Anyone who’s watched Alabama football since 2014 has seen the evolution of Alabama’s offense under Lane Kiffin. Instead of playing games in a phone booth, Kiffin has expanded the Tide’s offense, and convinced Nick Saban to adapt to the spread and no-huddle concepts that have become so popular in college football.
But as Alabama’s offense continues to evolve under the leadership of true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. However, the first half of the 2016 season has proven that Alabama’s bread and butter offensively hasn’t changed, despite the many ways the offensive has. The strength of Alabama has been and still is a dominating run game.
Coming into the season, the run game was somewhat of a concern for the Crimson Tide, especially considering the lack of returning experience at running back. Alabama’s most experienced running backs before the season, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, had combined for only 64 career carries. The only other backs on scholarship in Tuscaloosa were true freshman B.J. Emmons and Damien Harris.
Not to mention there was a gaping hole in the backfield left by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry.
The concerns that surrounded the rushing attack in the preseason now seem laughable given the success Alabama has had the ground thus far.
Harris didn’t take long to establish himself as the feature back in this offense. In the season opener against USC, he rushed for 138 yards on only nine carries and has continued to do his best work against quality competition. Against ranked opponents against — Trojans, Ole Miss and Arkansas — Harris rushed for 138, 144 and 122 yards, respectively. For the season, he’s totaled 478 yards and averaged 8.69 yards per carry, ranking second in the conference.
However, unlike last year with Henry, it’s anything but a one-man show in the Crimson Tide’s backfield. Instead, Alabama has taken more of a running back-by-committee approach with Scarbrough and true freshman Joshua Jacobs.
Jacobs has easily been the biggest pleasant surprise for Alabama this season. Despite coming to Tuscaloosa as a 3-star recruit out of high school, Jacobs had enough of an early impact to lock down the No. 2 role at running back, which traditionally results in a fair share of opportunities at Alabama.
Like Harris, Jacobs has also averaged more than eight yards per carry in the first half of the season and rushed for three touchdowns. Scarbrough rounds out the three-headed monster. The sophomore hasn’t received the amount of carries many expected him to get before the season, but his size and physicality has made him a reliable threat on the goal line.
Of course, behind any strong run game is a strong offensive line, and the Crimson Tide’s has been top notch this season.