Alabama Football: Najee Harris back as focus turns to roster management

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

With the quiet news coming out of a Najee Harris return, the Alabama football staff can turn attention to roster management and making numbers work.

Without any fanfare, there are conformed reports Najee Harris will forego NFL early entry for another Alabama football season. That is welcome news for a Crimson Tide offense needing to surround Mac Jones (QB competition will be open) with as many explosive weapons as possible.

Gone to the NFL Draft are Jedrick Wills, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and, of course, Tua. Among Najee, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, a healthy Trey Sanders, Jahleel Billingsley and Mac’s arm, Steve Sarkisian has plenty of returning, explosive weapons.

2020 recruiting is not complete. 13 new players have enrolled early. Nine more signed for summer enrollment. The Crimson Tide has four more verbal commitments. At one point it was anticipated the 2020 class would become 28 players and the numbers above total 26. It has been widely discussed, one of the four commits, Jayson Jones only has a blueshirt offer. The other three either have academic obstacles or are listening to and in the case of Javon Baker, visiting other schools.

Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood and Devonta Smith deciding to return makes the 85 scholarship limit harder to achieve. So the 2020 class may be 26-27, rather than 28. The best guess is no more than four more players will be added in February.

The annual, difficult issue of roster management always stresses Alabama football fans. Even buying into the commonly used phrase, “Nick always makes the numbers work” does not allay all concern. He does make them work, but this year his task is tougher than usual.

Without going through all the calculations, it appears roster management must include at least six more players moving to other programs. One, running back Jerome Ford, has already used the new transfer rules to move to Cincinnati.

Before projecting others who may choose transfer, a quick note on roster totals. There were strong indications this time last year both Paul Tyson and Will Reichard did not take athletic scholarships to join the Crimson Tide. We presume that information was and is correct.

Who might six more exiting players be? We have roster knowledge but no inside information. Our best guess is two offensive linemen will transfer. The likely candidates are Scott Lashley and Hunter Brannon. What Scooby Carter finally does is unpredictable, but another secondary guy like Eddie Smith or Daniel Wright could look for a new school, starting chance. With all the new linebackers coming in, Markail Benton, Jaylen Moody and Jarez Parks might opt for more playing time elsewhere. It also appears Skyler DeLong would be best served by a fresh start at another school. Among those nine names, it is difficult to imagine more than three or four sticking with the Tide.

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We wish only the best to the young men mentioned as potential transfers. Annual shuffling of rosters has almost turned into constant turnover in the era of college football free agency.