TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough is consistent in how he looks back on both last season and his career.
His 180-yard performance against Washington and notching at least 90 rushing yards during each of the Crimson Tide’s final four games last season? He doesn’t want to talk about it.
His broken leg during the third quarter against Clemson? He doesn’t want to talk about that either.
“That book is closed,” Scarbrough said. “The past is the past and I can’t talk about the past.”
“I’m really focused on what’s going on right now.”
Scarbrough’s had a lot of experience dealing with both extremes and over the years he’s learned that the key to looking back is to simply not to. Learn what you can and move on, because if you live in the past that’s where you’ll be and not zeroed in on what’s next. At least that’s his approach.
When he does move forward, though, like against the Huskies or with his 109-yard rushing yards on five carries at Tennessee, Scarbrough is as exciting as anyone in college football. He can as easily go through defenders as around them, plus has the kind of burst every running back desires. His ceiling and potential are enormous, yet getting to this point has been anything but easy.
The short version includes becoming not just a good prospect, but elite one at Northridge High School in Tuscaloosa, transferring to Tuscaloosa County across town, playing his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Scarbrough, and then going back to Tuscaloosa County to graduate.
He initially committed to Alabama in Sept. 2012, but ended up in the recruiting class of 2014.
On the left: Bo Scarbrough in 10th grade…On the right: Me in 11th grade. Now I know why Alabama never called. pic.twitter.com/CS3IVIP9ib
— Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) January 10, 2017
He sat out the 2014 season due to academic issues, and the 2015 season began with a four-game NCAA suspension “for something that happened when he was being recruited in high school. Not by us,” Nick Saban said.
Meanwhile, there were the injuries, including a pair of torn ACLs and leg fractures. He’s one short of a full house of major physical setbacks.
“I mean, you can’t avoid injury,” Scarbrough said. “Whatever happens, happens.
“You have to have that mindset and be mentally strong.”
One can see why Scarbrough may not want to talk about his road to the 2017 season, and how answering one question about it could lead to countless more. About the only thing he offered on dealing with the frustration was that he couldn’t let it stop him.
“You have to work on the days you don’t feel like working,” he said. “Those are the days that you get better and stronger.”
Statistically, Scarbrough’s breakthrough end to 2016 resulted in 812 rushing yards on 125 carries, with 11 touchdowns. Yet that was only third in team rushing behind Damien Harris (1,037) and quarterback Jalen Hurts (812).
For most of the year, Harris was the real workhorse of the backfield, the one the coaches felt they could count upon. With the Crimson Tide having no returning upperclassmen, he started 11 games before the College Football Playoff.
“We think Damien had a great year last year,” Saban said in the spring. “I think he was hurt a bit toward the end of the season. Probably slowed him down a little bit.
“That was a little bit the whole deal at running back last year. As soon as a guy started to really look good, he’d get beat up a little bit.”
Riding the hot hand has become the norm at the position. Alabama feels it has five running backs on the roster who could probably start at most places. Even with the departure of B.J. Emmons, who will play this fall at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, it might be the Crimson Tide’s deepest position if everyone can stay healthy. The words that have become so ingrained with Scarbrough, they’re like a tattoo.
“Running back is a position that you can’t have too many of,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. “You can find creative ways to try to use them, and everyone will have a role if they earn that role.”
Early indications are that might mean Harris and Scarbrough sharing the primary load as a potent 1-2 combination, with true freshman Najee Harris eager to show he’s too good not to be the mix.
VIDEO: Listen to Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough at media day. https://t.co/kWKQe1bBfz
— Tide 102.9 (@Tide1029fm) August 5, 2017
Josh Jacobs, who as a freshman tallied 567 rushing yards on 85 attempts and 4 touchdowns, could be most utilized as a third-down weapon. True freshman Brian Robinson is more of a short-yardage option due to his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds).
The key for Harris and Robinson are to learn the offense so well that everything becomes second nature. That’s what kept Derrick Henry on the sideline for most of his freshman year in 2013 — things really didn’t start to click for him until the bowl practices.
Consequently, on paper there appear to be some similarities to 2014, when T.Y. Yeldon led Alabama in rushing with 979 yards on 194 carries and Henry had 990 on 172. They both scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
However, last season Hurts ran into the end zone 13 times and Scarbrough 11. Harris had only 2 rushing touchdowns.
The statistic is a telling. So is how Alabama is promoting its running backs.
As it’s done for the past few years, Alabama has four different media guide covers for 2017, with two dedicated to the defense and one to the passing game. The fourth highlights the running game, with Scarbrough and senior center Bradley Bozeman on the front cover, and Harris, sophomore tackle Jonah Williams and junior Ross Pierschbacher on the reverse side.
Alabama did something similar on the annual calendar poster it gives out to fans, which features many of the key players the Crimson Tide will rely on during the upcoming season, especially the upperclassmen.
Scarbrough is on it. Harris is not.
Even though both are listed as juniors, age might be a factor. Saban prefers to have the spotlight on his older players and Scarbrough was born in 1996, Harris in 1997.
Or it could just be someone in marketing trying to take advantage of Scarbrough’s postseason performance.
Regardless, Scarbrough was named second-team All-SEC in preseason voting at media days. He trailed LSU’s Derrius Guice and Georgia’s Nick Chubb and finished ahead of Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway. He’s also being hailed as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate even though he didn’t practice in the spring while recovering from his latest fracture.
“I worked back to where I was,” Scarbrough said. “Now I’m better. Hopefully great things can happen.”
But when asked what those things might be, Scarbrough gave a predictable answer, one that keeps everything in check.
“Those goals I keep to myself,” he said with a smile.