The Alabama Crimson Tide don't need much of a boost on the recruiting trail considering Nick Saban's prestige and the program's recent run, but it appears as if they may have an advantage in the recruitment of 4-star tight end Tyler Luatua.
Luatua is an elite 2014 prospect, and he's one of the better players from the state of California. He's ranked as the No. 1 overall tight end and the No. 7 player from California, both according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
As is becoming customary with big-time recruits, Luatua has a high interest in the Crimson Tide. As is the custom with many great recruits in Pac-12 country, he also has a high interest in the USC Trojans.
According to Andrew Bone of TideSports.com, those two programs are his top schools:
Alabama's best shot at landing a prospect from the Golden State is likely with Luatua. He offers a variety of positions at the next level which includes tight end, H-Back, or linebacker. Luatua likes to keep a low profile, and Alabama and USC are his top two schools. Notre Dame has also done a great job staying in the mix. The Tide staff is probably looking forward to hosting another legacy on campus.
"I have my brother there," Luatua told Rivals.com. "He is the closest thing to home if I go there. He said the coaches there are good. Nick Saban is really good."
If you didn't connect the dots yet, it's very much so worth noting that Luatua is the younger brother of Isaac Luatua, who was part of the Crimson Tide's 2011 class. It's obvious from the quotes above that having him there would offer Tyler that slice of home that can often times be missing for recruits traveling out of state.
Here's what La Maranda head coach Mike Moschetti had to say about the family ties, per Bone:
"I think it will have a little bit of an impact on him," Moscetti said of the advantage of Tyler's brother on campus in Tuscaloosa. "UCLA recruited Issac really hard. I think you can count on one hand the number of kids from California who have signed with an SEC school the past few years. Isaac fell in love with coach Pendry and coach Mac [Jim McElwain]. He traveled to Tuscaloosa and fell in love with it.
"The easiest thing for Issac to do was to go to UCLA. He could have played as a freshman. He tripped to Alabama and decided he wanted to play for the best and compete against the best. He isn't going to be one who tells Tyler he better go to Alabama because he is there though. From a family standpoint it's a perfect situation though."
Does the family connection give Alabama the edge in this recruiting race?
One would be naive to think that it's not going to play a factor. A point that's not brought up enough is the fact that these recruits are just like any other high school student going away to college. Sometimes it can be a rough transition—especially going out of state—so having that family tie can be huge.
That said, if he were to go to USC he would be about a half hour away from home, so that's where the Trojans have a big advantage.
Frankly, if Alabama is going to win Luatua over, it will be because of the championship potential the program possesses, and what it can offer him as a football player—not the family ties.
Bone's report mentioned that Luatua can play tight end, h-back or linebacker, and those are all positions that are featured heavily at Alabama. As a tight end, Luatua can be a big-time backup behind 5-star 2013 recruit O.J. Howard, and Saban does like to use multiple tight end packages. If Luatua projects as an h-back, that's also a position that is used plenty in Alabama's offense.
With his talent level and skill set, Luatua could be a very valuable option in Alabama's offense. It's worth noting that he also fits the mold of a linebacker in the Crimson Tide's 3-4 scheme.
The best pitch Alabama has is the potential that Saban brings home yet another crystal ball though, and you'll be hard-pressed to convince me that realistic championship aspirations aren't a huge draw with elite recruits.
Why do you think Alabama has been so successful in recruiting? If you're not playing the game to win it all, why exactly are you playing?
Alabama offers football players with a winning program, a championship culture and extremely high standards. Any football player worth his salt will be drawn to what the Crimson Tide have to offer.
Say what you will about Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans, but right now, the culture of their football program is nowhere near that standard.
If Alabama wins over Luatua, his brother may play a role, but it's the chance to win a crystal ball that will give the Crimson Tide the edge over USC.