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LSU, Alabama tussle off field

SEC rivals reap gold

NEW YORK – These days, the Alabama-LSU rivalry is revved-up year-round.

The Tigers and Tide tussled for the top spot in the recruiting rankings Wednesday, with Nick Saban and Alabama closing strongly and even getting one Louisiana star to switch from purple and gold to crimson and white on signing day.

As if LSU fans needed another reason to seethe about Saban, the former Tigers coach who needed just two seasons in Tuscaloosa to wrest the SEC West away from Les Miles’ team.

Alabama went 11-2 last season and played for the Southeastern Conference championship, while LSU disappointed and finished 8-5 the season after winning the national championship in 2007.

On signing day, LSU and Alabama went at it again. and gave Alabama its top spot, just ahead of LSU.

LSU was No. 1 in the Scouts, Inc./ESPN rankings, with Alabama second. Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports also had LSU on top, with Alabama fifth.

Few coaches are as relentless as Saban and Miles when it comes to recruiting.

The next meeting on the field between the burgeoning rivals is Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa.

The other schools vying for the top spot were mostly the usual suspects: Southern California, Texas and Ohio State.

Florida coach Urban Meyer didn’t have many scholarships to hand out – most of his national championship team will be back next season – but what his class lacked in quantity it made up in quality.

One newcomer to the top 10: North Carolina, with coach Butch Davis. The Tar Heels haven’t had this type of recruiting success since Mack Brown was in Chapel Hill in the late 1990s.

Coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season at Michigan was a 3-9 debacle, but his first recruiting class drew top-10 rankings.

One of the best running back prospects in the country decided not to sign a letter of intent. Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., who has given an oral commitment to Miami, plans to mull his decision over for a few more weeks. Oregon and Kansas State are apparently still in the running.

LSU appeared to be on its way to being crowned the recruiting champion for 2009 early in the day, but several talented players who entered the day uncommitted picked Alabama and the Tide rose up the charts.

“We were able to attract maybe a half-dozen other players that weren’t committed to us that were outstanding national recruits,” Saban said. “During the thick of it, at the end with a bunch of national recruits, you’re going to get your share. We felt like we got our share today.”

The most notable was Dre Kirkpatrick, rated the No. 1 cornerback in the country by Rivals, who decided to stay close to his Gadsden, Ala., home and play for Saban.