Two conferences in Division I college football saw an opportunity to make one of its programs better in the 2016 recruiting cycle; however, both decided to pass on a player that has become a superstar in the Southeastern Conference and a potential high draft pick.
For both the Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12) and Tulsa Golden Hurricane (American Athletic), running back Josh Jacobs was in their backyard. A three-star from Tulsa, Okla., the young man from McLain High School was an all-purpose star. Oklahoma and Tulsa may not see what they lost, but the University of Alabama has been grateful for what it gained in making a late steal.
He suffered a nagging ankle injury in 2017, yet the Crimson Tide’s swiss-army knife on offense has done more positive for fans in his three seasons.
With the influence of Michael Locksley as play-caller and the system Brian Daboll installed last year, Jacobs has become Alabama’s most complete back through eight games.
His compact stature – 5’10” and 216 pounds – makes it hard enough for defenders to tackle him, but Jacobs’ speed and versatility are next level tools.
He runs with power, he catches the ball well, he’s an underrated pass protector, and just when you think you have named everything, the Tide’s also found a valuable kickoff return specialist as well.
Although he is the third-string back on the roster, Jacobs got the nod to start last week against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
He wanted to establish a physical tone to energize both offense and defense, and the ensuing kickoff to start the matchup did that plus more.
Jacobs returned the opening kick 43 yards and finished it by knocking a Vols’ defender out of bounds. His efforts would set up a drive that covered 58 yards in nine plays, ending on an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
In the rushing attack, Jacobs finished his runs in anger.
He paced the team with 68 yards and two touchdowns – turning in an average of 5.7 yards per carry on 12 attempts. One of the reasons why Tagovailoa posted his third 300-yard passing performance versus a SEC opponent was due to Jacobs’ toughness in pass protection.
It does not matter how talented someone is; Nick Saban will not let anyone attempt a carry at running back, unless they know how to pass block. The thing with Jacobs is he plays much bigger than what he is.
After turning heads as a freshman in fall camp, he continues to push as if he has more to prove. This type of attitude has National Football League scouts intrigued and may lead to a franchise getting a “do it all” type of athlete that it is desperately needed.
While Saban does not like to choose between in backs in giving praise, fans notice the intensity Jacobs brings to every part of the offense. He currently leads Alabama in rushing touchdowns (eight) and has been electrifying on kickoffs, recording an average 31 yards per return.