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Nick Saban on freshman RB B.J. Emmons: “He’s a naturally instinctive runner”

Alabama freshman RB B.J. Emmons (No. 5) at 2016 Under Armour All-America Game: Reinhold Matay - USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.| Head coach Nick Saban takes great pride in recruiting substance at each position for Alabama, but its offensive backfield is something he’s excelled at in the last 10 years.

Since 2008, a freshman running back has been able carve out its own niche at Tuscaloosa.

Seven ball carriers have heard their names announced in the NFL Draft, and the next one in line could be receiving work this season as a freshman. B.J. Emmons, a four-star prospect from Morganton, N.C., has been third in position drills through 10 days (12 sessions) of fall practice.

The 6-foot, 207-pound back is the third one on scholarship, falling behind Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. He was a household name at Freedom High School, totaling 6,599 rushing yards and 101 touchdowns in three seasons (2013-15). Emmons was the nation’s top-ranked back per both Rivals and ESPN recruiting sites, while participating in 2016 Under Armour All-America Game.

He picked UA over Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, and has been turning heads in fall camp.

Alabama took to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday for the first of two scrimmages and despite no stats being released, Saban has been pleased with Emmons’ progress.

“B.J. is a very naturally instinctive guy,” Saban said. “He works hard. He’s got a lot to learn, but he is working hard at it and has done a really good job so far.”

The Crimson Tide football coach has never had his two main tailbacks leave in the same year.

Seeing both Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake get drafted was special, nevertheless, he has to create more depth in the rotation. The health of Bo Scarbrough will be critical in the upcoming season, as he’s dealt with two serious knee injuries and got dinged up in Saturday’s live action practice.

The good thing for Emmons is that he will see playing time.

After becoming eligible to enroll academically, he can become the sixth back to carry the ball at least 100 times before becoming a starter. Former standouts like Mark Ingram (175 carries, 2008) and Trent Richardson (144 carries, 2009) both accomplished the feat, along with T.J. Yeldon (175 carries, 2012) and Derrick Henry (172 carries, 2014). Eddie Lacy was the lone guy to not record 100 carries (95, 2011) prior to being a starter, due to having Ingram and Richardson ahead of him.

Alabama will enter its second full week of practice on Monday, as it prepares to open the season against Southern California in the Advocare Classic on Saturday, Sept. 3 at AT&T Stadium.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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