Deep Cuts: Tom Luginbill

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON– St. Augustine’s Leonard Fournette (5) runs for a touchdown after grabbing an interception from Archbishop Rummel High School in the last seconds of the fourth quarter at Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie, La.

Surely, you read the story I published this morning along with Scott Rabalais on the Cold War-style recruiting battle between LSU andAlabama.

You didn’t? Fix that. And read Mr. Rabalais’ column on what it means for LSU to keep Neville safety Hootie Jones in state.

I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with ESPN recruitnik Tom Luginbill talking about the battle between the Tide and Tigers, the perception of LSU losing in-state kids and his thoughts on the duel for Mr. Jones‘ services. Oh, and some guy who carries the football for St. Augustine named Leonard Fournette.

We didn’t agree on whether Nick Saban would pull Nikita Khrushchev-inspired shoe banging incident at SEC meetings. (Plus, I don’t think anyone confuses Saban for the former leader of the Soviet Union.) But Luginbill was informative. As such, I’ve decided to share a transcript of material that got left on the cutting room floor with you, dear reader.

Hootie Jones will be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and then in Baton Rouge for Texas A&M-LSU later this month. How do you see that process playing out before commits on Nov. 27?

The decision may lie with the type of relationship he has with Landon Collins, because you’re talking about a similar position and they’ll spend a lot of time together,” Luginbill said. “There’s some influence there in regards toAlabama. It’s so difficult to pull guys out of the state, but the ones that are north of Baton Rouge are easier than the ones south of Baton Rouge.”

 Obviously, there are close influences in West Monroe’s Cameron Robinson and Ouachita Parish’s Cameron Sims. How much sway might they have, considering their allegiance to the Tide?

“You would like to believe prospects are going to look at the bigger picture, look at their own critical set of factors and what’s important to them,” Luginbill said. “But let’s not be naive. When you have such a tight-knit group in that state andLouisianathis year, which is so strong top to bottom, those kids do have influence over one another. They do talk. They do spend time together. Kids want to win, and they’re going to ask the other good kids (to come play with them) and recruit them. That’s not just forAlabama, but for LSU too. It happens across the board.

“Where we see a lot of that is the Under Armour All-American game. We put together the roster, and then you get down there and all the kids are recruiting for each other. They’re all getting after it. There’s always going to be that influence there. The smart kids realize that’s a component that needs to be considered, but shouldn’t necessarily carry as much weight as other factors for long-term success.”

Should LSU be worried about that northeast corner of the state? Is there any reason why Alabama has found a toehold there?

“With LSU, there’s really only one true competitor, and it’sAlabama. “But LSU knows that. If LSU wants a kid, they’re rarely going to lose them to someone outside ofAlabama. That’s just the rivalry that’s been creative. The caliber player and the style of player seems to be inherent in that area, and both of those styles fit the types of programs at LSU andAlabamaas far as what they value in a prospect, and that’s what creates that competitiveness.”

LSU tends to fill half of its signing class with in-state prospects. Bama, meanwhile, is at about a quarter and spot recruits nationally. The ones the Tide have plucked in the past have been high profile. Even if LSU keeps the bulk from decamping, does that change outside perception?

“If you look at sheer numbers, thenAlabamahasn’t won the most battles,” Luginbill said. “What happens is if it’s one high-profile guy here, or another high-profile guy here, it puts more stature and exposure on that one player and creates the overhype. When it was an Eddie Lacy, or now that’s a Cam Robinson or a Landon Collins, those guys are so high profile that it probably makes it a bigger deal than it really is. At the end of the day, would LSU trade one player for securing five? Absolutely, they would. Do you want to keep everybody at home? There’s no question, and you have the luxury, by and large of doing that, because you don’t have another BCS competitor in that state. I do believe the nature of the player and the hype of the player can create a little big bigger deal than it actually is.”

So it sounds like it’s rooted in a concern, founded or unfounded, that the fence built around Louisiana might be in jeopardy?

“There’s some validity to that. WithAlabama, they have such deep-rooted ties in the state ofGeorgia, as well asFlorida. They can also dip into other areas — Trey DePriest comes to mind fromOhio; Cyrus Kuoandijo is fromMaryland. They’ve gone a little more national in their efforts when they’ve needed to. LSU has basically relied upon their state, eastTexasalong the I-10 corridor and then down intoFlorida. But they don’t have the same presence asAlabamadoes in the state ofGeorgia. They need to rely upon making sure those kids stay home.”

But is this a year where the pool or well of talent is so deep in Louisiana that, if you lose two or three prospects, it’s not a major blow?

“Oh, yeah. What ends up happening is you end losing a guy toAlabamathat is a priority for you, but you sign the other 15 or 16. At the end of the day, I still look at that as a win.”

 Now, let’s talk about Leonard Fournette. It seems he’s got the opposite situation from Hootie. He hasn’t talked about his visits or favorites or divulged many details. Has that kept oxygen from stoking a fire of sorts around his recruitment?

“He absolutely has, and it has reduced it. It’s been for his own good and probably for his own well being from a mental standpoint. The more you talk, the more information you divulge, the more clutter there is about it. When you just say, ‘Guys I’m not going to talk about, I’m not going to tip my hand,’ for the most part nobody has anything to write What’s it’s done is lessened the pressure on the kid and allowed him to go through the process at his own pace, and to some degree I’d agree with you: It’s allowed a kid to be a kid.”

Do you think he’s sort of set an example for the top-rated prospect in a class should handle the process?

“I wish more kids did it that way, it’s the safer way to go. It alleviates pressure. It allows kids to enjoy the process more instead of getting caught up in it. At the end of the day, these are 17-year old kids that haven’t set on foot on a college campus or football field. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s going to pan out.”