9. Running backs
If anyone other than Najee Harris wins the job, it will be a shock, but most people expected Harris and not Josh Jacobs to have been Damien Harris’ backup last year.
Najee Harris, when viewed in uniform, looks to have no peer. And when he starts hurdling would-be tacklers downfield, the world slows down to perfect slow-motion speed and suddenly John Facenda’s voice pops into fans’ heads as if Harris was starring in the next great NFL Films production.
But things aren’t always that simple, and Harris never really got cranked up in 2018 for a variety of reasons. His escapability in traffic suddenly took a step back, and the bane of all young running backs – assignments when he didn’t have the ball in his hands – rose up as an issue. Not to mention Josh Jacobs, like Quinnen Williams, went from obscurity to potential top-10 draft pick in no time flat.
Even if Harris emerges from spring ball with the job well in hand, there’s a question as to what the depth chart will look like. Brian Robinson Jr. is pretty much Harris in a mirror, and his blocking skills are more polished. Both Robinson and Harris are bruisers, and if Bama is about to get back to a pound-and-smash attitude in its running game, there are going to be plenty of tacklers around the league who are going to rue the arrival of the fourth quarter.
Bama will still need a jack-of-all-trades back in its fold, though, especially one who can approximate Jacobs’ abilities in the passing game. Jerome Ford, right now, is the only back on the roster with that kind of potential. For that matter, he’s the only other back on scholarship at the moment, awaiting the arrival of Trey Sanders and Keilan Robinson in the fall. For spring, three walk-ons will join the others – seniors DeMarquise Lockridge and Loren Ugheoke and junior Jahi Brown – but the focus of attention will be on the top three.
Summary: This is going to be a race to put distance between the perceived abilities of Sanders and Keilan Robinson before their arrival in Tuscaloosa. Harris should be considered the runaway favorite, with Brian Robinson the decided backup and Ford the changeup. There aren’t going to be many positions on the field for Bama where freshmen arriving in the fall have a chance to shake up the depth chart, but this is one of them, especially from the second position on the chart backward.
READ MORE: Outside Linebacker
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