Developing freshman Jase McClellan ready for chance in Alabama football backfield

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Trey Sanders’ role in Alabama’s 2020 backfield may seem insignificant in terms of impacting winning, but it was not statistically insignificant. His 30 carries are fifth among freshman running backs in the SEC.

With Sanders out indefinitely, likely for the rest of the season, after injuries sustained in a car accident, another freshman will step into his place. It could be Roydell Williams, the four-star prospect out of Hueytown, a top-10 running back in the class of 2020.

It could also be Jase McClellan, another top-10 running back in 2020.

If UA is in a situation where a third running back is needed, Williams and McClellan are the top choices. If it is McClellan, it will be the culmination of a freshman season that has been one of significant development, even if that has yet to result in a carry.

“I think Jase is a guy who’s really stepped up as of late,” tight end Miller Forristall said. “It’s a year where guys can go up and down, in and out not only with injuries but with COVID now, so guys have gotten a lot more reps. I think Jase has done a great job of stepping into that role. He runs really, really hard. ... And he does a great job of finishing, even in practice, and that’s going to pay off in games when he starts to get more and more carries.”

That comes as no surprise to McClellan’s coach at Aledo High School, Tim Buchanan. Over his high school career, McClellan developed as a cutter and pass catcher, but, Buchanan said, “where he really stands out is when he lowers his shoulder and decides to gain yards after contact.”

Later in his high school career, McClellan started developing as a pass-catcher in a way that resembles Najee Harris, UA’s starter and record-holder for single-season receiving touchdowns by a running back. It got to the point that McClellan was useful as a decoy, opening things up for wide receivers Money Parks (current Utah receiver) and JoJo Earle (LSU commit) on the way to a state championship last year.

If McClellan gets carries, it likely will be  in games UA has well in hand. All of Sanders’ 30 carries came in games UA won by at least 19 points.

Sanders did get some early carries against Mississippi State, in the second quarter, when Brian Robinson Jr. exited with a minor injury. Since UA has had two off weeks — one by design and one due to COVID-19 issues at LSU — that gave Robinson time to heal. 

“He’s looked good since day one, like he’s been here for awhile,” nose guard DJ Dale said of McClellan. “He looks just like the old guys, and they’ve been doing a good job of coaching him up.”

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