The running back position has been the highlight of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s offense for several decades. Since the arrival of Nick Saban as head coach, there have been three Heisman Trophy winners. The first two winners were at the running back position with Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Among all positions for Alabama to replace from the previous season, the running back position is a complex situation to find a starter. Alabama must replace yet another legend at running back in Najee Harris, who is set for a significant NFL career. Harris became the Tide’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (3,843) and career rushing touchdowns (46). Several potential starting running backs created an impact for the Tide in the past. Although there is a favorite, it doesn’t mean a starter is secured. There is also the likely situation of multiple contributors in the 2021 season.
Alabama Running Backs A Serious Competition in 2021
Brian Robinson Jr. (Sr.) – The Veteran Back
After three years of backing up Harris at running back, Robinson goes into the 2021 offseason as the main back. Earlier in his career, Robinson was a speedy option back that was projected to be a threat in the receiving game as well. In 2019, Robinson rushed for 441 yards and five touchdowns on 96 carries. He also caught 11 receptions for 124 yards. This past season, Robinson played like a completely different back as he got stronger and more aggressive as a runner. In 2020 Robinson rushed for 483 yards and six touchdowns on 91 carries. So far in his career, Robinson has rushed for 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns on 274 carries. Robinson has been a reliable player when called upon for the Tide’s elite offense, but he can do more.
This offseason will be the first legitimate opportunity for Robinson to become a starter in his collegiate career. As he has gotten stronger and more elusive as a runner he has also become a tough back to bring down. Robinson isn’t as big as Harris, but he can still lead Alabama’s powerful run game. While speed isn’t one of his strongest attributes as a running back, he is a back that can quickly get through the holes created by his offensive line. He will likely enter spring ball as the number one running back for the Crimson Tide. As the main running back, he will have an early role on the team to ease Bryce Young in as the new starting quarterback for Alabama.
Trey Sanders (rSo.) – The Darkhouse Back
No Alabama player has had as rough of start to their college career as Sanders. Right before the 2019 season, Sanders suffered a significant foot injury. He received a medical redshirt to become a redshirt freshman in the 2020 season. Sanders entered this past season as the third-leading back. He played in four games for Alabama as he rushed for 134 yards on 30 carries. While his best performance was against Mississippi State as he rushed for 80 yards on 12 carries. During the bye-week after Mississippi State, Sanders suffered numerous injuries after a serious car accident. He is back on-the-field after the accident and looks to make a big push as a serious contributor in the 2021 season. To go along with his toughness, Sanders is an elusive, and dynamic runner. Look for him to make a huge impact and to be one of the main backs for the Tide this season.
Jase McClellan (So.) – The Electrifying Playmaker
Another former five-star back entering into the mix of playing consistently is McClellan. He is entering his second season in Tuscaloosa. McClellan is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the Tide’s backfield. His dangerous combination of speed and superior athleticism should make him one of the top backs in the 2021 Tide offense. In his freshman season this past year, McClellan rushed for 245 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He had an 80-yard touchdown run in the 52-3 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, where all six of the offensive touchdowns were on the ground. Notably, McClellan was one-yard away from 100-yards in the game against Kentucky and five-yards from 100 against Arkansas. This season might be the emergence of an electrifying backfield with McClellan in the lineup.
Alabama Running Back Outlook: The Rest of the Pack
There are four more running backs on the roster going into spring ball for Alabama. One of them is sophomore Roydell Williams, who played sparingly last season. In 2020, Williams rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. He became the fourth running back in the rotation after Sanders’ car accident. His best performance was against Kentucky as he rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Williams hopes to make an impact on-the-field this spring as well as earn a more permanent spot in the gameday rotation. A running back who didn’t play this past season was Keilan Robinson and is now a junior. As a freshman in 2019, Robinson rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries in the eight games he played. Kyle Edwards and redshirt sophomore Cooper Bishop finish out the roster at the running back for Alabama.