Alabama Football: Jamarion Miller, RBs may be Bama’s best weapon

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

The poor Warhawk probably thought he was at a Dairy Queen drive-thru window in downtown Monroe, having dozed off waiting for his order. Or maybe he thought he was snoozing at his desk in Advanced Economics class. Or maybe he thought he was asleep on an inflatable raft somewhere off the coast of Costa Rica.

Playing on the defensive side of the ball, Tralon Thomas is accustomed to delivering hits. Late Saturday afternoon as dusk was falling across Tuscaloosa, the final minutes ticking away in the Crimson Tide’s lopsided 63-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe, Jamarion Miller turned the tables on the 6-foot, 241-pound linebacker in jaw-dropping fashion. The reserve Tide running back trucked his would-be tackler.

After the mid-run collision, Miller powered forward for a few more yards for a 13-yard gainer.

Punishing Alabama Football

The woozy Warhawk?

He laid prone, motionless, flat on his back, on the Bryant-Denny Stadium turf for several seconds, receiving attention from both the Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama Football training staffs. He eventually began to move his arms, was helped to his feet, and then staggered to the sideline with the assistance of trainers.

Even before that, Miller raised eyebrows on his very first carry of the afternoon with a nifty 12-yard that started with the 5-foot-10, 201-pound true freshman bursting through the hole like a bolt of lightning. Miller’s final carry on the day went for 25 yards. The prized recruit out of Tyler, Texas finished the game with four carries for 51 yards, topping all Bama running backs with a gaudy 12.8 yards per carry average.

Watching this kid run, it’s hard for any Bama fan not to yearn to see more of No. 26 toting the rock. Miller looks special. Explosive. Powerful. Packed with upside. What might he do with more opportunities? Double-digit carries? Something, anything more than minimal fourth-quarter mop-up work when the outcome is already long decided.

Truth is, despite the flashes of brilliance Saturday, Miller’s role in this Alabama offense may or may not expand. Why? He’s buried on the depth chart. Way down the depth chart. Jahmyr Gibbs, Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams and Trey Sanders all saw the field and earned carries before Miller did, and all produced positive results.

Gibbs had four carries for 36 yards but did most of his damage as a receiver out of the backfield, snagging four passes for 65 yards and a TD. McClellan ran seven times for 47 yards. Williams took over an entire offensive series in the third quarter when he carried the ball five straight plays, ripping off runs of 18, 7, 7, 13 and 10 — that 10-yard, tackle-breaking gem ending in the end zone. Sanders had four totes for 35 yards and a TD. Even Jonathan Bennett, the junior running back who saw the field after Miller, showed some promise with a 10-yard gainer in the game’s waning minutes.

Suddenly 2021 — when preseason transfers and in-season injuries ravaged the Tide’s running back ranks — seems like eons ago. This season, Alabama is oozing with quality running backs.

The surplus is noteworthy because through three games this fall, it’s becoming increasingly clear that receiver play is not quite up to the standard it’s been in recent years. There is no Calvin Ridley on this team. No Jerry Jeudy. No Henry Ruggs. No Jaylen Waddle. No DeVonta Smith. No Jameson Williams. No John Metchie.

Yes, Alabama still has Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young, but even Young, who threw a pair of picks Saturday, looks less surgeon-like through the air minus his top two targets from 2021.

Maybe that’s the biggest challenge for Nick Saban and Bill O’Brien this season — figuring out how to best utilize what appears to be the best offensive weapon they have this season. The multi-headed monster inhabiting Alabama’s running back room.

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More Miller on Saturdays? Sounds enticing. Unless you’re a defender on the opposite side trying to tackle him.