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Alabama 2021 Spring Football Preview: Running Backs

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“Who’s gonna fill his shoes? Who’s gonna stand that tall?”

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the position groups on the Alabama football roster, running back may well be the deepest. That’s saying something on a roster stacked with top recruiting classes, and even more surprising with last year’s Doak Walker Award winner leaving for the NFL. This is the Nick Saban era of Alabama football, however, so embarrassment of riches it is, including the #2 RB in the 2021 class in Camar Wheaton, a summer enrollee who won’t be covered below. We will also leave Trey Sanders off for now, as he is still recovering from that devastating injury sustained in an auto accident last November and won’t be cleared for contact by A Day.

Departed

Najee Harris

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The offense lost a bunch of starters from last season including a Heisman winner and a record setting QB, but Harris may be the most surefire NFL prospect among them. There is nothing that the man can’t do: he is an elite runner, receiver, and blocker. He has elite size. The only knock on him was top end speed, and he improved that in his senior season. Saban mentioned recently that Harris got the lion’s share of the carries because he’s the type of back that gets better the more he has the ball. Without him in the mix, expect more of a committee approach as we have seen in years past.

The Leader

#4 - Brian Robinson, Sr.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

B Rob is one of the super seniors taking advantage of the COVID free year. Saban has spoken glowingly about him and his leadership recently. Robinson is by far the biggest back on the roster at 228 lbs. and, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, he will have a bunch of goal line opportunities this season. To be considered in the higher rounds of the NFL Draft he will need to show more versatility in his final audition, particularly catching the football. Having a fifth-year senior in the room to lead this bevy of young rushers, particularly one from Tuscaloosa who has bled Crimson since he was a child, will be invaluable.

Returnees

#21 - Jase McClellan, Fr.

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McClellan was a coup in the 2020 recruiting class, flipping from Oklahoma to Alabama late in the cycle. There were no touches available to him for most of last season behind Harris and Robinson with Trey Sanders in the fold, but Jase stepped into that #3 role when Sanders went down and showed out to the tune of 10.7 yards per carry. Granted, it was only 23 carries in mop up duty, but McClellan looked smooth and fast in the open field. He will have plenty of opportunity to shine this season.

#2 - Keilan Robinson, So.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Robinson showed flashes as a freshman scatback in 2019 before taking the opt out last season, but he has generated quite a bit of buzz with the new swole physique he crafted back at home.

Of course, an impressive physique does not a running back make, but if Robinson has added some tackle breaking power to the shiftiness and speed he already had, this dude could take the world by storm. Many will be keeping an eye out for him this spring.

#23 - Roydell Williams, Fr.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Alabama The Montgomery Advertiser-USA TODAY Sports

If you need proof of just how stacked this RB room is, consider that Roydell Williams was the #9 RB in his class and #77 player overall, and entering his second year in the program will likely be battling for a mop up job. This young man is super talented and a compact 5’10”, 202 lb. Based on his limited action last season he seemed to have solid vision, power and explosiveness. We will see how he progresses in the spring.

#27 - Kyle Edwards, Fr.

Kyle is in the same boat as Williams. He was the #18 RB in the 2020 class and didn’t see the field at all. Absent an awful lot of bad injury luck, it’s tough to see Kyle getting much run this season. As a guy who could start at a lot of schools, and has a top-end prospect like Wheaton coming in behind him, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Edwards consider the portal.