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January 9, 2012

Alabama-Louisiana crossovers are rare

When LSU and Alabama took the field Monday night in the BCS National Championship Game, their success was be a testament to keeping hold of your local talent.

Both schools have 13 home-grown starters in their lineup.

More impressive, however, is their ability to keep their home-grown talent away from each other.

Unlike many other huge regional rivalries, it's almost unheard of for the schools to land commitments from the other's state.

Alabama counts just four players on its roster from the state of Louisiana. LSU has just six Alabama players.

"Growing up in the state it's pretty much inbred that if you're a good athlete in terms of football you're going to take your goods to Alabama or Auburn," said Alabama native and former Crimson Tide fullback Martin Houston, who is now a radio talk show host in Tuscaloosa. "When you decide otherwise it's almost like you betrayed your family and friends."

The idea goes both ways.

"Even though the (New Orleans) Saints are now a strong NFL team, the state of Louisiana has traditionally not had any other big rooting interests other than LSU sports," Brian Perroni, the Rivals.com recruiting analyst who covers the state, said. "Kids are ingrained from a young age to be huge Tiger fans. They grow up watching LSU football every Saturday in the fall, and it is truly seen as the team of the entire state.

"There is a lot of pressure on kids to stay and play for their home-state school. Coaches, classmates and members of the community seemingly expect them to choose LSU if given the opportunity. A lot of high schools have purple and gold as their colors as a close tie to the school. It truly is tough from a cultural standpoint for a kid to leave the state if LSU is an option."

While this may seem like standard fare for big-name rivals, it really isn't.

Michigan and Ohio State routinely sign players from each other's states. This year's Michigan roster had nearly two dozen kids from Ohio. And Desmond Howard, who won the Heisman Trophy for Michigan in 1991, played high school football in Cleveland, Ohio.

To some extent, the same holds true with the Red River rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas. While Texas may not need to look past its border much, Oklahoma draws many players from the Lone Star State - including two of its best-ever running backs: 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims and recent star Adrian Peterson.

Alabama and LSU are different.

The state of Alabama has produced 33 players rated as four- and five-star prospects by Rivals.com the past three seasons. Saban signed 19 of them and is making another haul this year.

It's the same in Louisiana. Miles has signed 23 four- and five-star rated prospects out of Louisiana in the last three years. He currently has commitments from eight in the 2012 class.

It's hard to imagine either school ever making inroads in the other's state - but Alabama has made a splash this year in Louisiana, which is part of the reason it currently has the No. 1 recruiting class (LSU is fifth).

Alabama got an early commit from four-star linebacker Denzel Devall of Bastrop, La. Then, last week, it scored a major haul when it convinced five-star defensive back Landon Collins of Geismar, La., to come to Tuscaloosa.

Collins' decision incensed LSU fans. It even stunned his mom, who criticized his decision on national television moments after he made the announcement.

And while the surreal scene stunned the TV audience, it didn't surprise Houston. He knows what can happen when a recruit jumps to the other state.

"I've seen young men go out of state - a couple have gone to LSU," he said. "When they come back, it's hard for them to get back in the community because there's a feeling that they walked out on their family or betrayed their family."

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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