News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Saban, Fisher preach execution

By Josh Cooper · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Even if you didn't know Florida State's Jimbo Fisher spent years working for Alabama's Nick Saban, you could sense the connection between the two in a brief telephone conversation.

Littered within Fisher's sentences rests two of Saban's buzzwords — process and consistency.

For example, when asked about how to get more production out of Florida State's offense, Fisher said:

"I think putting them in the right position and playing them with more consistency and execution, because execution is where it's going to be — the process of playing, not the result of playing."

Saban, the Tide's head coach, and Fisher, FSU's offensive coordinator, represent one of the several coaching links between the two schools as No. 22 Alabama (3-1, 2-1 SEC) and Florida State (2-1, 0-1 ACC) roll toward Jacksonville, Fla., for Saturday's showdown. Coverage starts at 4 p.m. on WHNT-19.

In 2000, Saban hired Fisher from Cincinnati to coordinate his offense at LSU. Three years later, the two won a national championship, and during Fisher's seven years as a coach in Baton Rouge, La., his offenses were ranked in the top 20 in either passing, scoring or total offense in the NCAA six times.

Also, Kevin Steele, Alabama's defensive coordinator, was Florida State's linebackers coach from 2003-06 before joining the Crimson Tide. Alabama defensive backs coach Kirby Smart was a graduate assistant at Florida State.

FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews won two national championships while playing for Alabama. According to the Crimson Tide media guide, Andrews lettered in 1963 and '64.

Alabama graduate assistant Travis Trickett is the son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett.

While the connections each make for some drama, Saban and Fisher's might be the most intriguing.

When both were at LSU, Saban's defense and Fisher's offense battled against each other during practice. When Saban beat Fisher, he would pat him on the back and say, "That's pretty good, isn't it?"

Said Fisher: "We talked a lot even when we were on the staff. He handled the other side of the ball, so he had to stay close to see what was going on, but we developed a good relationship there."

This past offseason, Fisher's contract with LSU ended, and he weighed his options.

Fisher was interested in the UAB head coaching vacancy but was informed the day school officials were supposed to meet with him that they were going in another direction.

Saban called Fisher and asked him if he wanted to coordinate Alabama's offense. He thought about it but turned down the job.

"It was very tough on me," Fisher said. "We discussed it, and my wife and I, we tried to make a decision based on what was best, where we thought we needed to go at that particular time."

Wanting to learn from Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, the winningest coach in college football history with 368 wins, Fisher landed in Tallahassee, Fla.

"If you were a head coach for 36 years and you won 10 games a year, you would still be behind him in total wins," Fisher said. "You think about that. That's an amazing stat, and to be under a guy like that, that was as big a factor as anything."

Despite all the crossover between coaches, Saban said he understands that it still comes down to the players.

"Whether you know the offense or they know the defense, they still don't know when you're going to do what," Saban said. "It still comes down to the players being able to execute."

No. 22 Alabama (3-1) vs. Florida State (2-1)

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Line: Florida State by 21/2.

TV/radio: WHNT-19 will carry the CBS television broadcast, while you can catch the radio broadcast on AM-1400, AM-730, AM-770, FM-93.9 and FM-92.5.

Players to watch: Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson. He had a less-than-stellar game against Georgia last week, completing 48.5 percent of his passes.

Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford also has had his problems this season. He has completed 54 percent of his passes and has 600 yards in Florida State’s three games, but much of the strength of his stats came from his 332 yard performance against UAB in Florida State’s second game of the season.

Key matchup: Alabama coach Nick Saban versus FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. During their time at LSU, Saban and Fisher — then the Tigers’ offensive coordinator — matched wits and schemes in practice. This will be the first time since then they’ve met on the field.

Weather: 86 degrees with isolated thunderstorms at kickoff.

Last meeting: Alabama 8, Florida State 7 on Oct. 12, 1974.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Florida State 21.

Josh Cooper, Daily Sports Writer

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