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2023 Alabama Football Preview: Running Backs

Is this the best position group on Alabama’s roster?

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In 2008, Glenn Coffee burst onto the scene for over 1000 rushing yards while a freshman Mark Ingram showed his fair share of flashes, putting Alabama at the forefront of college football with a vaunted power rushing attack.

The next year, Mark Ingram won the Heisman. Following that Trent Richardson had such a spectacular year that he became a rare top-5 draft pick at RB.

Then Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon led one of the most efficient rushing offenses of all time, and Derrick Henry went on to win another Heisman and become the top running back in the NFL.

And don’t forget the next few years when Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Brian Robinson all shared a backfield - all of whom are NFL starters, and Jacobs is considered a top-15 player in the whole NFL. At the tail end of it all, Jahmyr Gibbs came in and became a 1st round draft pick himself.

For the last 15 years, Alabama has been synonymous with top tier RB play, and no other college has come even close. Despite Gibbs’s status as a first round draft pick, the Tide’s rushing attack was extremely inconsistent last year, and Alabama fans are hoping to see a return to form in 2023.

Nick Saban has spent this entire offseason specifically pointing out how well this position group is doing and that they are likely the most top-to-bottom complete group on the roster.

That, coupled with an OC who really likes to run the ball in Tommy Rees, and Alabama just might have a resurgence in the run game behind some combination of this talented group of players.

Returning Contributors

#2 Jase McClellan- 5’11” 212

If you can believe it, McClellan is now a senior in the program. The Texas native broke off some big runs as a freshman in mop-up duty back in 2020 before becoming a blossoming part of the rotation in 2021. Unfortunately, an early-season ACL tear ended his year. McClellan looked hesitant early in 2022, but came on strong by the end, racking up 655 yards, 7 TDs, and a very solid 5.8 yards per carry.

McClellan’s seniority, another year removed from his ACL, and his blend of size, strength, and gliding speed make him a candidate to have a HUGE season.

#5 Roydell Williams- 5’10” 214

Williams came to Alabama in the same class as McClellan, and the two have had very similar careers. Roydell didn’t see as much time as a freshman, but he came in after McClellan went down in 2021 and averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 10 games before an ACL tear of his own ended the season.

In 2022, Williams was not the every-down type of player that McClellan was, but carved out a role as Alabama’s preferred short-yardage specialist. His 4.9 yards per carry were a bit underwhelming, but some of that is due to the situational nature of his carries.

Where McClellan is smooth and gliding, Williams is quick and choppy. The two seniors bring different skillsets to the table in similarly sized bodies, and bring quite a bit of experience and veteran leadership to the group.

Returning Depth

#26 Jam Miller- 5’10” 211

A true freshman last year, Jam flashed every single time he touched the ball in mop-up duty, averaging 6.8 yards per carry on 33 attempts last year. He’s built like a bowling ball, but accelerates like a rocket.

This is what I said over a year ago when Miller first signed with Alabama:

You’ll have to forgive me in advance for the outpouring of praise you’re about to get, but Miller might well be my favorite running back recruit to come to Alabama since Trent Richardson. The dude is one of the most natural RBs I’ve ever seen.


Though he’s listed at less than 200 pounds, he’s built compactly and runs with a combination of balance, power, and quick feet that make him nearly impossible for 1, 2, or even three defenders to get him on the ground. He’s a wizard when navigating traffic in tight spaces, and often will disappear behind his blockers, shed a tackle, and then burst out into open field and outrace everyone to the endzone.

He can make a defender miss, sidestep another defender in the next instant, and finish off a run by plowing directly through a 3rd guy and picking up an extra 8 yards. There really isn’t a move in the book he can’t do, he’s tough, aggressive, slippery, and can change it all into a homerun gear when he gets the room to go.

The only reason he’s not a 5-star, top 15 prospect is his size.

And guess what? He’s now over 210 pounds and built like an SEC running back.

There’s a lot of people out there predicting he could pass up Williams and maybe even McClellan in terms of carries this year.

And, to be honest, I would be very hesitant to argue with them. This guy just has juice.

The Newcomers

#22 Justice Haynes - 5’11” 205

Haynes enrolled early this offseason, and the class’s #1 running back took no time at all becoming all the talk of the internet as he showed out all through spring camp and then showed out with three touchdowns in the A-Day game. Nick Saban consistently praised him as a guy who came in like mature college player, and you wouldn’t think he was a freshman.

On top of being a dynamic, 5-star kind of player as a runner, he’s also been consistently brought up as a guy who can do everything: pass catching, pass blocking, and does all the small things right in game and out of it.

Were it nearly any other college in the country, Haynes would be a shoe-in for the day 1 starter as a true freshman.

#25 Richard Young - 5’11” 200

Due to all the hype around Haynes and Young not arriving until this summer, you can be (somewhat) forgiven for not realizing just how heralded of a prospect Young is coming in. ESPN even had him as the #1 running back in the class over Haynes.

He was an early, unwavering commitment to Alabama who was constantly and outspkokenly recruiting other players to the Tide through the whole cycle.

Young is a powerful back with a straight-line decisiveness that will make him an extremely consistent player at the college level.

While he’s 5th on the depth chart due to being so new to the team, don’t count him out as a guy who could come in as a freshman and hold his own in the SEC if needed.

Predicted depth chart

This is where things get hard. I think that, in following the seniority, the depth chart will look like the same order I listed each of these guys:

McClellan, Williams, Miller, Haynes, Young

However, I think that, by season end, we see McClellan and Haynes with the most touches (combined for about 70%), and Williams and Miller are about equal in making up the rest of the production.

Young is the odd man out here, but, again, if someone gets injured, he’s a guy that can play from the get-go.

If the offensive line is up for the task, this is shaping up to be a huge season for Alabama’s rushing attack.