The past has come back to haunt Bo Scarbrough, and Cam Sims is the friendly ghost.
Whenever Scarbrough, an Alabama junior from Northport, drops a pass during practice, Sims pops up with a reminder. Doesn’t matter that Scarbrough is a running back and Sims is a wide receiver.
“He made a catch at the Under Armour (All-America) Game on the sidelines, caught it with his fingertips,” Sims said. “I’ll be like, ‘The Under Armour Bo would have caught that.”
Present-day Scarbrough is a 6-foot-2, 235 bulldozer known for plowing through defensive lines out of the backfield. And Sims, who is three inches taller but 21 pounds lighter, posts up in the slot now.
Yet, the two are tied with the same number of receptions. Sims has three for 28 yards. Scarbrough, the Crimson Tide’s third-leading receiver, has three for 19.
“Who, Bo?” Sims said. “Nah, I wouldn’t have expected that.”
Remember, it has happened before.
All of the running backs who have played so far have actually been given a shot. Damien Harris has two catches for 4 yards, but that yardage is low because while one of his receptions went for 11 yards, the other was stopped 7 marks behind the line of scrimmage. Najee Harris has caught one pass for 10 yards.
Last season, Josh Jacobs had the most through-the-air action out of the running backs with 14 receptions for 156 yards. Jacobs, however, is recovering from a strained hamstring and hasn’t seen any game time yet. Scarbrough had just one more than he does now, and that’s in 13 games compared to two. Harris was the only one out of his position group to score this way, and he did so twice.
Going back even further, former Alabama running back Derrick Henry had a handful of shots come his way. In the season that led to his Heisman Trophy, Henry had 11 grabs for 91 yards.
“We’ve always tried to have the running backs involved in the passing game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Only it’s easier said than done.
“Sometimes they have responsibilities before they go out in terms of pass protections, so sometimes what the defense does determines whether they get out or they don’t get out,” Saban said. “Sometimes you free-release them and somebody else has to block, and if they rush, you have to block five-man protection and get the ball out hot, which we do that, too.”
There’s a lot that goes into it.
And although wide receiver Calvin Ridley is leading Alabama with 12 receptions for 127 yards a score, the Crimson Tide is actually involving all of its units. Quarterback Jalen Hurts spreads the wealth — oddly enough, he even managed to snag a reception himself on a batted pass. Tight ends have received more opportunities, as evident in Hale Hentges’ touchdown pass against Fresno State.
Now, it’s the running backs’ turn to catch one in the end zone.
“I think the system that we have right now allows us to do that,” Saban said. “I think all of our guys are capable of doing that.”