Leonard Fournette is the runaway Heisman Trophy favorite at this point of the season, and Alabama coach Nick Saban is not surprised in the least.
Saban unsuccessfully attempted to recruit Fournette to Alabama two years ago, and had to stop himself on Wednesday before giving the running back an impressive superlative.
“We thought he was absolutely the best…” Saban said, before correcting himself.
“…one of the best running backs that we’ve ever seen. He certainly hasn’t done anything to disappoint us in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish as a college player. I think he’s a phenomenal player and maybe one of the most dominant guys in the country relative to what he does.”
Saban despises making comparisons between players, but he offered up a mini “tale of the tape” breakdown of Fournette and Alabama back Derrick Henry.
“Leonard is fast, quick, very competitive [in] the way he runs the ball,” Saban said. “Plays with a lot of toughness.
“And, you know, Derrick is, you know, a taller, longer version of a lot of the same things in terms of his competitive spirit. He’s hard to tackle, and does a nice job of executing not only when he has the ball, but when he has to block and do other things.”
Henry is perhaps Fournette’s biggest challenger for the Heisman. Saban said “more opportunities” and “more confidence” are two of the biggest reasons Henry has been able to grab the national spotlight.
“He gets in a rhythm,” Saban said. “The more he carries the ball, the better he gets.”
The junior will likely bolt for the NFL draft after the season, but Fournette, a sophomore, will be back for more in 2016.
Saban has been a longtime proponent of the three-year rule, though he reneged a bit on Wednesday, saying that some special players would be able to pull off the two-and-done format.
“I do think there are some guys out there, probably more at skill positions — receiver, maybe running back — that you could make a case that those guys could make it in the league,” he said.