There’s been much discussion this season of Alabama’s running backs and how carries are divided in such a way that it allows the backs to stay fresh.
A closer examination of the numbers reveals that it is not a marked difference in how the carries were divided a year ago compared to this season, at least among the starters. Junior running back Damien Harris averaged 10.8 carries through the first eight games in 2016 and when you factor in the fact that he was banged up in two games it was closer to 13.5 carries per game. This season, Harris averages 10.1 carries per game.
However, in the only game competitive through four quarters, against Texas A&M, Harris carried the ball 14 times.
The way the games have played out this season, Harris and his running back stable mate, Bo Scarbrough, haven’t had to play full games. That’s what has kept the running backs fresh this season.
Regardless, Harris is tied for the team led in carries with among running backs with 81. Scarbrough also has 81. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has 84, although that includes sacks in the total. Freshman Najee Harris has 49 carries and Josh Jacobs, who dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, has 24.
“We’re hopeful that it pays off and we’re hopeful that every one of our guys are full strength, getting better, feeling more confident,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “Ready for each game one at at time as we play them down the stretch as the SEC season really starts for us. Hopefully each one of these running backs that can make a significant contribution to our team are ready to play our best football of the year.”
Harris, who is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, said he’s content with how the coaches are dividing the carries. He doesn’t necessarily think it’s a plan to save wear and tear on the running backs as much as how the games have been played.
“Not necessarily. The coaches do a good job of trying to delegate who goes in when and in what situations, and they just do whatever they can to put us in the best situation to win,” Harris said. “So, I think however they’re doing the rotation has worked so far this year, not just with the running backs, but with the entire team. So, those decisions are kind of left up to the coaches, and they do a good job of that.”
Scarbrough has been solid this season, but he hasn’t shown the home run potential he closed with last season. His longest run this season is 21 yards.
Saban remains confident in his big back that a breakout game could come at any time.
“I think Bo is a guy that can certainly be a physical, dominant sort of player and at times this year he has been that,” Saban said. “Because Damien Harris has played extremely well, maybe he hasn’t had quite the opportunities that he had a year ago. But I’m sure that at some point in time this season, you’ll see him sort of break out and show what he can do and his presence will be felt. We hope it’s in each and every game from here on out that he’ll make that contribution and we know we have a lot of confidence in his ability to do that.”