Sidelines with John Clay

Will Alabama’s Damien Harris be passed by teammate Bo Scarbrough?

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, hands off to running back Damien Harris during the first half of the Crimson Tide’s 52-6 win over Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. Despite rushing for 1,037 yards last season, Harris may not be Alabama’s No. 1 running back in 2017.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, hands off to running back Damien Harris during the first half of the Crimson Tide’s 52-6 win over Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. Despite rushing for 1,037 yards last season, Harris may not be Alabama’s No. 1 running back in 2017. Associated Press

As a sophomore, former Madison Southern star Damien Harris rushed for 1,037 yards in helping the Alabama Crimson Tide to another SEC title and a runner-up finish in the College Football Playoff.

That may not have been enough for the Richmond native to enter 2017 as the Tide’s No. 1 running back, however. In fact, Harris will probably end up sharing the role, or playing behind fellow junior Bo Scarbrough.

It was the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Scarbrough who rushed for 90 yards or more in each of Alabama’s final four games last season, including a 19-carry, 180-yard effort in Bama’s 24-7 win over Washington in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which served as the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Scarbrough then rushed for 93 yards on 16 carries before suffering a broken leg in the third quarter of what ultimately was Alabama’s heartbreaking 35-31 loss to Clemson in the national title game.

[Sorry SEC, ACC is the nation’s best football conference]

As the Tide has commenced fall camp for 2017, Scarbrough reports he is healthy now. “The book is closed,” Scarbrough told Christopher Walsh of SEC Country. “The past is the past and I can’t talk about that either. I’m really focused on what’s going on right now.”

Meanwhile, after rushing for 157 yards on just 46 carries as a true freshman in 2015, Harris got off to terrific start last season, rushing for 138 yards on just nine carries -- a 15.3-yard per attempt average -- in Alabama’s 52-6 season-opening win over Southern Cal.

It was the first of four games in which the 5-11, 221-pounder topped the century mark in rushing yards. Harris gained 144 on 16 carries in Alabama’s 48-43 win at Ole Miss. He gained 122 yards on 13 carries in the Tide’s 49-30 win at Arkansas. And he picked up 128 yards on 17 attempts in Alabama’s 33-14 home win over Texas A&M.

Down the stretch, however, Harris’ production tailed off. Over Bama’s last four games, he rushed for just 184 yards on 31 carries. Against Clemson, Harris carried the ball just five times for 24 yards.

“We think Damien had a great year last year,” Bama coach Nick Saban said in the spring, according to Walsh. “I think he was hurt a bit toward the end of the season. Probably slowed him down a little bit.”

With Harris hobbled, Scarbrough surged, fulfilling the potential he exhibited at Northridge High School in Tuscaloosa and at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before joining the Tide.

Still, his career has been susceptible to injury. Besides the broken leg last season, Scarbrough has twice undergone ACL surgery. Despite just 51 carries in Alabama’s first eight games last year, he finished with 812 yards on 125 attempts for a 6.5-yard per carry average. Harris averaged 7.2.

Phil Steele has Scarbrough rated as the fourth-best NFL Draft-eligible running back for this season, behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, LSU’s Derrius Guice and Southern Cal’s Ronald Jones. Steele ranks Harris at No. 8.

In fact, Alabama’s backfield in 2017 may resemble the Alabama backfield of 2014 when Derrick Henry rushed for 990 yards and Ty Yeldon rushed for 917. Henry went on to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

We’ll know more when Alabama opens its season Sept. 2 against Florida State in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Damien Harris 2016 game-by-game rushing stats

Date

Opponent

Att

Yds

Avg

9/3/16

vsUSC

9

138

15.3

9/10/16

Western Kentucky

11

45

4.1

9/17/16

@Ole Miss

16

144

9.0

9/24/16

Kent State

4

18

4.5

10/1/16

Kentucky

2

11

5.5

10/8/16

@Arkansas

13

122

9.4

10/15/16

@Tennessee

14

94

6.7

10/22/16

Texas A&M

17

128

7.5

11/5/16

@LSU

12

53

4.4

11/12/16

Miss State

3

9

3.0

11/19/16

Chattanooga

13

91

7.0

11/26/16

Auburn

9

47

5.2

12/3/16

vsFlorida

8

86

10.8

12/31/16

vsWashington

9

30

3.3

1/9/17

vsClemson

5

24

4.8

Bo Scarbrough 2016 game-by-game rushing stats

Date

Opponent

Att

Yds

Avg

9/3/16

vsUSC

11

36

3.3

9/10/16

Western Kentucky

5

19

3.8

9/17/16

@Ole Miss

7

13

1.9

9/24/16

Kent State

3

19

6.3

10/1/16

Kentucky

5

21

4.2

10/8/16

@Arkansas

7

56

8.0

10/15/16

@Tennessee

5

109

21.8

10/22/16

Texas A&M

8

33

4.1

11/5/16

@LSU

11

52

4.7

11/12/16

Miss State

0

0

0.0

11/19/16

Chattanooga

0

0

0.0

11/26/16

Auburn

17

90

5.3

12/3/16

vsFlorida

11

91

8.3

12/31/16

vsWashington

19

180

9.5

1/9/17

vsClemson

16

93

5.8

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