TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When teams are done being pounded on or outrun by Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, in comes Josh Jacobs to mix it up.
Jacobs, a sophomore, is getting healthy at the perfect time for Alabama football after dealing with a hamstring injury early in the season.
“I think he’s a really good change-of-pace guy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He’s a guy to create roles for because he has a lot of diversity as a player. He’s a very good receiver. He’s an inside runner, he’s an outside runner. But I do think he’s a little bit of a change-of-pace guy relative to the other two guys, Damien and Bo.
“We’re glad that he’s healthy and hope he can continue to stay healthy and play well. I was really pleased with the contribution that he made and some of the plays that he made in the [Arkansas] game and hopefully we’ll be able to build on that.”
Jacobs had one of his better games of the season in Alabama’s 41-9 win over Arkansas last Saturday. He rushed for 39 yards to go with 36 reception yards. For the season, he’s averaging 7.8 yards on 16 carries.
Jacobs certainly is a change-of-pace back, but he’s more than a scatback. Jacobs is somehow a bowling ball of physicality with blazing speed and ankle-breaking elusiveness.
Rarely does the first defender successfully bring down Jacobs alone.
The best part of his game is that defenders never know what’s coming next. He likes playing mind games with would-be tacklers.
“Really, I strategically do certain things,” Jacobs said. “Like if I have a player and I try to run him over, next time I see him I might try to juke him. It’s all like mind games, really.
“Um, I did it [got in a defender’s head this season] a little bit. You can tell because the defense will kind of hesitate instead of coming full speed like they normally do.”
Alabama defensive back Anthony Averett deals with the headache of catching or tackling Jacobs every day in practice.
“He’s really difficult because you don’t really know what’s going to come,” Averett said. “He can either run you over or he can try to juke you or stiff-arm you, outrun you. You don’t know. That’s kind of like his advantage on that.”
Alabama has done a masterful job of splitting carries among its running backs to keep the group fresh. No player has carried the ball more than 15 times in a game.
Adding a healthy Jacobs to compliment Harris, Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts gives Alabama a quartet that’s likely unmatched by any team in college football.