Is Bo Scarbrough THE guy at running back for Alabama?
Alabama’s run game is set up to continue to thrive this season. The offensive line is having to replace two of the five starters, including Jacksonville Jaguars’ second-round pick Cam Robinson, but the talent in there for the unit to be even better than it was in 2016.
Jalen Hurts should also take pressure off the running backs — though they don’t really need that — with his development as a passer and his ability to make plays with his legs. It’s a recipe for success for whoever lines up next to Hurts, but who will that guy be?
After his impressive postseason in 2016, should it be junior Bo Scarbrough? Here are our thoughts.
Why he should be the guy
When it mattered the most, Scarbrough came through for Alabama. He rush for only 552 yards and 6 touchdowns on 97 carries — 5.7 yards per attempt — in the Tide’s 12 regular season games. But the postseason was a much different story. Scarbrough went on a tear in those three games, rushing for 364 yards and 6 touchdowns — increasing his per-carry average from 5.7 to 7.9.
That’s with Scarbrough missing the second half of the national championship game with a broken leg, too. Before that injury, he had already run for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns against Clemson. It could be argued that losing him is what caused Alabama’s offense to stall, leading to a defeat at the hands of Deshaun Watson in the final seconds.
When looking at Scarbrough, it’s hard to dream up a better looking running back, physically. The 6-2, 235-pound specimen isn’t just size and muscle. He also brings speed, balance and the power that typically comes with that size. The comparisons to former Alabama running back Derrick Henry are warranted.
The 5-star prospect seems to have everything you could ever want in bell cow running back, so why hasn’t Scarbrough emerged as such? Health could be a major factor.
Why he shouldn’t be the guy
When evaluating Scarbrough’s game, there don’t seem to be many chinks in his armor. Showing the ability to maintain his health is one of those chinks, however.
Since arriving at Alabama, Scarbrough has missed time on multiple occasions because of lower leg injuries. In the spring of 2015, he suffered a torn ACL that ended his first season on campus before it even started. Then, Scarbrough saw another significant injury when he suffered the broken leg against Clemson, just when he was starting to hit his stride.
It’s tough to build your offense around a guy who can’t stay healthy for any length of time, and being able to stay healthy is something that Scarbrough hasn’t proven he can do so far. As talented as he is, can the Alabama offense afford to lean on him as their bell cow running back?
At this point, the answer to that question has to be no. Not when players possessing elite talent such as Najee Harris are on the roster. To think that a true freshman could come in and take away a majority of the touches in such a crowded backfield might seem improbable, but that’s the type of talent Alabama has in its youngest Harris. He had a meniscus issue that he suffered late in the fall on 2016, but he seems to be past that.
Due to Scarbrough’s history with injuries, Najee Harris might be the only running back on the roster capable of earning a lion’s share of the touches at the expense of his competition. That’s not a given, or even likely, at this point, but it does mean that fans shouldn’t expect a Derrick Henry type of season from Scarbrough.
The good news for Scarbrough and Alabama is the team might not need to lean on him too much. The running back position doesn’t lack talent, and the top five guys on the depth chart all are capable of being workhorse running backs if needed.
Due to the depth at the position, having one of the guys on the roster to emerge as a Heisman Trophy candidate is unlikely. That doesn’t mean Alabama’s run game will suffer, however. Quite the opposite, in fact. The run game should thrive with so many guys contributing to wearing down opposing defenses.
Scarbrough will most certainly be a key part of that strategy, but to expect him, or anyone else in this Alabama backfield, to emerge as a bell cow is a stretch.