LSU prides itself on recruiting, especially keeping the best players from Louisiana from leaving the state.

It prides itself on having really good running backs.

So it really prides itself on having really good running backs from Louisiana play for the Tigers.

Think Leonard Fournette. And Derrius Guice. And, most recently, Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Go back a ways and think Kevin Faulk and Dalton Hilliard.

Go way, way back and think Terry Robiskie, Charles Alexander and, of course, Billy Cannon.

And there are many others.

Travis Etienne is a really good running back and he’s from Jennings, La. That’s Acadiana, about 90 miles west of the LSU campus.

He plays for Clemson and he’s the 2-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

He’ll play against LSU in the CFP Championship on Jan. 13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

He should have been an LSU Tiger. Instead he’s a Clemson Tiger.

How did that happen, Ed Orgeron?

“I wonder how it is, too,” said Orgeron, who went from LSU defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator to interim head coach to full-time head coach while Etienne was picking a college.

Orgeron said he increased the Tigers’ pursuit of Etienne after being named full-time head coach at the end of the 2016 regular season. But like so many defenders pursuing Etienne, he could never catch up.

He sees the success Etienne has had at Clemson. He knows one of the biggest threats Clemson possesses in its effort to take the national championship away from LSU is Etienne.

And – “I’m sick to my stomach,” he said. “We wanted Etienne at the end, but it was too little, too late.”

Recruiting is a tricky process. Especially at a primary position such as running back. Really good ones will go to the NFL before they become seniors. You need more than one really good one each season. You’re not going to get every one you pursue.

You have to cover your bases. That means most seasons you’re going after 3, 4 or 5 really good ones, knowing you won’t get all of them.

It gets muddled. LSU was going after a bunch of running backs. Etienne was one of them.

Clemson went after him first. Clemson was coming off a national championship.

LSU was coming off a coaching change, having fired Les Miles early in Etienne’s senior season in high school and naming Orgeron as interim head coach and vacillating before naming him full-time head coach.

Orgeron said the Tigers were pursuing 2 other really good running backs “we thought we were getting.” One of them was top-ranked Cam Akers, who signed with Florida State.

“We thought if we offered someone else,” Orgeron said, “we may lose them.”

They did. They “got shut out,” Orgeron said.

Orgeron said LSU should have recruited Etienne “at an earlier age,” “should have offered him earlier.”

“We want to keep the best in-state,” Orgeron said. “He’s one that got away.”

Etienne, a 4-star prospect and the No. 9-ranked player in Louisiana, committed to Clemson in late January, 2017.

It was a coup for Clemson – and a big loss for LSU.

There are lots of good players and schools recruit more than they can sign because they know they can’t sign all the ones they recruit.

Others have gotten away. Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor grew up in Baton Rouge and went to Florida State.

But they never played against LSU for a national championship.

When Etienne spurned the flagship school in his home state, that left LSU with one running back committed to its 2017 class.

His name is Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

He’s from Baton Rouge.

He’s really good too.

He stayed home.

He’ll be playing against Clemson in the championship game.