TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As Alabama football coach, Nick Saban doesn’t root for one side of the ball over the other during practice. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t competitive.
Saban, a defensive coach by trade, often works with the defense, and his mood is determined by how well that unit looks in practice. While Saban may not be in competition with his offensive coordinators, he certainly isn’t opposed to getting after them when things aren’t going right.
Saban shared a story Monday about a time he was perturbed by Jimbo Fisher when the two were at LSU. Fisher, now the coach at Florida State, was Saban’s offensive coordinator (2000-04) at LSU, and would occasionally mix up things to confuse the defense.
“We were having a team run and they were running zone-read options and all that kind of stuff,” Saban recalled. “All of the sudden we sort of started running kind of RPOs [run-pass options], going team run when I’m worried about can we block them? Can we take on blocks, can we control blockers, and the ball comes spitting out of there. I can remember that’s one time that I threw a Nick fit — if you want to call it that.”
Saban’s comments were in jest, but one could only imagine the battles those two had when they were on the same staff. During their time together, Saban would pick Fisher for his “noon-time basketball” game because he was competitive and could shoot threes.
Saban and Fisher will square off Saturday night when No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State meet in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Fisher got word of Saban’s comments and gave his side of those battles.
“He’d get mad every now and then, but it was never in disgust or [something that] would separate us,” Fisher told reporters on Monday. “It was fun. I learned a lot of football and a lot of different ways in which you can practice and how we did things. It was very good.”
Since their time together in Baton Rouge, Saban and Fisher have each built their respective programs into national powers. Alabama has won four national championships and five SEC titles under Saban. Fisher has led Florida State to a national championship (2013) and three ACC championships.
Saban isn’t surprised by Fisher’s success.
“Of all the assistants that have gone on and have had whatever amount of success, Jimbo and I were probably as close as any of them in terms of philosophy and how we did things — how he did things, and how he liked to do things,” Saban said. “He’s a hard worker, pays attention to detail. Disciplined-oriented and how he thinks players should play, very aggressive in how he coaches players to do the things that they want to do that he would like for them to do, so that they can have a better chance to be successful.
“So there were a lot of similarities, philosophically and personality-wise in terms of how we went about things. Jimbo was always, in my mind, always one of the best play-callers, one of the best assistant coaches relating to players, teachers, that we’ve ever had on any of our staffs. We certainly appreciate the great work he did for us.”
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