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Alabama Spring Football 2016: Next Man Up - Don't Sleep On Damien Harris

Last year's No. 1 all-purpose back, Damien Harris, was pressed into action as a true freshman. His versatility is his greatest asset as he comes into his own.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Featured running backs tend to garner all the attention.

Derrick Henry took the college world by storm with an SEC first, totaling 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries last season. Regardless of how talented he was, Alabama loses to Clemson if Kenyan Drake does not return a 95-yard kickoff for a touchdown. Drake, who endured multiple injuries, had to fight off being overlooked by the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Heisman winner.

With both guys heading to the National Football League, sophomore Bo Scarbrough is the trending topic for next season. Scarbrough, like Henry, is a physical specimen and one that Crimson Tide fans are ready to see. Opinions from media personnel, casual fans and the Las Vegas Super Book all point to the Tuscaloosa native for a breakout season.

Yet, Alabama has another sophomore vying for the role. Former five-star Damien Harris was among marquee names like Blake Barnett and Calvin Ridley, upon signing to Alabama in the 2015 recruiting cycle. He was the first Kentucky native since Shaun Alexander (1995-99) to sign with the Tide. Harris was dominant at Madison Southern High School in Berea, Ky., accounting for 6,717 career rushing yards and 111 scores. He turned down offers from Auburn, Ohio State, Arkansas and Kentucky to come to Alabama.

Harris, who then weighed 205 pounds, exploded on to scene at the 2015 Under Armour All- America Game. He shared the same stage with Barnett and Ridley, nevertheless, Harris tallied 122 yards rushing (game-record) and a touchdown on 16 tries in a 46-6 win for Team Highlight.

The college game, and the demands of Nick Saban, clearly impacted Harris as a freshman. But, he soldiered on, providing depth to a thin RB roster, and showcased his versatility along the way.

The 5-foot-11, 214-pound back ended 2015 as Alabama's third-best rusher, despite playing in 12 games. He amassed 157 yards on 46 carries, including a six-yard touchdown scamper against Charleston Southern. Harris received extensive playing time against the Buccaneers, as he went for a season-high 10 carries netting 44 yards.

While special teams posed a problem for him early on, Harris rebounded to finish second on the team with 174 kick return yards on nine returns. He stood third behind Henry and Drake in positions drills a year ago, but now Harris is rotating a leadership spot with Scarbrough. Throughout spring practice, the two have alternated heading a line of backs in drills under the watchful eye of coach Burton Burns.

Harris emerged as one of the leaders in the Speing weight room too, posting a time of 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 375-pound bench press, a 495-pound squat and a 35-inch vertical jump. His development has not gone unnoticed by teammates.

Rising junior defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand was one of two players that spoke with the media Wednesday during player interviews. He said a few things about Scarbrough, but really complimenting all the backs as a group.

"All of our backs are great," Hand said. "They are fast, they are strong and they hit the holes hard."

There is little doubt, barring a freshman explosion by B.J. Emmons or another, that Bo Scarbrough is the Tide's immediate future. However, keep your eyes on Harris as the Crimson Tide continues with spring ball in preparation for the 2016 season. He has the physical chops, size, leadership, speed, and familiarity with the college game now, and is poised to soon to come into his own.