TideSports College Football Preview


Position coach: Burton Burns (11th season)
Returning starters: Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough
Starter lost: None

Top candidates 

Damien Harris led the team in rushing with 1,037 yards and 7.1 yards per carry. Bo Scarbrough rushed for 812 yards in 13 games, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, while leading the running backs in rushing touchdowns with 11 (only behind quarterback Jalen Hurts’ 13). Both entered the 2016 with little experience in meaningful situations during games after the departure of Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. Both played up to the standards expected, although better ball security is expected this season.


Josh Jacobs played in all 15 games and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. He’s the quickest at getting through the hole of the returning backs and his lateral quickness makes him a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. Freshman Najee Harris arrives as the top-ranked high school running back in the country, according to some recruiting analysts. He was impressive in the Crimson Tide’s open practice, especially in the passing game, where in open space he can be a handful for a defender to bring down or even get their hands on. Fans are excited about how new offensive cooordinator Brian Daboll might use him this season. Hillcrest High School’s Brian Robinson has also earned positive reviews. Robinson might earn a role on special teams even if he doesn’t compete for a starting running back spot right away.

Newcomer to watch

Najee Harris enrolled at UA in the spring as the most heralded prep running back in the country. Nothing he’s done during his time on campus has diminished that status.

You need to know

Bo Scarbrough was playing the best football of his career before he suffered a broken leg in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Clemson. He doesn’t look to have skipped a beat in fall camp.


The biggest question mark for the running back group might be in how the carries are divided. In 2015, Derrick Henry carried the ball 395 times. Last year Damien Harris led the running backs with 146 carries while Bo Scarbrough totaled 125. Josh Jacobs contributed 85 carries. Those are the three leading experienced back, but Najee Harris shows such promise it’s hard to imagine that he’ll not play a role in some capacity this season.

Key stat

Quarterback Jalen Hurts was second on the team in rushing yards (954 yards) and first in rushing touchdowns (13). Running is a big part of Hurts’ game, so he’ll still be a part of the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack in 2017.


“Running back is a position that you can’t have too many of. You can find creative ways to try to use them, and everyone will have a role if they earn that role. So, there’s good players with all five of those guys, really.”
–Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll