Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t the only true freshman on Alabama’s roster that struggled to deal with a lack of playing time during his first season in Tuscaloosa. The gem of Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class also had a tough time dealing with life on the bench, as his Hawaiian teammate admitted earlier this offseason.

While Alabama fans clamored nearly the entire season to see more of Tua in the lineup, it was Najee Harris that signed with the Crimson Tide program as the higher ranked prospect for the 2017 recruiting cycle. The nation’s No. 1 running back and No. 2 overall prospect carried the ball only 61 times for Alabama last season and had only two games that featured 10 or more touches — both of which came in September.

After the season, Harris apparently contemplated leaving the program after making a minimal impact in Tuscaloosa for the National Champions. Although cooler heads quickly prevailed after speaking with his longtime trainer, Marcus Malu, after returning home to California following the conclusion of the season.

The main reason Harris is sticking it out with Alabama? No other school will prepare him better for the NFL. That was the message Malu conveyed to his star pupil over the offseason.

“I told him there’s not another school that is going to prep him as well, and give him the competition every day to get him ready for (playing on) Sundays,” Malu said to Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He was just down. I said, ‘You have to go back. I know you’re down right now, it happens. But you have to go back.’

“He needed the mental battles, so he can stay focused and hungry. I told him, ‘You’ve always been the hardest worker, and now you’re in a room full of hard workers. Nobody remembers what you did all year, they remember the yardage you gained in the title game.’”

Considering Harris’ main contribution to Alabama’s season came in the National Championship game against Georgia, he rushed six times for 64 yards (10.7 yard-per-carry average) during the Tide’s epic second-half comeback, the rising sophomore appears poised for a significantly larger role in the offense in 2018.

In anticipation for that increased workload, it should be noted that no running back received more carries in the latest A-Day spring game than Harris’ 14 carries.

While Damien Harris elected to return for his senior season and is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns for Alabama, the team would be wise to share the load between the two. Keeping the running backs as fresh as possible for the SEC gauntlet could be the difference between winning and losing the league and potentially bringing another national championship home to Tuscaloosa.

We’ve seen what Najee Harris can do in a limited role but what he can potentially provide given more opportunities should be a frightening possibility every defense in the SEC.