Alabama football: The importance of Damien Harris
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He wasn’t an early enrollee, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin are thoroughly pleased with what they have seen from true freshman running back Damien Harris. He’s been on a mission in fall practice, a mission to be the team’s third back.
Alabama’s goal for this season is to have either Derrick Henry or Kenyan Drake on the field at all times. The emergence of Harris is crucial, if this is to happen. At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, Harris excels at keeping his pad level low and changing speeds in the hole. He can squeeze through tight areas to pick up tough yards and uses his vision to set up cutbacks lanes.
Henry, 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, is expected to tote the ball 20-25 times per game. Regardless of his abilities, the junior will need someone to spell him for a play or two. With Harris in the rotation, Alabama can keep Henry’s legs fresh and allow Drake to burn defensive backs.
Drake’s experience in the backfield will grant the senior some carries; however, it’s been well documented how much Kiffin will create matchup opportunities for him at receiver.
Harris was productive in both scrimmage games. He logged 14 carries in Saturday’s contest, earning high praises from Saban. Saban said Harris did “some good things and has learned how to be a college football player.” Since Saban’s arrival in 2007, the Crimson Tide has produced three solid ball carriers in its rotation. Harris’ looks to be a solid contributor this fall.
Alabama’s RB rotation since 2008
2008: Glenn Coffee, Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch
2009: Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Roy Upchurch
2010: Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy
2011: Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Jalston Fowler
2012: Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake
2013: T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry
2014: T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry
2015: Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, (Damien Harris=?)
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.