The student has become the teacher, even after switching schools.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has been the boss of multiple current head coaches around the nation. Learn, grow and move on. The Crimson Tide’s first game is against one of them: Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
“Jimbo was always in my mind (as) 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,” Saban said Monday. “We certainly appreciate the work he did for us.”
Fisher worked under Saban for five seasons at LSU as an offensive coordinator. When Saban left for the Miami Dolphins in 2005, Fisher stayed in Louisiana for another two years until ultimately joining the Florida State staff. Fisher is going into his eighth season at Florida State. Saban is entering his 11th now with Alabama.
Because of their shared history, comparisons have been drawn. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was interested in FSU before choosing UA, pegged them as real business-like.
“They’re not going to play around with you,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re going to joke around behind closed doors, but in this type of setting, they’re not going to be clowning around. They’re going to show you it’s strictly business and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll. The Seminoles are No. 3. When it comes to season openers, there’s never been a more significant matchup.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who will be calling the Sept. 2 game on ABC and has covered both teams in the past, can see similarities between the two masterminds but also recognizes that Saban and Fisher are still different.
“I don’t know if anybody’s quite like Coach Saban and just his approach,” Herbstreit said last Wednesday on a teleconference. “But I do think any time you’re an assistant coach and a coordinator, you tend to pick up on some things.”
That’s true, but it doesn’t mean things are replicated.
“I’ve formed my own ideas,” Fisher said Monday in a press conference in Tallahassee, Fla. “I don’t think you borrow from anybody. You learn from people, and you formulate it into what you think is appropriate.”
Neither coach had anything negative to say about the other.
There are stories between the two, though. Saban even had Fisher on his notorious noontime basketball league back in the day. So, they’re not only former colleagues but also friends.
And with that comes the occasional drama.
“The one story that I could tell was we were having a team run and they were running zone-read options and all that kind of stuff,” Saban said. “All of sudden we sort of started running kind of RPOs, 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.”