Roydell Williams, Jase McClellan have chance at minimal reps in Alabama football backfield

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports
Oct 3, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) hands the ball off to Alabama running back Jase McClellan (21) during the game with Texas A&M at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated A&M 52-24. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

It’s typically not difficult for Alabama freshmen running backs to get limited opportunities in their first season: UA has had at least one freshman running back crack the top four on the team in carries in seven of the last eight seasons, in some cases having two freshmen in that top four.

Thus far in 2020, only three running backs have gotten more than three carries. One of them is a freshman, and two more are poised to possibly create a top four.

Trey Sanders has been UA’s No. 3 back, taking 30 carries in his redshirt freshman season, but is unlikely to add more this season after injuries sustained in a car accident. If Alabama chooses to maintain an infrequently-used third running back, the top options are two true freshmen: Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan. Both have gotten little opportunity to date — just two carries between them, both by Williams — but UA coach Nick Saban sees them as ready if needed.

“We've been encouraged by both of those guys,” Saban said. “They haven't got a lot of opportunity ... but we certainly feel like they can contribute and they're very capable and now they're going to get a little more opportunity as running backs and in some situations on special teams.”

Both came to UA as highly-rated recruits: They were both top-10 running backs in the 2020 class according to the 247 Sports Composite, making UA the only school in the nation to sign two. McClellan was a four-star and top-10 prospect in the state of Texas, previously the top player in Oklahoma’s recruiting class. Williams, a Hueytown native, was a top-10 prospect in the state of Alabama.

The usage of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. ahead of them — the two combining for 161 of Alabama’s 226 carries (71.2%) — has left little opportunity for freshmen, and almost all of that has been soaked up by Sanders in garbage time. Twenty-three of his 30 rushing attempts have come in the fourth quarter, and Sanders did not play in UA’s closest games, against Ole Miss and Georgia.

With Sanders out of the picture for the foreseeable future, Williams and McClellan could have a chance to show a wider audience what they’ve shown their teammates on the practice field.

“Those two dudes have impressed me personally since fall camp because of the way they came in and just worked hard,” senior offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood said. “They take after Najee and B-Rob, two seniors on the team, and they’ve been working really hard just like everybody else.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson