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2019 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview: Running Backs

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Welcome to the Najee and Brian show, everyone.

NCAA Football: Mercer at Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Running back was set to be as ridiculously deep as usual coming into fall camp, with top end veteran talent leading a young phenom in Trey Sanders. Unfortunately fate stepped in and Sanders is injured, probably for the entire season. Alas, the veterans will be counted on even more than expected, but they should be more than capable of shouldering the load.

The Star

#22 Najee Harris - 6’2” 230 lb. junior

NCAA Football: Alabama A Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The #1 overall recruit in the 2017 class according to Rivals, Najee came to Tuscaloosa in perhaps the most loaded offensive class in college football history - a five-star at QB, RB, three at WR, and two at OT. He immediately endeared to Crimson Tide fans not only for his freakish size and athletic ability, but also his childlike demeanor and heartbreaking story of homelessness growing up.

Harris was able to get on the field as a true freshman, but a loaded running back room limited his opportunities. He was introduced to the college football world with a breakout second half performance in the comeback against Georgia in the 2017 national title game, and managed to become a rotational back in his sophomore campaign while playing with two upperclassmen who would both be drafted, Josh Jacobs going in the first round. Now it is Najee’s opportunity to shine.

The best recent comparison for Najee at Alabama would be current Seattle Seahawks back Bo Scarbrough. Very similarly sized, poor Bo had a star-crossed career with injuries, but when healthy was powerful enough to run through tackles, fast enough to take one to the house with ample ability to make people miss. Najee has all of the tools as evidenced by his per carry average north of six yards since he arrived, and even had a reputation as a superior receiver coming in. We haven’t seen that side of him yet, but all indications are that the backs will be very involved in the passing game.

It’s your show this year, Najee. Go get it.

The Understudy

#24 Brian Robinson, Jr. - 6’1” 226 lb. junior

NCAA Football: Alabama A Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Another big, physical back, Brian Robinson will get his first opportunity to run with the first team offensive line. He isn’t so much a change of pace for Najee as more of the same, and will be counted on to keep the offense moving when Harris rests. He too was highly rated in the 2017 class out of nearby Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa, earning four stars and ranked as the #8 RB prospect in the nation on the 247 composite. The coaches have been singing Robinson’s praises throughout camp, and it is exciting to see what he can do in a bigger role.

The Change-Up

#27 Jerome Ford - 5’11” 212 lb. redshirt freshman

NCAA Football: Alabama A Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Ford is more of a change-of-pace back who has been compared to Jacobs for his powerful lower body and quickness. As under the radar as a four-star prospect can be, Ford was ranked #12 among all-purpose backs in the 2018 class. He has the ability to catch the football as well as run it, and will likely be seen on kickoff returns. Cited as “probably the leading rusher” in the first fall scrimmage, Ford unfortunately turned his ankle in the most recent one, though he isn’t expected to miss much game action if any.

The Depth

If there is an area of concern on the offensive side of the football, running back depth would have to be it. With the injury to Sanders, only 184 lb. true freshman Keilan Robinson is left here as a true running back, and he very likely needs a redshirt year to add some strength. Other than Robinson, you’re looking at pulling over Chardarius Townsend and/or Slade Bolden, both listed as wide receivers on the roster.

Yes, it’s that thin. Pray for good health here.

Synopsis

As long as the first two guys are able to stay healthy for the entire season, this should be an outstanding group that combined with what looks to be a phenomenal offensive line should continue what has been a dominant run of running back talent in Tuscaloosa. The sheer power of both Harris and Robinson is enough to wear down any defense over the course of a game, and having two guys that size to keep one another fresh is borderline unfair.