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Here Comes Najee Harris

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Already a national name, Najee Harris is now set for stardom.

Even at a program like Alabama, the recent track record at running back has been remarkable. Names like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Derrick Henry have led the Crimson Tide to a modern-day dynasty over the last decade, their talents helping to set the tone as Alabama has won five national championships in ten years. Najee Harris is the next-in-line. Fresh off a team-high of nearly 6.7 yards per carry as a sophomore, the California-native is poised for a banner season. Already a national name, Harris is now set for stardom.

A former five-star recruit, Harris was a big brand long before ever taking a college snap. His formal introduction came, of all places, in the national championship game. With Alabama struggling for traction against surging Georgia, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wasn't the only true freshman Nick Saban turned to. Harris stepped into action and gave the unit a boost with six carries for a team-high 65 yards, driving for gains of 35, 16 and 11 yards. At 6'2'', 227 pounds, a stirring mix of speed and strength was on display, fittingly, on the game's biggest stage. 

Harris proved to be an offensive spark that night for the Crimson Tide, a sparkle that now gleams in the form a national title ring.   

In a backfield with Damien Harris, one of just eight Alabama players ever with at least 3,000 yards rushing, and first round NFL Draft pick Josh Jacobs, Harris finished second on the team with 783 yards in 2018. He, sharing carries with those standouts and sharing the offensive load with a record-setting passing game paced by Tagovailoa, still found a way to make an impact. Among other performances, Harris ran 13 times for 135 yards in a 57-7 win over Arkansas State and six times for 83 yards in a 29-0 victory at nationally-ranked LSU.

A unique big-play ability, with the powerful Harris regularly ripping off chunk gains, was a consistent result as he finished second in the SEC with 6.69 yards per attempt.

Consider that a strong foundation. Harris, having shown what he is capable of, is currently positioned atop the depth chart as Alabama's feature back. Averaging well over six yards per carry for his career, having already proved effective in both redzone and reserve roles, Harris is more than ready for the opportunity that awaits; he has been scouted, recruited and groomed for it. 

Though Tagovailoa and the nation's best receiver rotation is set for a continuation of their unprecedented success through the air, Harris has the potential to give the already-dynamic Alabama offense even more production and punch. He, as a punishing downhill runner with cut-and-go burst in space, has all the makings of a every down workhorse back. Harris will not only provide balance for the Crimson Tide, but the possibility of a complete philosophical shift if needed. He can both compliment Tagovailoa or carry the load.

After leading the nation with 92 touchdowns scored last fall, this Alabama offense will be as good as it wants to be. In addition to the return of Tagovailoa, the likely number one overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide bring back their top four wide receivers, most notably reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy. Running behind yet another dominant offensive line, Harris, too, will play a key role. His energy and punishing style could prove to be the exclamation point for a unit ready to make yet another national statement.

Harris, back to his breakout performance in the title game as a freshman, has a place in history. Ready to star as Alabama's feature back, he will soon have a place on the national stage. From those Harris is following in the footsteps of to the giants steps he has already taken, expect Harris to be one of college football's most prominent running backs this fall. He, the latest halfback headliner in Tuscaloosa, will be a central figure as the Crimson Tide chase yet another national championship.

A rare talent, Harris will soon join rare company as Alabama's number one back. Expect more of the same.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports