Most schools become a building ground for three-year college players who depart and succeed in the NFL. The Alabama Crimson Tide are pleasantly surprised to have running back Najee Harris for his senior season in 2020. Harris was receiving second to third round grades for the 2020 NLF Draft. Feeling that there was unfinished business with his performance and accomplishments at Alabama, Harris returns to a talented offense. The 2020 Crimson Tide offense will look different without two of their three top receivers, one of their top tackles, and star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama looks to rebound after being left out of the College Football Playoff for the first time this past season. Harris could be the key for a highly successful Alabama offense that looks to still be elite.
Najee Harris Returns for Alabama Crimson Tide
Tide can rely on Harris’ experience and leadership
Harris comes in as one of the most experienced and oldest players for the Tide this upcoming season. Harris is one of five senior players projected to start next season for Alabama. Of the five seniors, Harris is one of two players that play a skilled position. Last season, Harris took the role of starting running back for the Tide after the departure of Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs in 2018. Harris rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns on 209 rushes. Further, he averaged just under six yards per rush. He ranked fourth in the SEC this past season in rushing yards accounted. Also, Harris ranked third in total rushes and tied for second in rushing touchdowns. He exceeded the number of rushes he would normally get especially sharing a backfield with Tagovailoa and fellow running back Brian Robinson Jr.
Harris will be a very important player for the Tide this upcoming season as they are replacing Tagovailoa. Anytime a team has to replace a once in a generation type quarterback, there will always be high pressure. The Tide will have four quarterbacks to choose from. First being experienced junior pro-style quarterback Mac Jones. Other options are true freshman dual-threat Bryce Young, sophomore dual-threat Taulia Tagovailoa, or redshirt pro-style quarterback Paul Tyson. One will take over as the starting quarterback when the 2020 season starts. Having an experienced running back like Harris will take a lot of pressure away from the new starting quarterback. Harris’ reliability in different offensive schemes could allow him more rushes and a bigger impact.
Running backs have flourished under pro-style quarterbacks
Running backs under head coach Nick Saban have been highly successful in terms of production. Further, statistically, the Tide running backs have produced more yards under an offense led by a pro-style quarterback. It wasn’t until 2016 when there was a production drop when dual-threat Jalen Hurts took the title as starting quarterback. Alabama still had a 1,000-yard rusher in three of the last four years with Hurts and Tagovailoa as the quarterbacks. In 2015 with quarterback Jacob Coker, Derrick Henry had a Heisman Trophy-winning season where he rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries. In 2013 it was A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns on 207 carries. The Tide had two running backs in Yeldon and Eddie Lacy that rushed for at least 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries in 2012 with McCarron.
In 2011, McCarron’s first year, Trent Richardson rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on 283 carries. Finally, in 2009 with under center Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram had a Heisman Trophy season by rushing for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns on 271 carries. Coker, McCarron, and McElroy are all pro-style quarterbacks that benefitted from highly talented running backs. Jones is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job when the Tide kickoff their 2020 season. This move will make Harris much more impactful as he has had two of his best games for the Tide with Jones under center. Harris will likely make Jones’ first full season as a starter much easier. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian could even ultimately change the offensive scheme to have the Tide a run-first play setting once again.