As Alabama looks to spring practice beginning next month and the re-tooling of the tailback position, there are moments to look back on in recent Crimson Tide football history.
Bama fans can remember Trent Richardson’s 52-yard touchdown run against Arkansas and his 49-yard touchdown dash against Texas in Bama’s National Championship Game win. Alabama was just trying to run clock in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State when Eddie Lacy dashed 62 yards for a touchdown. T.J. Yeldon had an all-time great play in 2012 in Baton Rouge, taking a screen pass and going 28 yards in the final minute for the winning touchdown against LSU. In 2013 Derrick Henry had an 80-yard touchdown run against Arkansas and then rushed for 100 yards in eight carries and had his first career pass reception, turning an inside screen into a 61-yard TD in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.
Those outstanding plays by Alabama tailbacks all came in their freshman seasons.
The Tide doesn’t have any of those men, and has only a smattering of experience at the tailback position to work with this spring. Help, though, may be on the way.
Alabama signed two tailbacks in the 2016 class, but neither will make it to Tuscaloosa for spring practice.
The additions are B.J. Emmons, 6-0, 220, from Freedom High School in Morganton, N.C., and Joshua Jacobs, 5-10, 200, from McLain High in Tulsa, Okla.
Emmons, a four-star prospect, was ranked the No. 4 running back in the nation. and the 40th best player regardless of position. He was selected for the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game.
As a senior he rushed for 2,417 yards and had 41 touchdowns. His junior year in2014 he ran for 2,348 yards and had 38 touchdowns and as a soph had 1,834 rushing yards and 22 TDs.
He chose Alabama over Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee.
There has been concern that Emmons has not yet qualified academically.
Until late in the recruiting season, Jacobs was almost unknown to those who follow Alabama. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said that his first reaction to Jacobs being available so late was that “there must be something wrong with him,” but Bama Running Backs Coach Burton Burns, who has recruited and coached two Heisman Trophy winning tailbacks at Alabama, did the due diligence and reported that Jacobs was all he was thought to be.
Saban said that Jacobs had played part of his career as a wildcat quarterback and missed more than half of his junior season with an injury. Nevertheless, Jacobs was a three-star running back, ranked 32nd in the nation.
Jacobs averaged 15.1 yards per carry and 245.8 rushing yards per game as a senior with 179 carries for 2,704 yards. He had 31 rushing touchdowns. In just four games as a junior he rushed for 948 yards and 13 scores.
He chose Alabama over Oklahoma and Missouri.
Saban said, “I know quite a few people offered him late. We were in need, we were searching. We wanted to make sure that we got two running backs. We only had three guys on scholarship and that’s the least we ever had at that position, and nobody coming back that has significant experience. We got one early (Emmons) that we really, really liked and then just never ever found the next guy or had an opportunity to get the guy that was really interested or close by here. This really worked out well for us.
“I think we got two good runners, which we certainly need.”