This is the second in a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s fall football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the running backs.
Some may view veteran running backs coach Burton Burns as having the easiest job on staff this season. After all, Burns has five scholarship running backs, all highly skilled, all highly coveted, in which to mold.
On the flip side, some may view Burns as having one of the most difficult on staff this season. After all, Burns has five highly skilled running backs to mold. How does one divide carries among a group that is all capable?
The group became less crowded when B.J. Emmons opted to transfer from the program earlier this month.
Three experienced running back return in Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Josh Jacobs. Harris might have had the quietest 1,000-yard season in program history. Scarbrough showed power and speed when healthy. Jacobs added a splash with quick-cut ability and agility.
Harris’s 1,037 rushing yards on an astounding 7.1 per carry was a team best. A bizarre side not on Harris’ otherwise outstanding season is that he scored only two rushing touchdowns. That doesn’t mean much, especially considering Scarbrough, at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, is an appetizing goal-line ballcarrier.
Scarbrough was really starting to come into his own in 2017. A broken leg in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game wasn’t the ending he or the team wanted, but he’s healthy and ready to go as fall camp starts.
Jacobs was second in the group of running backs, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. His shiftiness, vision and speed to get through a hole makes him a exciting player.
New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll must feel like a kid in a candy store with so many options available at his disposal. One area not particularly utilized in the Lane Kiffin area was the use of running backs as receiving targets. Will Daboll utilize them more in the passing game?
Much has been written about freshman Najee Harris. His high school exploits speak for themselves. By all accounts, Harris isn’t an attention-seeking player, and that personality trait will make him a favorite of UA head coach Nick Saban. Scouts label him as one of the best high school running backs to come out in the last decade. A player of his talents don’t usually have to wait long to make their contribution, however this UA backfield is crowded.
Brian Robinson is a local product, from Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa. By all reports, he had a solid spring practice. Robinson could be a solid special teams contributor and possibly more given how things shake out in the backfield.
This is a backfield that won’t have to be carried like Derrick Henry’s 2015 season when the majority of the burden fell on him. The hardest part with this group will be dividing carries to all of the talented players.