Alabama is for all intents and purposes the best program in college football, and it’s certainly among the cream of the crop in one of college football’s toughest conferences: the SEC.
Of course, the defending national champions could find their title hanging in the balance by the time the season is all said and done, but who among us feels comfortable enough to vote against Nick Saban? Even if the Tide don’t win the championship this season, he has the golden standard of college football programs down in Tuscaloosa.
So does that make Najee Harris, five-star running back and Alabama’s top-rated recruit, the golden standard of 2017 college football recruits?
At least according to the 247Sports Composite rankings…yes.
Harris, who’s from Antioch, Calif. (Antioch), is ranked is the No. 1 player in America, per the composite. Naturally, then, he’s the No. 1 2017 running back as well as the top recruit from California. It is worth keeping in mind that 247Sports ranks Harris as the No. 3 player in America, according to its exclusive, non-composite rankings. Only ahead of him in that metric are five-star offensive tackles Foster Sarell and Walker Little.
Being that the composite is an average of all the major recruiting service rankings, it’s as good a barometer as any. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a top three recruit nationally, though, so according to either ranking, Harris is definitely elite.
That’s likely one of the reasons he picked Alabama.
The Crimson Tide know a thing or two about elite running backs — Derrick Henry and Eddie Lacy recently come to mind — and the Crimson Tide know a thing or two about winning championships. The best recruits in the nation tend to want to be around and play for the best, and since Saban’s been in Tuscaloosa that — and his NFL-esque system that has pro-teams always keeping an eye on the Tide — has been Alabama’s greatest draw on the recruiting trail.
And it had to be a big draw for Harris, because he committed to Alabama despite offers from some of the biggest programs in the country not coached by Saban. Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Arizona, Cal, Hawaii, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington State have all offered the five-star.
He’s been committed to Alabama since April 18th of 2015, but Harris also hasn’t been shy about keeping an eye on other options. He’s obviously a big-time target for a lot of schools, and though he plays things close to the vest, it’s not even really speculation to assume that other schools are still keeping in contact with him. Since his Alabama commitment, he has visited Washington, Ohio State, Auburn and Michigan. While the visit to Ann Arbor may have gotten some attention due to Jim Harbaugh’s offseason hype machine and the mini-spat he had with Saban, that visit was all the way back in July at this point — and all indications are that Harris is still firmly committed to the Crimson Tide.
And why wouldn’t he be? He’s the prototypical Alabama running back.
Harris checks in at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, and he has the frame to add more muscle. As a point of reference, the Heisman winner, Henry, is 6-foot-3, 247 pounds. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama’s sophomore running back, is 6-foot-2, 228 pounds.
So as it stands, Harris is right in that sweet spot for Alabama running backs, and he should only grow bigger and stronger as he takes on the Tide’s strength and conditioning program.
On the high school football field, Harris is a highlight machine. There aren’t really many ways he can’t hurt a defense.
He has the power and strength to lower his shoulder and pick up tough yards, but that’s only if he can’t make a defender miss — and that’s a big if. Harris has shifty feet and he’s always cutting and making a new path for himself. He’s elusive as a runner and knows how to break tackles, and a lot of that is due to the fact that he never stops running.
It’s an old coaching point that he’s taken to heart: Never stop running your feet.
Though Harris can make defenders miss or run in a crowd, he also has the breakaway speed to hit the home run play if he finds the gap.
In his junior year for Antioch, Harris rushed for 2,744 yards and 36 touchdowns, averaging 11.3 yards per rush and 228.7 yards per game. He also picked up three receiving touchdowns.
So far in his senior year, Harris is well on pace to match if not break those numbers, so he’s certainly doing his part to keep the No. 1 overall status in the nation.