Recruiting battles: Alabama vs. Georgia

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama takes the field on Saturday in the Georgia Dome, it will be a homecoming for nearly 20 Crimson Tide players who hail from the Peach State. Many of those players the UA coaching staff stole away from the team who will stand on the opposite sideline, the Georgia Bulldogs.

The most notable Georgia natives for Alabama this season include offensive lineman Chance Warmack and linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard.

Warmack, a native of Atlanta, never had a scholarship offer from UGA. At Alabama, he has developed into one of the top offensive linemen in the country and is projected to be a first-round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

Dickson and Hubbard had a little more hype coming out of high school. Both players were ranked in the ESPN 150, and they both had offers from Georgia.

Hubbard ultimately chose Alabama over Florida State and South Carolina.

But with Dickson, it came down to the Tide and the Bulldogs. The UGA coaching staff put the full-court press on Dickson, selling the potential ‘dream team’ recruiting class that year, but in the end, he committed to Alabama at the Under Armour All-America Game.

No recruiting class shows the progress UA has made in the state of Georgia like last year’s class. Of the 26 commitments, eight came from the Peach State, including ESPN 150 stars Brandon Greene, Dillon Lee and Geno Smith.

The most surprising might have been Lee, whose brother played for UGA. Despite the family ties, the younger Lee chose the Tide over the Dawgs and stuck to his commitment throughout the recruiting process. After enrolling early at UA, Lee has made a solid contribution as a freshman and will go against his brother this Saturday.

For Greene, he committed to Alabama early when he was still under the radar, but Georgia made a late run to try and keep him in state. Despite rumors and speculation that he would flip, the 6-foot-5 offensive lineman spurned UGA to stick with the Tide.

Smith, who has seen his playing time increase of late, will return to his hometown of Atlanta for Saturday’s SEC title game. His final decision came down to Alabama and Auburn, but Georgia was always in the mix.

The rest of the class included running back Kenyan Drake, tight end Kurt Freitag, defensive linemen Dakota Ball and Dalvin Tomlinson, and kicker Adam Griffith. Drake has rushed for 273 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.

Despite the success that UA head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have had in the Peach State in recent years, they have still missed on a couple targets who ended up in Athens, Ga.

In 2010, it was safety Jakar Hamilton who opted to stay in state and committed to Georgia over Alabama.

In 2011, the Tide felt good about their chances with ESPN 150 cornerback Malcolm Mitchell all the way up until he put on a Dawgs hat in his hometown of Valdosta, Ga. And who could forget Isaiah Crowell’s puppy on signing day to indicate he was signing with Georgia and not Alabama?

Last year, defensive end Jordan Jenkins turned down an offer from the Tide to stay in state and play for the Bulldogs. Jenkins was thought to be an Alabama-lean for much of the process, but that changed when he committed to UGA the same day that Alabama won its second national championship in the last three years.

There’s a reason the two schools are competing for an SEC championship and a spot in the BCS title game. They are two of the best when it comes to recruiting, year in and year out, and the recruiting battles will wage on long after Saturday’s game.