was planning on picking the Crimson Tide on his upcoming official visit weekend. Citing UA's consistency in recruiting him for so many years, he followed through with the commitment about a month ago and said he wouldn't be considering LSU or visiting any other campuses very soon after. It lasted about two weeks, as Moses was back in Baton Rouge with family before taking in the LSU-ULM game, opening the door for perhaps the inevitable of ending up at LSU even without Miles. The top 10 prospect says it's not the case, however, and he returned to Tuscaloosa for UA's most recent game and continues to deflect any flip talk while recruiting for Nick Saban and company ahead of an early-enrollment plan that may close the door for good in the coming weeks. Never count out the home school, and the Moses family has probably campaigned for it to some degree, but Moses enrolling anywhere but Alabama in January would be a mild surprise at this point."

Embody: "After committing to Alabama, everyone was shocked that Moses decided to end his recruitment, but he's said it wasn't a surprise to him. He was set to commit to LSU with Les Miles in Baton Rouge, but once he was let go, that changed everything and he rolled with the Tide. Moses can step in and play at Reuben Foster's spot as he moves on to the draft, but the same can be said for Moses at either Riley or Beckwith's spot. LSU holding onto Ed Orgeron might be the key for LSU to have a chance to land Moses. Moses returned to LSU for a visit that again, surprised everyone following his commitment to Alabama, but he returned to Alabama for an unofficial visit the week after. I'd say Bama will likely end up with Moses in their class, but there's still a little bit of time for Corey Raymond, Moses' cousin, to close the gap with the rest of the staff before he enrolls early. The LSU staff stopped by to see Moses during the bye week and continue to court him. That being said, I think the 5-star linebacker sticks with the Tide."

Dylan Moses talks LSU visit


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