Top recruiting 'what ifs' of 2013 season

Safety Landon Collins has played a key role in Alabama's success this season. AP Photo/Butch Dill

For every recruiting victory, there are always the ones that got away. Those misses are sometimes more haunting than others.

"They always seem to have a great game against you," one coach said. "They like to remind you what you’re missing."

We decided to take a look at the top recruiting "what ifs" for the 2013 season. Which players who were close to choosing another school are playing key roles for their teams this season? And how is their absence being felt at the programs they almost picked?

Last year, our recruiting what ifs featured T.J. Yeldon (Alabama over Auburn), Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina over Clemson and Alabama) and Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville over Miami). Here are this season’s hypotheticals.

(For a look at six undecided prospects from the 2014 class who could help swing next season's conference and national title races as true freshmen, check out this article from RecruitingNation's Jeremy Crabtree.)

Landon Collins, S, Alabama Crimson Tide

Almost picked: LSU Tigers

With physical play and remarkable ball skills, Collins has glossed over the loss of the injured Vinnie Sunseri from the Alabama secondary, a unit that has rebounded nicely since the Tide gave up 42 points in a Week 3 loss to Texas A&M (second nationally in opponent-adjusted Total Quarterback Rating allowed). Collins, a Thorpe semifinalist, is second on the team in tackles (51) and first in pass breakups (six). Not bad for a guy who didn’t get his first career start until October.

Remember that awkward scene in which Collins’ mom, while being interviewed by ESPNU's Dari Nowkhah, wanted him to go play for Les Miles at LSU? Alabama is OK with the way that one turned out, and the Tigers could definitely have used another stud to plug in after losing double-digit early departures to the NFL last offseason.