Nick Saban on recruiting Leonard Fournette: 'One of the best ... we’ve ever seen'; Alabama gets closer look Nov. 7 vs. LSU _lowres

Alabama NCAA football coach Nick Saban talks with the media during his weekly news conference, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Vasha Hunt/AL.com via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Nick Saban isn’t surprised at what LSU running back Leonard Fournette is doing in Baton Rouge. Just like the Tigers coaches, Saban and his Bama staff saw this from the New Orleans product while recruiting him.

“We thought he was absolutely the best … one of the best running backs we’ve ever seen,” Saban said Wednesday. “He certainly hasn’t done anything to disappoint us in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish as a college player and maybe one of the most dominant guys in the country relative to what he does.”

No. 4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC) is off this week before the top-10 showdown against No. 7 (Alabama (7-1, 4-1) on Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa. There are plenty of connections between the two schools. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came to LSU from Bama over the off-season, and the two programs routinely battle over highly touted recruits.

One of those included Fournette, who chose LSU over Alabama. The Tide recruited him hard, with Saban visiting Fournette’s home and eating with his parents. Fournette has a secret ‘lofty’ yardage goal for the game against the Tide, too – something that’s still in tact, his former high school coach said recently.

Leonard Fournette walks off the field after the loss to Bama. (Travis Spradling)

Leonard Fournette walks off the field after the loss to Bama. (Travis Spradling)

Fournette leads the nation in rushing and is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. His size and speed aren’t the only two factors to his success this year, Saban said.

“Those two things help. He’s a very talented guy when it comes to those two things, but he’s also an outstanding competitor,” the coach said. “He’s very instinctive as a runner, which I think sometimes people don’t give guys enough credit for running the plays properly and understanding how to run the plays and read the blocks so you maximize the efficiency of that particular play, which he does about as well as anybody.”

More Saban on LSU

  • Saban on Steele, who served on his staff for two stints amounting to four seasons: “Kevin Steele is an outstanding coach. Did a really good job for us in every way coaching on the field, working with players, teaching players, great administrator, very well organized. He’s a really good football guy. Looks to me like their defense is playing really well. No surprise to us that he’s doing a really good job.”
  • LSU has passed for more than 200 yards in the last three games, something Saban was asked about: “I think they’ve got a really good offensive line. Obviously we talked about Leonard and what a great back he is, but I think they’ve made more explosive plays in the passing game. Their receivers have really played well and the quarterback has made some really good plays. That’s given them a lot more balance, makes them a lot more difficult to defend.”
  • Two of the nation’s best running backs will clash on Nov. 7: Fournette vs. Bama’s Derrick Henry. Saban on comparing the two: “I think both players in their own way are exceptionally good players. Leonard is fast, quick, very competitive the way he runs the ball. Plays with a lot of toughness. Derek is a taller, longer version of a lot of the same things in terms of his competitive spirit, hard to tackle.”

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