Najee Harris: Emerging From The Shadows

Najee Harris: Emerging From The Shadows

It’s been four long years since Najee Harris committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide football program. In the two years since he arrived in Tuscaloosa, he’s been used sparingly in Nick Saban’s rotating backfield. One by one, the running backs ahead of him in that rotation have been drafted to the NFL.

Now, in the 2019 College Football season, it’s Najee Harris’ time to shine.

Not that the former five star recruit hasn’t shone before. It’s just that his time in the spotlight was limited. His light was somewhat hidden by that of Bo Scarborough, of Josh Jacobs, and of namesake Damien Harris. In the two seasons since joining Alabama from Antioch High School, Najee has only seen five games where he has had more than ten touches per game.

It’s a far cry from being the focal point of that Antioch High School football team. Najee Harris was THE star on that team. When you watched him play those high school games, it was clear that he was a different talent. It was almost like he was playing a different sport to the opposition, he was that much better. Harris would take the hand off and effortlessly out run the defence. If a linebacker dared to stop him, he lowered the shoulder and knocked him flat on his back.

That was reflected in the stat sheet.

During his time at Antioch, he recorded over 300 yards in five games. That’s not 300 yards over five games. It’s 300 yards, per game, five times! He holds the school record with 396 rushing yards during an early September game in 2015. That game against Milpitas he had 3 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns to add to his 396 yards. The performance broke his own record of 371 yards in a game set just the year before.

It’s little wonder that he came out of high school not only as a five star recruit, but also the number one prospect in the nation for Scout and 247 Sports. He reportedly had 29 offers but settled on Alabama. His choice has enabled him to play in back to back National Championships.

Now, he gets to lead the charge to another one.

This is the season that Nick Saban has been saving Najee Harris for. College running backs are famously run ragged to the point that their careers in the NFL rarely last beyond three years. Harris has got significantly less miles on the clock as he gears up for National Championship revenge.

Alabama fans, and football fans in general, should be excited to see more of Najee Harris this season. Unless, of course, he’s facing your team. He has so many attributes that make him an explosive player to watch. He’s strong, tough, powerful, fast, and has incredibly quick feet. For a big guy he’s also got an amazing hurdling ability. He’s also a reliable pair of hands having never fumbled the ball during his college career.

Najee Harris hurdles a defender
Najee Harris showing his hurdle ability during 2017 spring practice. Photo by Kent Gidley

Over a two game streak in the 2018 season, his performances encapsulated everything that makes Najee Harris so explosive. In a late October battle with Tennessee, Harris showcased his skills on one run in particular where he hurdled one defender, then, as he landed, stiff armed another to extend the play. Alabama trampled Tennessee on their way to a 58-21 win.

Two weeks later it was the turn of LSU to meet the wrath of Najee Harris.

On just six carries, he dragged the LSU defence kicking and screaming for 83 yards. They were no match for his strength, with one play requiring four men to take him down. LSU were ranked third in the country at the time but Alabama shut them out for a 29-0 win.

Najee Harris didn’t find the end zone for a touchdown in either of these games. Over the course of his two seasons at Alabama he’s only had 10 touchdowns. Josh Jacobs had 11 in 2018 alone, and Damien Harris has 20 over the two years. In both National Championships he has led the team in rushing yards per carry, as he did in the the whole 2018 campaign. When he’s been on the field he’s been asked to do the tough work, whilst the glory has gone elsewhere.

Expect that to change in 2019.

Alabama is set to be an offensive juggernaut once again. With Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, Jerry Jeudy at wide receiver and Najee Harris leading the running back room, opposition defences are going to be at a loss for who to stop first.

Najee Harris has waited a long time for this. Pity the man who tries to stop him.

Feature Image Credit: rolltide.com

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