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Alabama 2020 Football Unit Preview: Running Backs

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The Tide has everything here: experience, depth, and talent.

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If there is one position on the Alabama roster that fans have little if any reason to be concerned about, it is running back. The decision of bellcow Najee Harris to return for his senior season took what was already an outstanding group, thanks to years of great recruiting success, to hands down the best in the country. The biggest issue this year will be doling out the playing time.

Departed

Jerome Ford - A former four-star in the class of 2018, Ford transferred to Cincinnati in the offseason. He was unlikely to have much of a role in Tuscaloosa this season, and we wish him well.

The Returnees

#22 Najee Harris - Every one of us expected the 6’2”, 230 lb. stud to leave for the draft after his breakout campaign in 2019 that saw him compile more than 1500 yards from scrimmage and 20 TDs. Fortunately for Tide fans Harrs, displeased with the draft feedback he received, decided to return to Tuscaloosa and work on raising his stock. Top end speed is reportedly the stumbling block for him according to NFL scouts, and he has worked tirelessly to improve in that area. A faster version of the monster we saw last season has to be a terrifying thought for SEC defenses.

#4 Brian Robinson Jr. - Another senior, the four-star from Tuscaloosa runs hard and has reportedly taken something of a leadership role with younger backs. Robinson is more of a downhill, powerful runner who is similarly sized to Harris. He has seen plenty of action in short yardage in his career. It would be interesting to see how the 228 lb. Robinson would fare at fullback, as that type of role is likely his best path to sticking on a NFL roster when his college days are done.

#26 Trey Sanders - Sanders could have easily been placed in the newcomers section after taking a redshirt necessitated by injury. Now fully healthy, Sanders has reportedly looked every bit of the #1 RB and #6 overall prospect in the 2019 class that his rankings suggested. Sanders is listed at 6’0” and 214 lbs. and has been lauded for his vision, cutting ability, and pass-catching ability. While Harris is unquestionably the bellcow this season, Sanders is poised to make a big contribution.

#2 Keilan Robinson - Robinson is a small, compact scatback style runner who showed some flashes as a freshman in 2019. He is still on the roster but to date has not been seen at practice. There are rumors that he has opted out, but no announcement has been made.

The Newcomers

#21 Jase McClellan - McClellan was a recruiting coup for Saban, flipping from Oklahoma very late in the 2020 recruiting cycle. The freshman from Aledo, Texas has prototypical bellcow size at 5’11”, 212 lbs. He was a high volume back in high school and has the potential to develop into an early round NFL selection. Like the rest of the names in this section, however, significant playing time may have to wait a year for him.

#23 Roydell Williams - McClellan got most of the hype but Hueytown product Williams feels like one of those underrated prospects, at least by Alabama standards as he was ranked #9 in the 2020 RB class, who may well blow up before he leaves. He committed to Alabama early, never wavered, and by all accounts has looked outstanding in practice. Williams is listed at 5’10”, 210 lbs, which is nearly identical to Alabama’s first Heisman winner in Mark Ingram. Keep an eye on Roydell in any limited action he gets this season.

#27 Kyle Edwards - Destrehan, LA product Edwards is more of a project at the position. He has good size at 6’0”, 209 lbs. and was a highly productive high school player. With all of the talent in front of him, Kyle will likely have to wait a year before seeing even mop-up duty.

Synopsis

This is the deepest group of backs we’ve seen in Tuscaloosa since the 2013 group that featured future NFL stars T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake and Alvin Kamara. With the talent at hand including Sanders who everyone has been waiting to see in action, Najee Harris should be able to showcase his improvement to NFL scouts without having to play an inordinate number of snaps. The coaching staff has plenty of confidence in the QBs and WRs, but with the best RB room in the nation, and the best OL, you have to believe that a fair amount of smashmouth football is in order. That would make most Alabama fans very happy.

Roll Tide.