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Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. could have transferred.
Surely there was a program out there where the No. 7 tailback in the nation by Rivals.com out of Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa could have started and garnered more carries than 24 in 2017. Or as it has turned out for some NCAA transfer portal entries, the playing time could have remained about the same, but in a different uniform.
As a sophomore in 2018, Robinson carried just 63 times but stuck.
In 2019, his rushes increased to 96 for 441 yards, but after three seasons and 39 games, he had exactly no starts, and there were no starts amid fewer carries in 2020 as well as he spent his career behind the likes of Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris. But he remained.
Finally, as a fifth-year senior after Najee Harris went in the first round to Pittsburgh in the 2021 NFL Draft, the red door was there for Harris this season. And he has busted through it for 1,275 yards on 249 carries, finally as a starter.
If he gains 87 yards for the No. 1 Tide (13-1) in the national championship game against No. 3 Georgia (13-1) on Monday (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN), he will have more yards in his final season at Alabama than he did in first four combined. Check the line on FanDuel each day. Right now, Georgia is a 3-point favorite.
“As the years go by, I just felt like I couldn’t waste that time just because I wasn’t playing a lot or wasn’t on the field a lot as much as I wanted to be,” he said. “I still had to prepare the same way as my opportunity was going to to come at any moment.”
He never considered leaving for very long, as coach Nick Saban kept saying his time would come.
“He held his word with everything he said he was going to do for me,” Robinson said. “He’s done everything in his power to help me.”
And Robinson shared what can happen to even the best of prospects at Alabama.
“Sometimes, I had to explain to some of these recruits that everything is not going to necessarily be handed to you,” he said.
Not at Alabama, which churns out No. 1 recruiting classes even more than national championships. Players often have to wait.
“Everybody has their own story,” Robinson said. “Some people just have different opportunities. Some guys come in, and they’re granted the opportunity after their freshman or sophomore year. Some guys like myself had to wait four years beside four or five great players before they really get an opportunity to play.”
Five times this season, Robinson carried at least 24 times, which was his number of rushes as a freshman in 11 games. He rushed a career-high 36 times for 171 yards in the 42-21 win over Ole Miss on Oct. 2.
Robinson gained a career high and Alabama bowl record 204 yards on 26 carries in the 27-6 win over Cincinnati last week and took the offensive MVP award. His best rushing game entering this season was 76 yards in 2020, and his career high for carries was 13 before this season.
“When they open the doors for you, if you’re not ready for the opportunity, and you didn’t prepare yourself for it, then you wasted your time complaining,” he said. “Regardless of when your opportunity is granted, you have to prepare for it. I just knew I was going to be expected to do a lot more.”