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Brian Robinson Jr. was the other running back in Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class.
The headliner was five-star Najee Harris, who lived up to the billing during his time in Tuscaloosa. Robinson, on the other hand, was a four-star, top-10 running back in that same class who has been a steady contributor ever since.
In four seasons, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound runner has produced 1,511 total yards (1,361 rushing, 150 receiving) and 15 touchdowns. His timeshare has always come as a rotational back, and he’s never exceeded 100 carries in a season.
You also might notice that I said four seasons.
Yes, Robinson is one of those players utilizing the extra year of eligibility granted to all NCAA players due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Harris gone to the NFL, Robinson sees 2021 as an opportunity to improve his draft grade.
“My decision to come back, I saw many opportunities for me to become a better player on and off the field, improve my draft grade and so on,” Robinson said recently, via AL.com. “I just felt like there are many opportunities for me to win this year. I’m all in for it.”
It’s hard to blame Robinson. He’s been the No. 2 running back on the depth chart for a couple of years now, so with Harris gone, he may rise to starter status. Will that happen though?
He’s certainly capable, but he’ll also face plenty of stiff competition. Here are some of the other guys he’ll be competing with:
- Trey Sanders: Former five-star, returning from multiple injuries from a car accident
- Jase McClellan: Former four-star, top-50 prospect ready to make a Year 2 leap
- Roydell Williams: Former four-star, top-100 guy. Similar situation to McClellan
- Keilan Robinson: Former four-star, explosive change of pace back returning from opt out
- Kyle Edwards: Former three-star, depth option with potential
- Camar Wheaton: Five-star freshman, but not an early enrollee — could hurt chances
That is a loaded backfield.
The good news for Robinson is that he has almost triple the number of career carries (274) as the rest of the group combined (111). That sizable difference in experience may help him keep the top spot on the depth chart.
Everyone knows Nick Saban likes to reward seniority and loyalty when he can. He’s going to give Robinson every opportunity to be the top dog in a loaded backfield, but don’t be surprised if a three- or four-man committee sees touches.
We saw a similar situation back in 2017 with Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.