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Remembering Reuben Foster and Leonard Fournette as recruits

Let’s remember two elite high school prospects: Reuben Foster and Leonard Fournette.

As a recruiting analyst, I love games that feature elite talent facing other elite talent. Alabama’s annual game against LSU brings that every year. Alabama is the most talented team in the country according to the Blue-Chip Ratio, while LSU has signed the No. 4 set of talent over the last four classes.

Let’s revisit one of the most fun recruiting highlight tapes I’ve ever watched: Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Specifically, his sophomore highlights.

When I first saw this, I did not know that Foster was old for his grade level. My jaw dropped. But even if this tape was that of a junior or a senior, it would still be impressive. Foster hits in a way that you just rarely see. And while offenses have tried to get him to play in space more often, which reduces his ability to hit, he still sometimes unleashes it.

Saturday night, he’ll be going up against Leonard Fournette, arguably the most talented running back in the country. Like with Foster, the recruiting world knew about Fournette years before he signed. Watching him run, his style and balance reminded me of a bigger, faster Willis McGahee (before McGahee’s gruesome knee injury, of course). He was widely considered the best running back in a 2014 recruiting class that also featured Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Joe Mixon, Royce Freeman, Elijah Hood, Christian McCaffrey, Samaje Perine, and more.

This year’s game has recruiting stakes. Alabama has a lot of targets in Louisiana for the 2017 cycle.

Louisiana has been a consistent recruiting territory for the Crimson Tide under Nick Saban. Saban, of course, coached LSU for several years at the turn of the century. And with how much winning the Tide has done of late, Alabama is a threat to pull players out of any territory. With Louisiana being an extremely talented state, and a neighboring one at that, it’s a natural recruiting territory.

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This year, Alabama could end up with four four- or five-star players from Louisiana.

Receiver Devonta Smith, a four-star athlete out of Amite (La.) is considered by most to be a lock to the Tide due to a number of strong relationships with players and staff. Smith is so naturally smooth and has a knack for finding the football.

Other top Tide targets from Louisiana include defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis of Neville, edge rusher Chris Allen of Baton Rouge, and safety Todd Harris of Plaquemine.

I think the Tide land three of the four, though I am not sure which three. But if Alabama pulls off the sweep, it would be the first time under Saban that the Tide signed four prospects of that caliber, beating the 2009 and 2014 hauls that each had three. And it would be significant since LSU is the top competition for all four prospects.

It is also worth noting that five-star linebacker Dylan Moses, of the IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.), is actually from Baton Rouge. In my mind, he is a Louisiana prospect.

Alabama is yet again battling Ohio State for the No. 1 class. LSU is sitting pretty for another top-five signing day, but its coaching decision will impact it down the stretch. If Ed Orgeron keeps the job, LSU will be expected to recruit at perhaps an even higher level than it has been.

Elsewhere

LSU must do these four things to even have a chance to upset Alabama, Bill Connelly writes.

Richard Johnson writes about Alabama’s diversified running game. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” doesn’t really apply to Alabama, since the Tide was beating everyone already, but it has jumped on the trend of running the quarterback in a variety of different ways. It also helps to simplify coverages.

As a Rays fan, I was happy to see former Rays Joe Maddon and Ben Zobrist win a World Series with the Cubs. Who has the longest title drought in college football?

Jason Kirk’s watchability grid is the best way to set up the TV sets for the weekend.

My gambling picks for the week. I am 10-27 in bets decided by a field goal or less, which is terrible luck.

Why Big Ten schools might not like Friday night games, by Alex Kirshner.

Previously

I spoke to an economist on the College Football Recruiting Podcast about the true value, both in wins and dollars, of elite recruits. #Starsmatter