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Alabama Football Impact Players

Why Alabama needs to incorporate Justice Haynes more on offense

Alabama RB Justice Haynes (#22) running along the sideline during A-Day game.
Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Alabama football signed two talented five-star running backs in its recent recruiting class, including one who enrolled early for spring practice.

Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams have been with the Crimson Tide since 2020. Both are productive backs that display leadership, quality character, toughness, power, patience, speed, and versatility. McClellan and Williams helped the Tide to a College Football Playoff National Championship as freshmen. Both were former four-star recruits, but neither is a special difference maker as a runner. Justice Haynes, a native Georgian, gives Nick Saban a special playmaker out of the backfield.

He dominated at Buford High School, totaling 7,574 career rushing yards and 95 touchdowns across four years. Haynes impressed Tide fans in the A-Day game, and Saban spoke highly of him throughout the spring semester. We have not seen a lot of Haynes; however, he makes a statement when he’s on the field. He creates holes for himself when nothing is available, possesses good contact balance, has strong vision and patience, and shows good pad level.

RELATED: Justice Haynes does not disappoint with sensational A-Day performance

Haynes also brings the ability to help in blitz protection. We have seen Alabama go to highly-touted freshmen running backs during the second half of a college football. Derrick Henry, a former five-star, was not featured until late in the 2013 season.

He emerged onto the scene in the Allstate Sugar Bowl versus Oklahoma. Henry had success in the run game and passing attack, which had Tide fans wondering why Saban did not go to him sooner. Henry would grow to become a Heisman Trophy winner two years later in 2015. Najee Harris, a former five-star, did not get his shine for the Tide until the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Georgia. Alabama put all the freshmen on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Harris ran wild on the Bulldogs. He helped the Tide accomplish a 26-23 comeback victory for a championship.

Harris became the school’s all-time leader for career rushing yards and touchdowns. He also was a Heisman finalist and a CFP National Champion in 2020. Harris was selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Haynes is the next elite back Alabama needs to unleash.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder would wear teams down in the second half of matchups with his power. He understands the significance of the SEC as his father, Verron, played running back at the University of Georgia. Haynes got an opportunity in Alabama’s homecoming game versus Arkansas. Saban said he played well and Haynes is one of four guys in the rotation.

RELATED: Watch: Alabama RB Justice Haynes continues impressive training for his freshman year

“It is really hard to get for guys at running back to be in rhythm and to play a significant number of snaps,” Saban said Monday.

“All those guys deserve reps and playing time. Justice played really well when he was in the game. Maybe, there will be some opportunity for him to make a bigger contribution in the future.”

Some fans hope that opportunity comes Saturday against Tennessee. Bo Scarbrough, another former five-star, had his breakout performance versus the Volunteers in 2016. He collected 109 yards rushing on five carries, including an 85-yard touchdown run.

Scarbrough helped the Tide handle a talented Tennessee team, 49-10. Marquee playmakers show up on the biggest stage, and Haynes has that potential. Alabama needs to go to him, especially after the success of Henry, Harris, and Scarbrough. 

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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