Previewing the 2022 Crimson Tide: Running Backs
Every week in the lead up to the 2022 season, I'll break down a position group, a Crimson Tide player and an SEC team here on Tide 100.9. This week, we're looking at the running backs.
Last week's preview is linked below.
Read More: Previewing the 2022 Tide: Quarterbacks
Think back to the 2013 season when the Alabama Crimson Tide had this running back corp:
Now, I'm not here to make comparisons. The fact of the matter is that the three backs with experience playing for the Crimson Tide don't have much thanks to injuries. The one new guy hasn't played for Alabama long enough to make a true assessment.
But from a pure potential standpoint, the resemblance to that 2013 room is uncanny.
Of course, the styles are different. Very different. There's no Derrick Henry-type back on this team. There are no pure speed guys, no pure power guys.
However, one guy on this roster does remind me of the guy who wasn't in this picture, and that's where we're going to start.
He's the guy that hasn't been here long, but he's also the guy that everyone anticipates will take over this offense, the SEC and the nation this season.
Jahmyr Gibbs is a player that I'll be doing a film breakdown on soon, so I won't go too in-depth here. That said, he reminds me of Alvin Kamara.
He might be faster, too. Regardless, his skill set is very similar: elite receiving ability, elite open-field runner, great speed and deceptively powerful.
It'd be foolish to look up Gibbs's stats in his two seasons at Georgia Tech and try to make sense of his abilities. Numbers lie. Truth be told, he suffered from the same fate as Jermaine Burton and maybe Tyler Harrell: underutilization.
That's right, 178 scrimmage touches for Jahmyr Gibbs is far too few opportunities for him. Even so, he scored six times from scrimmage in 2021. By comparison, Brian Robinson touched the ball 306 times for the Crimson Tide last year.
He can score from literally anywhere on the field. He, like Najee Harris and Alvin Kamara alike, has a vast move set with which to break tackles. Though Kamara is a fast back, Gibbs has true afterburners to make any defense a group of 11 fading objects in a rearview mirror.
Gibbs will get more than 200 touches in 2022 assuming he stays healthy. How much more is the real question, because behind him are three extremely hungry backs.
Jase McClellan might be the most complete back on the roster behind Gibbs. That's not a slight on anyone else, but praise for a guy with feature back potential.
McClellan gave us a glimpse before tearing his ACL in Week 5 against Ole Miss. He rushed for 191 yards and caught 10 passes for 97 yards with four total touchdowns.
Now that he's healthy, McClellan is likely to receive the bulk of the secondary work behind Gibbs. That said, he doesn't change the game much in relief of Gibbs. He's slightly bigger than Gibbs but possesses many of the same traits. He's reliable out of the backfield, has homerun ability, and is a tough runner between the tackles.
Still, the trust given to him as a sophomore last year in relief of Brian Robinson was evident and should be the main factor when it comes to dividing carries among the backs this season. McClellan has proven himself, and that's half the battle.
Roydell Williams suffered his knee injury a month after McClellan against New Mexico State. In that time period, he only took away at least 10 carries from Brian Robinson once, against Mississippi State.
Williams is a bowling ball back, much like Robinson, which may have contributed to his usage last year when he was the number two option. He's shown to have a bit more straight-line speed than Robinson, but his dense frame (despite being practically the same size as McClellan) makes him a sturdy force against opposing defenders.
There's more mystery around Williams in the 2022 offense than maybe any other back because of when he sustained his injury and his limited usage last year. At the very least, he and his fans can lean on the fact that he's the best power option on the team, so he could see some crucial goalline carries.
For what it's worth, Williams has shown to be a fairly balanced back. He's solid out of the backfield and I already mentioned his speed. The depth chart may seem unkind to him now, but he may appreciate it when it comes to his NFL career much in the same way Robinson will.
It's not fun putting Trey Sanders this far down on the list. He's supremely talented but has had the worst kind of luck early in his Crimson Tide career.
Thankfully, he stayed healthy last year. He didn't see many touches though. His 78 total touches were second on the team among running backs only because of the injuries to McClellan and Williams and even their injuries made it more difficult for Sanders to get touches because he and Robinson were the only healthy scholarship backs on the team in the postseason.
I compare Sanders to Le'Veon Bell or a slightly more gifted TJ Yeldon. He displays excellent patience as a runner, both in choosing his hole and in avoiding tacklers. He's as smooth as it gets in every move he makes. He's not the fastest, not the strongest, not the most athletic, but he's everything you could possibly ask for in a running back in today's game.
His time is coming, it's just a matter of time.