TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — SEC Country is breaking down each of Alabama’s position groups over the next two weeks before the entire 2016 roster reports to campus.
Wednesday, we take a closer look at the Crimson Tide’s running back situation, a position Alabama lacks depth at for the first time during Nick Saban’s tenure. Tuesday, we broke down the quarterback race.
Names you need to know: Bo Scarbrough (sophomore), Damien Harris (sophomore)
Help on the way: B.J. Emmons, Joshua Jacobs
Three years ago, Alabama signed four running backs during the 2013 recruiting cycle. Both critics and some fans questioned why Saban would bring in so many ball-carriers in one class when there’s only one football. Saban responded by stating that a team can never have too many good running backs.
Fast forward to the present and all of those running backs are gone. Three left the program, while Derrick Henry entered the NFL draft following his Heisman Trophy-winning junior season.
For the first time in Saban’s tenure, Alabama is both thin and inexperienced at running back with Henry and his primary backup Kenyan Drake moving on to the pros.
In the season before their first year as starters, Mark Ingram (143 carries), Trent Richardson (112), T.J. Yeldon (175) and Henry (172) all rushed 100 or more times, while Eddie Lacy ran it 95 times the year before he became the starter.
Alabama’s top two returning backs — Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris — rushed a combined 64 times last season.
Scarbrough and Harris are the only two healthy scholarship running backs on the roster from last season after Ronnie Clark suffered a torn Achilles this spring.
“I think this is definitely an area where we’ve never ever lost our two bell cow guys in the same year,” Saban said during spring practice. “You can go all the way back to the beginning: Mark/Trent, Trent/Eddie, Eddie/T.J., T.J./Derrick. Derrick and Kenyan just happened to be a little closer together so…I think there’s going to be an opportunity for some young players there. Certainly the guys we have here got lots of opportunities here today and they definitely need to get better. But we’ve had freshmen running backs do well for us in the past, so it’s not a position they can’t play and contribute.”
Saban said both Scarbrough and Harris showed improvement throughout the spring.
In the two closed scrimmages this spring, Scarbrough posted back-to-back 100-yard performances. Harris was named A-Day MVP after he rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries.
2016 signees B.J. Emmons (6-0, 220) and Joshua Jacobs (5-10, 200) are expected to join the fold this summer. Emmons was considered the second-best running back in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite, while Jacobs could end up being the steal of this recruiting class.