This is the second in a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the running backs.
Alabama got what seemed to be an unexpected boost when Damien Harris opted to return for his senior season. The Crimson Tide did lose Bo Scarbrough, who declared for the NFL Draft, but retaining Harris certainly helps the unit. The running backs were dominant in 2017 even without the benefit of a consistent passing game to help loosen defenses up. That should change this season, so this could be a banner year for the running game.
UA has always utilized multiple running backs for major roles in its offense, save for 2015 when Derrick Henry carried the load. Harris, who rushed for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while averaging 7.4 yards per carry, is a given in 2018. The offense kept him fresh with him averaging 9.6 carries per game. That’s a luxury that could also extend to him the coming season with Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris poised for bigger roles. Jacobs battled injuries throughout much of 2017, but he averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Harris had his coming-out party in the second half of the national championship game against Georgia. He finished the season with 370 yards on 61 carries. Tuscaloosa’s Brian Robinson has major talent, and the coaching staff wants to find ways to use the former Hillcrest High School running back. He rushed 24 times in reserve duty for 165 yards. Overall, the running game produced 250.6 yards per game and 36 touchdowns.
It’s difficult for more than three running backs to have major roles throughout the season. With four great backs on the roster, this spring will begin to sort out what role each might will have. It’s easy to imagine Damien and Najee Harris as the front-runners. Jacobs’ quick-twitch athleticism is a skill that could serve Alabama’s offense well. His ability to stay healthy will likely tell the tale there. It’s easy to envision a role for Jacobs in the passing game, too. Robinson is the wildcard. His talent is easy to spot.