Alabama Football: Can Justice Haynes be a top-5 SEC running back?

Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football true freshman running back Justice Haynes has generated a lot of buzz this spring. The 5-star recruit in the 2023 class came to Tuscaloosa as an early enrollee and immediately made waves during spring practice, garnering high praise from Nick Saban himself.

The first time Bama fans were able to see him compete in an Alabama uniform, Justice Haynes lived up to the hype. He accounted for three total touchdowns on A-Day in leading his team to victory, which only caused the excitement surrounding him to increase.

Still, Haynes has yet to play a snap of college football, so where should Alabama Football fans realistically set their expectations for the freshman?

Alabama Football: Is Justice Haynes a top-5 SEC running back?

As far as anyone can tell, Haynes’ talent and readiness to compete at the SEC level are legitimate, and may have even been understated to this point.

His greatest obstacle may reside in his own locker room, as Alabama features a loaded RB room with several players that could demand carries. The group is headlined by senior Jase McClellan, who got borderline starter reps last season and racked up 829 yards from scrimmage with 10 touchdowns. Senior Roydell Williams and sophomore Jam Miller also return.

While Haynes is very capable, there is a plausible scenario in which he doesn’t receive enough touches to be considered one of the SEC’s premiere backs.

Within the conference, Ole Miss sophomore Quinshon Judkins and Arkansas junior Rocket Sanders both amassed 1,700 yards from scrimmage last season, and are generally considered the top dogs.

Georgia always has a loaded backfield, and returns the bruising trio of Daijun Edwards, Kendall Milton, and Branson Robinson.

Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter takes over the lead role in the Tigers’ backfield, and could have a breakout season. Hunter finished last year with three straight 100-yard games, including 134 yards against Alabama, a career-high against FBS competition.

Tennessee’s backfield duo of Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright returns, as does Florida’s tandem of Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne.

As is typically the case, the SEC is absolutely loaded at the running back position. Justice Haynes is talented enough to be in the conversation amongst the league’s elite backs, but his role has yet to be defined.

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Few would question that Haynes has the highest ceiling in the Alabama Football running back room, but he will have to leapfrog several older players on the depth chart in order to establish himself as a top-5 SEC running back.