Brian Robinson Jr. is the epitome of what an Alabama football player should be. His story, consisting of patience and waiting his turn, has been told repeatedly. Robinson battled through adversity and stayed at Alabama for the duration of his collegiate career despite spending several years buried on the depth chart .
His character, and what he did for the program, should not be understated. However, what he did for this particular team in this particular season was remarkable.
The senior leader, Robinson shouldered the load for the Alabama offense to the tune of 306 touches. For reference, Robinson’s 21.9 touches per game was just shy of Najee Harris’ 22.6 touches per game in the 2020 season.
When the 2021 season started, the Bama running game took on a committee approach. As the year progressed, injuries and attrition took their toll on the position group. In week five, Alabama football had a huge matchup at home against Ole Miss in which sophomore Jase McClellan would be lost for the season. With true freshman Camar Wheaton already out for the year, the Alabama backfield was suddenly thin. Robinson, coming off an injury himself, responded by having a career outing against the Rebels.
Battling cracked ribs, the senior toted the rock a career-high 36 times for 171 yards and four touchdowns. It was Robinson’s first 100-yard performance of the season, and he almost doubled his carries for the season in a single afternoon (37 carries in his previous three games).
The following week, Robinson had another valiant effort in the loss at Texas A&M. He ran the ball 24 times for 147 yards, and impacted the game as a pass catcher for the first time. He made 4 grabs for 60 yards to give him over 200 yards from scrimmage in the game.
Brian Robinson continued to catch the ball effectively for the rest of the season, and remained a huge part of the Alabama offense. He totaled 141 yards and three scores on 24 touches in a win over Mississippi State, then racked up 123 yards and three more touchdowns on 30 touches against Tennessee.
The Alabama run game was shut down against LSU, and Robinson had his lowest output of the season with only 26 yards from scrimmage. However, Robinson still found the end zone against the Tigers in a 20-14 victory.
Against New Mexico State, Robinson enjoyed a lighter workload and made some of the most explosive plays of his Alabama career, including a 63-yard touchdown burst. He finished with 135 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 touches. The main storyline coming out of the game, however, was the knee injury to Roydell Williams, who had been the number two back since McClellan’s injury.
With Williams out, the Tide backfield was restricted to Robinson and Trey Sanders for the rest of the season. Robinson answered with a big game, touching the ball 30 times for 140 total yards in a close win over Arkansas.
He then grinded his way to a hard-fought 100 yards on 19 touches in a thrilling Iron Bowl victory. To the dismay of Alabama football fans, Robinson was injured towards the end of the game.
The following week, Robinson suited up for the SEC championship game with a bum hamstring. Clearly slowed by the injury, Robinson put together an inspiring performance against a run defense that had been lauded as impenetrable. While he didn’t make any memorable plays, or post an eye-popping stat line, his steady play (71 yards on 18 touches) provided tremendous value. Along with Sanders, he ran the ball just well enough to keep the Alabama offense balanced and the Georgia defense honest. He converted several critical 3rd downs in helping the Tide to its second consecutive SEC title.
After having over three weeks to recover, Robinson looked rejuvenated in the Cotton Bowl semifinal against Cincinnati. The Bearcats were intent on slowing Alabama’s passing game, and the Tide were more than content to hand Robinson the ball early and often. For the game, he ran 26 times for a career-best 204 yards (7.8 YPC), almost single-handedly controlling the tempo of the game and keeping the Cincy offense on the sideline.
Brian Robinson’s last game in an Alabama football uniform was a rematch with the Georgia Bulldogs in the National Championship. The sledding was tough all night against the stiff Georgia defense, but Robinson ran hard. The senior finished with 96 yards on 26 touches in the loss to the Bulldogs.
It was hardly the storybook ending a guy like Robinson deserved, but the performance embodied his season and his career as a Crimson Tide running back: rugged and blue-collar. Robinson was never the most talented guy, but his toughness and character played a huge role in carrying this team as far as it got. Thank you B-Rob!