Alabama's Nick Saban on LSU's Leonard Fournette: Nobody would put such an offensive talent on defense, 'not even me' _lowres

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette shrugs off Alabama defensive lineman Jarran Reed last season in Tiger Stadium. The Tigers will try to end Bama's four-game win streak in the rivarly Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Nick Saban and Alabama aggressively recruited LSU running back Leonard Fournette out of high school, but it was always as a running back, he said Wednesday.

And you’re crazy if you think Fournette should have played linebacker in college.

“It’s never crossed my mind,” he said when asked about it Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. “We never gave him that option, never talked to him about that. Never thought he’d be anything but an outstanding running back. I’m sure if he wanted to be a linebacker, he could be a pretty good one, but I never really ever gave it a thought. Ever.

“When you can play like he can on offense, you don’t ever put a guy like that on defense. Not even me. Nobody.”

Saban’s Tide (7-1, 4-1) host Fournette and LSU (7-0, 4-0) on Saturday night in a duel pitting two squads inside the top 4 of the first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday. LSU is No. 2 and Bama is No. 4.

Saban lauded Fournette’s skills, as he has all of last week and earlier this week. Fournette chose LSU over Alabama in a heated recruiting battle that swung back and forth throughout a multi-year process.

A New Orleans native, Fournette decided to stay in state to “be different,” he’s said in the past.

(Bill Feig)

(Bill Feig)

Saban has noticed the progression from Fournette as a freshman last season to the one this year who leads the nation in rushing and is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner.

“Leonard was an outstanding player last year,” when asked how Fournette’s grown from last season. “Maturity, confidence, knowledge and experience. Very instinctive as a runner. Makes a lot of people miss. He has enough power to break tackles when he needs to. His yards after first contact are phenomenal. We’ve always known he was a good receiver and there’s been more of that this year.”

More LSU Football