Alabama has a chance to do what no other school has done in nine years — sign the nation’s top two running backs.
Southern California accomplished the feat back in 2007 when it signed Joe McKnight and Marc Tyler. The closest any school has come to signing the top two running backs in any class since then was when Georgia signed Sony Michel (No. 3) and Nick Chubb (No. 6) in 2014. There is somewhat of a caveat to that, though, which we will explain a little later.
The Crimson Tide already have a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 running back, Najee Harris, and Alabama is in the thick of the race for the nation’s No. 2 running back, Cam Akers, who was once committed to the Tide before backing off his pledge last month. Since the 247Sports Composite’s launch, which dates back to 2002, Alabama has not signed the top two running backs in any class.
But even if the Crimson Tide ends up getting both Harris and Akers, this running back class won’t be the school’s best, according to the rankings. That title would belong to the Class of 2013 which saw Alabama sign Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara and the late Altee Tenpenny.
That brings us to the caveat we mentioned above.
In the 2013 recruiting class, Henry was rated as the nation’s No. 1 athlete. There were several recruiting analysts that believed the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner was better suited to play defensive end or outside linebacker.
“He’s going to be more of a fit at another position,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill told The Florida Times-Union in 2012. “We just don’t feel that he’s a natural running back.”
Because several recruiting analysts didn’t know which position Henry would end up playing in college, the Alabama star was listed as an athlete.
If he was listed at running back, then Alabama would have had the best running back class since Southern Cal’s 2007 coup at the position because Kamara, who eventually transferred to Tennessee, was rated the No. 6 RB and Tenpenny came in at No. 9.
So if the Crimson Tide ended up getting both Harris and Akers in the class, how could the 2017 running back class not be considered the school’s best? Well, that’s because Brian Robinson, another Alabama commit, is ranked as the 20th best RB in the country.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation using the percentage points each recruit was given back in 2013. Henry (0.9928), Kamara (0.9791) and Tenpenny (.9734) averaged out to give Alabama a 0.9817 rating. In 2017, Harris (0.9993), Akers (0.9874) and Robinson (0.9189) average out to a 0.9685 rating.
Of course, none of this matters if Akers doesn’t end up in this signing class. Alabama is also aafter D’Andre Swift (No. 3 in the country) and Anthony McFarland (No. 7), who are both four-star recruits. At this point, Georgia seems like Swift’s possible destination while McFarland could end up staying in state and enrolling at Maryland.
Akers has made it clear that just because he de-committed from Alabama, it doesn’t mean that he won’t end up committing to the Crimson Tide once again.
“They continuously contact me, daily,” Akers told SEC Country earlier this month. “It’s not just me they are recruiting, either. They are always hitting up my mom to tell her to tell me to call them.
“If they continue to recruit me hard and I feel like it’s the right decision for me, then Alabama it is for me.”
Robinson could move up in the rankings by the time National Signing Day gets here in February. He won the RB MVP trophy at Rivals’ camp in Atlanta this month, and more showings like that this summer at various camps could give him the boost needed in order for Alabama to possibly claim this class as the rankings champion at running back.
Even if Robinson doesn’t get a bump up in the rankings, possibly signing the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs in the class surely would be a major recruiting win for Alabama and give the program every right to call itself “Running Back University.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.