Alabama Football: Should the Crimson Tide go deeper in the backfield?

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football does not have a traditional running game like it has in the past. Bill O’Brien’s pro approach features smaller, quicker backs that are more dangerous catching passes in space than they are running between the tackles. After starting out the season utilizing a running back-by-committee strategy, the rotation has been pared down significantly in recent weeks.

Jahmyr Gibbs has gotten the lion’s share of the workload as of late. For the season, he has amassed 672 rushing yards (first on team) and 301 receiving yards (third) with nine total touchdowns (first). In the first four games, Gibbs totaled just 25 carries with a single-game high of nine carries. In the four games since, he has toted the rock 73 times, carried the ball at least 10 times in every game and exceeded 20 carries on two different occasions. Jahmyr Gibbs’ high usage rate is understandable, given his level of production.

Should Alabama Football spread the wealth?

Among the backs that have lost snaps due to Gibbs’ emergence are juniors Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams. McClellan, who is now the clear-cut number two option, has run for 312 yards. He has also gained 79 receiving yards and scored five total touchdowns, which ties for second among offensive skill players. McClellan’s usage rate was never particularly high, but it has dipped slightly in recent games. His production has taken an even bigger hit. Through four games, McClellan was averaging 8.4 yards per carry and had scored four total touchdowns. In the last four games, his 25 carries have netted just 67 yards (2.7 YPC), and he has scored only one touchdown.

Roydell Williams, the most physical of the Alabama backs, doesn’t fit the O’Brien scheme as well and hasn’t gotten a significant opportunity to contribute lately. He has 31 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown this season. After leading the Tide in rushing against UL Monroe, Williams saw his role gradually dwindle, culminating in the game in Knoxville which saw him get zero touches.

Roydell Williams found his way back into the rotation against Mississippi State. However, like Jase McClellan, his production was unimpressive. He tied his season high with eight touches, yet totaled just 17 yards and generally did not impact the game.

Further down the depth chart, junior Trey Sanders and freshman Jamarion Miller haven’t seen the field in three and four weeks, respectively. Miller has shown flashes of potential, averaging 7.3 yards per carry in a limited role. He had a breakout game against Vanderbilt, running for 63 yards and two touchdowns, but has not carried the ball since.

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While it’s unrealistic to go five-deep in the heat of an SEC schedule, Alabama football could benefit from using its reserves a little more. Increased roles for Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams would add a physical, downhill edge to the backfield while keeping Jahmyr Gibbs fresh.