The Spring Prospectus is a daily series taking a quick look at each position group before UA beings spring practice. This list of position groups will be updated with links as each one posts: quarterback, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties and special teams.
One recruiting flip and one NFL Draft flip gave the University of Alabama reasonable hope of claiming the nation’s best running backs room.
Jase McClellan committed to Oklahoma in July of 2017. Two months later, Najee Harris began his freshman season at UA, entering as the No. 2 recruit in the nation according to the 247 Sports Composite. Neither were expected to be on UA’s campus for the 2020 season, but both will be, and are far from the only capable threats UA has at the position as it starts spring practice on March 13.
Top returners: Harris, after rushing for 1,224 yards, 13 touchdowns and setting the school record for single-season receiving touchdowns by a running back (seven).
Losses: Jerome Ford (transfer, Cincinnati).
Returning depth: Brian Robinson Jr., Keilan Robinson, Trey Sanders, Chadarius Townsend.
Early enrollees: McClellan (four-star from Aledo, Texas) and Roydell Williams (four-star from Hueytown, Alabama).
Harris should be the unquestioned No. 1 ball carrier, and the workload he receives could put him in line for history. He enters his senior season 1,215 yards behind Derrick Henry’s school record for career rushing yards, after rushing for 1,224 in 2019.
The workload he receives is less dependent on him and more dependent on the battle for carries behind him.
Last season, Brian Robinson Jr. received just 96 carries to Harris’ 209; as a result, Harris took 47.9 percent of UA’s carries, the most by a UA back since Henry’s 2015 Heisman Trophy season. Development from the Tuscaloosa native (441 yards and five touchdowns on those 96 carries) could give him an increase in snaps in 2020, but he’ll have to earn those snaps by holding off the next wave of UA ball carriers.
Sanders had a chance at a significant role on the 2019 team before his season-ending foot injury; the redshirt freshman will now compete with Brian Robinson Jr., Keilan Robinson (39 carries in 2019), McClellan and Williams for the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in the rotation.
Should UA find a second and third option it deems more valuable in 2020, it could limit the workload Harris has to carry. It could also serve as a nice swan song for Brian Robinson Jr., entering his senior season, or jump start the careers of Sanders, Keilan Robinson (sophomore) or the two early enrollees, McClellan and Williams.