The Nick Saban Dynasty: Top 10 Running Backs
1. Derrick Henry
King Henry had one of the best careers for the Crimson Tide throughout his time here. The former Heisman Trophy winner set numerous program and conference records and guided his team to a national championship, but neither the numbers nor the honors fully capture the level of domination he demonstrated on the field.
When Henry arrived in Alabama, he was a man among boys. On the field, the 6-foot-3, 242-pound running back displayed the rare God-given skills of both speed and strength, as well as the discipline and work ethic that have made him a legend here at the capstone. He was one of the most difficult players to tackle and catch when breaking away from defenders on his way to the endzone.
In 2013, Henry rushed for 382 yards on 35 carries and scored four touchdowns in 12 games. In his sophomore year, he made a significant leap in statistics and production, accumulating 990 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. His final season with the Tide was one for the ages.
Henry rushed for 2,219 yards, a school and SEC record, and 28 touchdowns on 395 attempts. His yardage total in a single season was ranked fifth all-time in FBS history.
Derrick Henry had illustrious statistics and accomplishments; it was his on-field performance that stood out. You do not see someone that huge move with his combination of speed and agility every day. On the field, he made people look silly and smaller than they were.
The important matchup between former Heisman hopeful LSU's Leonard Fournette was Henry's defining Heisman moment. The Tigers were rated No. 2 in college football while Alabama was ranked No. 4, and Fournette was the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at the time.
When the two took the field, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy shifted from Fournette to Henry. He had 38 carries for 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns, proving that King Henry was the true Heisman Trophy winner.
Henry concluded his Alabama career with 3,591 running yards (the all-time school record at the time), 602 carries, and 42 touchdowns (Tied with Mark Ingram in school history). Head coach Nick Saban has seen several outstanding running backs come through the school, but no one made a "bigger" effect than Derrick Henry.
Derrick Henry's Accolades:
- 2015 Heisman Trophy
- 2015 The Doak Walker Award
- 2015 Walter Camp Award
- 2015 Maxwell Award
- 2015 Unanimous First Team All-American and All-SEC
- 2015 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
- SEC record 2,219 yards (5th most in a single season in college football history)
- SEC record 28 touchdowns
- 2015 National Champion
- 3x SEC Champion; 2015 SEC Championship MVP
2. Mark Ingram
The choice to place Mark Ingram at No. 2 was simple. Ingram led his team to the 2009 national title, which marked Saban's start of the Alabama dynasty. He was Alabama's first-ever Heisman Trophy winner.
Mark Ingram recorded 728 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns as a freshman while acting as the backup running back. He earned a position on the SEC's All-Freshman team. Ingram took off running in 2009, accumulating 1,658 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns to become the program's first Heisman Trophy winner.
He had a drop-off from the previous year in his last season at Alabama due to minor knee surgery at the start of the season, which caused him miss two games. Ingram had 875 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in 2010.
Ingram's supremacy in 2009 was out of this world. At 5-foot-10 and 210-pounds, he showed excellent speed, ball-carrying vision, and strength in breaking tackles. Especially in his Heisman-like performance against the Florida Gators and fellow Heisman winner Tim Tebow in the SEC championship game.
Ingram ended the game with 113 yards running and three touchdowns. Also, he was renowned or notorious to Gator fans for doing the "Gator Chomp" celebration on the sideline after the Tide won.
Mark Ingram was a fan favorite for Alabama fans thanks to his on-field productivity and his outgoing demeanor on and off the field. He will be remembered as one of the pivotal figures in the establishment of coach Saban's Alabama dynasty.
Mark Ingram's Accolades:
- 2009 BCS national champion
- 2009 Heisman Trophy
- 2009 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
- 2009 Unanimous All-American
- 2009 First-Team All-SEC
- 2010 Second-Team All-SEC
3. Najee Harris
This third choice could come as a shock to some people, but it makes perfect sense to the majority. Najee Harris was a member of one of Saban's finest recruiting classes ever, making him more than just another 5-star recruit. The 2017 recruiting class included players like Harris, Devonta Smith, Mac Jones, and Tua Tagovailoa.
Harris and his peers garnered headlines as the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game. Now, that game was notable for quarterback Tagovailoa's touchdown pass to fellow recruit wide receiver Smith, but Harris impressed many people by running the ball late in the game as Alabama was rallying against the Bulldogs.
Coming out of Antioch, California, the 6-foot-2 230-pound running back was highly recruited and extremely gifted. Harris exhibited great athleticism with his strength, quickness, vision, and pass-catching ability. You would occasionally see him jump above a defender's head, dash by people, or do both at the same moment.
Harris participated in 14 games in his first season, accumulating 67 touches, 415 yards, and four touchdowns in total. Not to mention his participation in the national championship game's fourth quarter.
In his second season, Harris improved, even more, accumulating 121 touches, 790 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The next season, Harris continued to become better, rushing for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns while also leading all NCAA running backs in touchdown receptions. Harris led his squad to victory even though 2020 was a difficult year for everyone on the planet.
He finished with 1,466 yards rushing and he led the country in rushing touchdowns (26), overall scrimmage yards (1,891), and total touchdowns (30). The California native concluded his career with the most rushing yards in school history. In addition, Harris guided his team to a dominant victory over Ohio State in the 2020 national championship.
The 2017 recruiting class was filled with incredible players, but Harris stood out for his outstanding talent and production throughout his time in college. Which makes him a top-three running back in the era of coach Saban.
Najee Harris's Accolades:
- 2x National Champion
- 2020 SEC Championship Game MVP
- 2020 Doak Walker Award
- 2020 Unanimous All-American
- 2020 First-team All-SEC
- 2019 Second-team All-SEC
- School's All-Time leader in rushing yards (3,843)
- School's All-Time leader in total scrimmage yards (4,624)
- School's All-Time leader in touchdowns (57)
4. Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson continued where Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram left off with a victory, domination, and a trip to New York after falling behind Ingram. One of Alabama's most illustrious and dominant players, Richardson has a career rushing total of 3130 yards and 35 touchdowns.
The running back from Pensacola, Florida was one of Saban's most powerful and athletic players at the Capstone. During the 2009-2010 season, he was a powerhouse with Ingram, delivering a 1-2 punch. Richardson thrived at Alabama, displaying exceptional power, speed, and agility despite his 5'9" stature.
He split carries with Mark Ingram his freshman year, but he still managed to play in 14 games and gain 877 yards from scrimmage with eight touchdowns. During the 2009 season, Richardson had a 49-yard touchdown run in the national championship game, which the Crimson Tide went on to win, and he totaled 109 yards and two scores.
Richardson's game improved and became more versatile in 2010. His rushing stats dipped from the previous year, but his receiving yards climbed by 266 yards. Richardson rushed for 966 yards and scored 10 times.
Richardson excelled in his last season at Alabama, winning the Doak Walker Award (Best RB), the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, being selected an All-American, finishing as a Heisman contender, and winning the 2011 BCS National Championship.
I have Trent Richardson ranked at No.4 because of where his stats ranked among program rushers, the level of dominance he displayed during the 2011 championship season, and moments such as the ankle breaker against Ole Miss or the 205-yard performance against Auburn that have elevated him to one of the best backs in program history.
Trent Richardson's Accolades:
- 2x BCS national champion
- 2011 Unanimous All-American
- 2011 Doak Walker Award
- 2011 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
- 2x First-team All-SEC
- 2009 SEC All-Freshman Team
5. Eddie Lacy
Like Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy began his career by supporting a different star running back and contributing to another effective Alabama 1-2 punch. Lacy produced an outstanding career rushing total (2402) and touchdown totals (30). Although he turned in some great performances in his first two seasons, Lacy came into his own when he was handed control of the offense following Richardson's departure for the NFL.
The Gretna, Louisiana native was the latest in a lengthy line of outstanding running backs recruited by Coach Saban over the years. Lacy was a massive power back who was also balanced and beautiful as a ballerina. He was well-known in Tuscaloosa for his distinctive spin technique, which enabled him to make several big-time plays during his career.
Lacy gradually progressed over his three seasons at Alabama. He rushed for 406 yards and six touchdowns in 2010. He ended the next season with 674 yards running and seven touchdowns. In his final season as the starting running back, he rushed for 1322 yards and scored 19 touchdowns.
His finest performances came in huge games. Lacy was big in the last three games: the Iron Bowl (Auburn), the SEC Championship (Georgia), and the National Championship (Notre Dame) averaging over 150.7 yards in all three. They would not have won if not for such performances
When Alabama was behind by 11 points in the third quarter of the 2012 SEC Championship game against #3 ranked Georgia, Lacy helped spark the offense, allowing them to recover and win the game. He won the game and the SEC Championship MVP by rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama and Eddie Lacy crushed the Irish in the national championship game against #1 rated Notre Dame, rushing for 140 yards and two scores, earning him the BCS Offensive Player of the Game award.
I ranked Eddie Lacy at No.5 on this list because, while he did not have as many dominant stats as the four running backs above him, his effect on the field during the most significant games was legendary.
Eddie Lacy's Accolades:
- 3x BCS national champion
- 2012 First-team All-SEC
- 2012 SEC championship MVP
- 2012 BCS Offensive Player of the Game
6. T.J. Yeldon
T.J. Yeldon adds to another lengthy list of 5-star talented football players that Coach Saban has brought to Alabama. The man out of Daphne, Alabama came into the Capstone with a lot of hype behind him and did not disappoint as he had an excellent career for the Crimson Tide with a career line of 3322 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns.
The former 5-star back came in hot and gave Bama Nation a lot to be excited about as he earned a big spot as a true freshman sharing time with Eddie Lacy. In his first game of the season after Alabama is coming off another national championship, Yeldon ran for 111 yards and a touchdown sending a message that he was going to be a problem that opposing teams had to deal with.
Later having one of the best seasons as a freshman, Yeldon also became famous for the clutch 28-yard touchdown pass from Tide legend A.J. McCarron that won their big game against arch nemesis LSU in a top-five matchup. In the last two games of the season, Yeldon put up 153 yards against Georgia in the SEC Championship and 108 yards in the BCS National Championship against Notre Dame.
In his first year, Yeldon tallied up 1108 rushing yards which was a record for freshmen running backs, and 13 touchdowns. Next year, he had a career-high in yards with 1235 and 14 touchdowns as he was the lead back. In his final year, his numbers took a slight decline as he finished with 979 yards and 12 touchdowns.
T.J. Yeldon had a very excellent career at Alabama. He had some dominant moments, put up substantial numbers, and will forever be remembered for a lot of his big-time plays. His production on the field cannot be questioned however he did deal with some injury issues his last year for the Tide which is why I got him at No.6 on the list. That injury plus being a part of a talented running back committee took a lot away from him to truly dominate the game compared to the five above him. An excellent career, nonetheless.
T.J. Yeldon's Accolades:
- 2014 Second-team All-SEC
- 2013 First-team All-SEC
- 2012 BCS national champion
7. Damien Harris
Damien Harris had to be one of the most consistent hardest working running backs that have come through the program. His years of constantly producing on the field, being a leader on the field, and making big plays when given the opportunity made him one of the top backs in the Saban Era.
Harris had a career stat line of 3070 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Around the time Damien started becoming the lead back for the Crimson Tide, Coach Saban began adapting to the new state of college football where the game was leading towards spread-type offenses and the passing game. That did not mean that the running game was not going to be a part of the equation because it was a huge part that help the Tide secure more national championships which Damien Harris help contribute to getting.
Damien Harris did not receive many touches in his first year only having 157 yards rushing with a touchdown. The next season was a different story because he may have shared some of his touches with Bo Scarbrough, Harris had his career high in rushing yards (1037) and finished with four touchdowns total.
In his junior season, he ran for 1000 yards and had a career-high for touchdowns 11 them. Harris finished his final season rushing for 876 yards and nine touchdowns, but during that season the offense went away from a strong run game to an electrifying passing game led by Tua Tagovailoa.
Harris finished having two national championships, three SEC Championships, a Cotton Bowl win, a Peach Bowl win, a Sugar Bowl win, and a victory in the Orange Bowl where Harris scored two touchdowns. He had some great moments, but I think the direction of how the offense was changing at Alabama was one of the reasons why Harris is not mentioned among some of the all-time greats at the running back position like some of the ones before him. He is one of the most underrated backs that have played for Coach Saban because he was one of the most consistent years after year which is why I have him at No.7.
Damien Harris's Accolades:
- 2x National Champion
- 2018 Second-team All-SEC
8. Joshua Jacobs
Josh Jacobs had one of the most interesting careers and he was one of the most versatile running backs that Coach Saban has coached. Jacobs showcased his skills as a rusher, a pass catcher, a special team player, and a returner. Now his numbers are not at the same level as the running backs before him, but the production, talent, and dominant moments were on the same level.
The running back from Tulsa, Oklahoma finished his freshmen season with 567 yards rushing, four touchdowns, and a punt return touchdown. The next season, Jacobs had 284 rushing yards, 168 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns. In his final season, Jacobs ran for 640 yards, 247 yards receiving, and 15 touchdowns one of them was a kick return touchdown.
Alabama led to more of a heavy passing attack and Jacobs took off late in the two of his last three games. In the 2018 SEC Championship Game against No.4 ranked Georgia, Jacobs won SEC Championship MVP with his 83 yards and two touchdown performance. In that game, Jacobs was the most consistent offensive weapon during three quarters which kept Alabama in the game.
In the Orange Bowl, Josh Jacobs tallied up 158 total yards and a touchdown in a game in which he dominated on both the ground and as a pass catcher. He was famous for his touchdown catch against Oklahoma in that game after he bulldozed over a Sooner defender into the endzone.
Josh Jacob's career was loud on the field not much on the stat sheet. His role in the new offense was what he and the team needed to win games and dominate opponents. Jacobs showed a lot of talent and production during his time at the Capstone which is why I put him at No.8.
Josh Jacobs's Accolades
- 2017 National Champion
- 2018 SEC Championship MVP
9. Brian Robinson Jr.
Brian Robinson's career did not start the way most players would like but he was the type of player that earned a lot of respect for sticking in there and waiting his turn for an opportunity to be the guy for the Alabama Crimson Tide. This made him one of the best backs that Coach Saban had.
B-Rob waited behind Najee Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Damien Harris for four years but in his last season at Alabama, he finally got his time to shine, and he did just that. The Tuscaloosa native finished his career with 2704 yards rushing, 446 yards receiving, and 31 touchdowns.
B-Rob did not get a true chance at playing time until the 2020 season. He was the backup to Najee Harris but when Robinson got his touches, he made the most of them. In 2020, Brian Robinson ran for 483 yards and six touchdowns. In 2021, B-Rob was given the keys to be the lead back of the Tide and he took off with it rushing for 1343 yards, 296 yards receiving and having 16 total touchdowns.
Robinson Jr. had his fair share of dominant games in his last season. In a big SEC matchup against Ole Miss, B-Rob ran for 171 yards and four touchdowns. He later dominated in the College Football Playoff matchup against Cincinnati when he ran for 204 yards.
Brian Robinson Jr. showed power, sneaky speed, tremendous ball-carrying vision, and resilience during his time at Alabama. He may not have had the number like previous backs, but not a lot of people would stay and wait for their time to come. Especially in the era of the transfer portal. Brian Robinson is truly one of the best backs under the Saban Era and that is why I ranked him No.9.
Brian Robinson Jr.'s Accolades
- 2x National Champion
- 2021 First-Team All-SEC
- 2021 Cotton Bowl Classic MVP
10. Bo Scarbrough
Bo Scarbrough was one of the most beloved running backs in the Saban Era. He was from the area of Tuscaloosa; he was a big body with good speed and vision and had a lot of good moments with the tide. Scarbrough’s career is a good one at Alabama and his talent put him among one of the best running backs under Coach Saban.
The Northport native had a career year during his sophomore season running for 812 yards and 11 touchdowns. He stuck mostly in his performance against Washington in the 2016 College Football Playoffs when he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Bo broke the game open when he bust through for a 68-yard touchdown run that would help win the game for Alabama.
The rest of Scarbrough’s career was not what a lot of people would have thought coming in at 6’2” and 235 lbs. In his last season, Bo ran for 596 yards and just eight touchdowns. Still finishing his career with two national championships and two SEC Championships. Bo Scarbrough highlighted a good amount of strength and impressive speed being at that size, but the production just did not follow along which is why I have him ranked at No.10.
Bo Scarbrough's Accolades:
- 2x National Champion