The Tuscaloosa News will review the Alabama roster by examining each position group entering spring practice. The Crimson Tide held its first spring practice on Friday, March 8 and will resume after the university’s spring break ends on Monday, March 18.
Starter returning: Najee Harris
Departed: Ronnie Clark, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs
Others returning: Jerome Ford, Brian Robinson Jr.
Newcomers: No early enrollees
Confidence level: 8/10
Starting point: Not every college program can lose a 3,000-yard rusher and a potential first-round draft pick from the running back room but still feel good about what is coming back. Najee Harris split time with both Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs last year and may have been the most physically gifted of the three. He’s a load to bring down but also has good change of direction and a sense of how to make tacklers fall off him.
Brian Robinson Jr., a Hillcrest product, has also shown that he can be a capable back. He’ll have plenty of opportunities this spring with no early enrollees around. Jerome Ford ran hard as well in four game before he took his redshirt to finish the season. Harris is going to be a key player for the offense this fall. Whether he spends another year rotating with one or two other players is the primary question he’ll face.
To be determined: It would be nice to have an additional player or two with this group to spread the reps around a bit more, but that’s mostly picking nits. Two freshmen will arrive later this year to shore up the group, and there’s no reason to think the players on the roster aren’t durable enough to be fine in practice.
Alabama has always split the load among its top running backs, and it’s just a matter of who will be the top candidates alongside Harris. That could end up being one player, or it could end up being multiple, as it was last year. It could be that Harris takes the lion’s share of carries, or it could be that playing time is mostly even. Harris’ play and development this spring should have some say in that outcome. He could help his cause by continuing to grow as a pass-catcher and a blocker. Alabama seemed to trust other running backs more with those roles in the last two years, though Harris could be capable of taking those responsibilities.