The names of the Alabama running backs to come through the program in the Nick Saban era includes two Heisman Trophy winners, a Heisman Trophy finalist, an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and two NFL Pro Bowlers.
Yet for the all the success previous running backs had at Alabama, it is Damien Harris that tops them all in one category: yards per carry. The UA junior is averaging 8.24 yards per carry this season, totaling 906 yards on 110 rushes. That’s nearly 1.14 yards better than his total last year (7.1), which would also lead all Saban-era backs (among backs with at least 100 carries in a season).
Bo Scarbrough’s 6.5 yards per carry last season would be next closest followed by Eddie Lacy’s 6.48 average in 2012.
Asked if he thought he should get the ball more than his current average of 9.2 rushes per game, Harris played the part of an excellent teammate. He deferred to the coaching staff.
“I’m just here to do whatever’s best for the team,” Harris said. “A part of that is trusting in the coaches, trusting in the game plan they have set up, so I don’t think anything about that.
“Whatever the coaches think is best for this team, that’s what they’re going to do and it’s our job as players to believe in them, trust in them and believe that they have the best interest of the whole team at heart. So, there’s really no response to that at all.”
Alabama fans have certainly have had responses, especially after the Iron Bowl, during which Harris rushed the ball just six times and averaged 8.5 yards per carry. That led many fans to question the breakdown of carries.
However, Scarbrough also only received six carries and he averaged 7.7 yards per carry. And that’s not including sophomore Josh Jacobs, who might be the most explosive back on the team. He also rushed six times and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
Earlier this season UA coach Nick Saban made the observant point that Harris’ production this season might be because he’s split carries and stayed healthy.
“Maybe one of the reasons he is healthy and he’s staying healthy and able to do what he’s doing is that we’re playing more guys at the position and he doesn’t have to play as many plays,” Saban said. “I’d rather see him do that over the long haul of the season rather than start running him 30 times in a game and all of a sudden, he’s not able to run at all.
“I do, in all honesty, when we’re standing on the sidelines, and we have somebody that’s hot that’s running well and making yards, we’ll play that guy a little more. But still, we’re not going to try and kill the guy or wear him out.”
Harris is willing to do what the team needs, and he trusts the coaching staff more than he does fans’ opinions.
“It doesn’t really matter what people think, who should get the ball, what we should run on offense,” Harris said. “I mean no offense, but I think Coach Saban knows what he’s doing, he’s been here building this for a while and he’s had a lot of success. So, I think that what he says is probably what’s best for this team, and I guess we’ll just go from there.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
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