In Camar Wheaton, Alabama football getting elite runner with big-play potential
Recruiting the position as well as it has, Alabama football has consistently signed the next big thing at running back. The most recent one to fulfill that billing was Najee Harris, the five-star prospect in the class of 2017 that left UA as its leader in career rushing yards and career rushing touchdowns.
Camar Wheaton may be the next in line.
Wheaton signed with UA on Wednesday, the five-star running back out of Lakeview Centennial in Garland, Texas, signing on as the lone running back in the Crimson Tide’s 2021 recruiting class. According to Craig Haubert, ESPN’s College Football National Recruiting Coordinator, he may be the only prospect UA needs at the position in the future.
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“They are getting an elite back,” Haubert said. “He’s an interesting prospect because he’s not, in terms of measurable and stature, he’s a pretty average-sized kid, but you watch him on film and he’s kind of got a lengthy frame.”
Wheaton’s big play potential is obvious: once in his junior season, he took eight carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Where Wheaton seems poised for a strong UA career, Haubert said, is in the more refined aspects of his running style.
“I think the biggest thing high school backs struggle with when they get to the college level is, one, being asked to do things when they don’t have the ball in their hands. Blocking, those type of things,” Haubert said. “The other is things came easy at the high school level and they lack the vision and the patience. With the kind of zone scheme he played in high school, which I don’t think is going to be all that different from what Alabama will utilize, I think he’s patient enough to let things develop but gifted enough that once he sees it, he can go.”
That was an ability Harris did not have in high school, being able to stay inside the tackles when necessary, and one that was still being coached out of him well into his UA career. Wheaton, Haubert said, “is not hesitant to run between the tackles.”
Interior running, while important for the framework of an offense, may also go hand-in-hand with Wheaton’s skillset. What differentiates Wheaton from another recent UA signee from Texas — freshman Jase McClellan — is a more explosive running style, compared to McClellan’s style as defined by Haubert as a, “glider.” Wheaton’s explosive nature is reminiscent of Trent Richardson; although Richardson had more of a bruiser’s body than Wheaton, Wheaton can create yards after contact through explosiveness the way Richardson did.
It’s a trait that could help expedite Wheaton’s path to playing time, especially considering the rest that comes with almost all of Alabama’s offensive staff turning over this offseason.
“The two things that jump out to me that make him an elite back are his vision — he sees things and when he sees them he reacts really quickly — and he’s as explosive as any back in his class,” Haubert said. “When he sees a seam, it doesn’t have to be open very long. He puts his foot in the ground and he hits his top speed within a step or two.”
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