Damien Harris scores the Tide's first TD (Photo by Stuart McNair)

All Alabama tailbacks return for spring practice along with additions

Sixth in a series looking at Alabama positions prior to spring practice

In forecasting offensive success, a key indicator is returning rushing yardage from the previous season. Last year Alabama had 639 runs for 3,675 yards (5.8 yards per carry, 33 touchdowns, and 245.0 yards per game. Take out the rushing yards of men who are not returning and the Crimson Tide returns 96.4 per cent of that rushing yardage, 3,542 yards, and 32 of the 33 rushing touchdowns. The average per rush from those returning is 5.9 yards per carry and 236.1 yards per game.
Not all of that came from the tailbacks. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was Bama’s second leading rusher with 954 yards. He had the most carries (191) and TDs (13).
But the tailbacks did their part.
Damien Harris (5-11, 214, Jr) was Alabama’s leading rusher with 146 carries for 1,027 yards (7.1 per rush) and had 2 rushing touchdowns; Bo Scarbrough (6-2, 228, Jr) was third with 125 carries for 812 yards (6.5 ypr) and 11 TDs; Josh Jacobs (5-10, 204, So) fourth with 125 for 812 (6.7 ypr) and 4 TDs; and B.J.Emmons (6-0, 206, So) fifth (in just 7 games before being injured) with 325-173 (4.9) and 1 touchdown.
That’s a pretty good base at tailback.
This is part of a series looking at all Alabama positions prior to the start of spring drills.
In addition to those, Bama returns all-around athlete Ronnie Clark (6-2, 215, Jr), who is listed as a tailback but can also play other positions, and walk-on Avery Reid (6-0, 192, So).
Moreover, there is much interest in three true freshmen, signees who entered The University this semester and will be taking part in spring practice.
Najee Harris, 6-2, 225, was ranked the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect regardless of position. Brian Robinson, 6-1, 224, was a star at Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa. Chadarius Townsend, 6-0, 190, is considered an all-round athlete capable of playing several positions, but is expected to start spring with the tailbacks.
Under Assistant Coach Burton Burns, Alabama has had excellent success from the tailback position in the Nick Saban Era. Notably, in the past 10 years Bama has had two Heisman Trophy winners in tailbacks Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).
Alabama will have its fifth offensive coordinator (not counting one-gamer Steve Sarkisian) this year as Brian Daboll comes in from the New England Patriots. But as Saban has said in the past, a new coordinator doesn’t come in to run his offense; he comes in to run the Alabama offense.
That offense has changed in recent years and last year quarterback became a running position with the arrival of Hurts, who returns for his sophomore year. Although Hurts will have competition, the offense is not expected to have significant change.
The running backs also benefit from a talented offensive line that returns three starters.
There are some injury issues going into the spring. Scarbrough suffered a broken leg in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Although he has had several injuries in his football career, he has also proved to be a fast healer. Emmons missed the last half of the 2016 with a foot injury. Najee Harris played his senior year with a partially torn meniscus and had a procedure to repair it after arriving at Alabama. It remains to be seen how much (if any) these players will be limited in spring practice.


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