Harris named MVP with 114-yard day
A-Day is not the day for conclusions, especially about the outlooks of the Alabama offense. That’s Nick Saban’s opinion, and he has a rationale that makes plenty of sense.
As unsightly as the offense was Saturday afternoon, it must be put into a context, otherwise the wrong conclusions can be made.
For starters, the Crimson team, comprised of potential first-team starters in the fall, scrimmaged against the White team, whose defensive members constitute one of the best defenses in the country. In other words, moving the ball with regularity was going to be rough sledding.
It must also be noted that the Crimson team was without its two-year starting left tackle, Cam Robinson (out for the entirety of spring with a shoulder injury), and that the offensive line as a whole is not yet set.
Those two factors alone help explain why the Crimson offense managed just 131 total yards, including minus-5 yards rushing.
Sophomore Bo Scarbrough, who rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries during the first two scrimmages, recorded 20 yards on nine carries with a long rush of 6 yards.
And quite frankly, there’s not much Scarbrough could have done to be more productive. The White defense controlled the line of scrimmage and left him with nowhere to run.
“Who you’re playing against matters,” Saban said. “When you match yourself against yourself sometimes there’s mismatches that you can’t really can’t overcome.”
Damien Harris, however, managed the best day of his young Crimson Tide career, and, not coincidentally, it came against the Crimson defense, a unit Saban said wasn’t as talented at the moment as the White offense. In other words, Harris’ MVP performance of 114 yards on 20 carries (5.7 yards per rush) came against not as fierce a defense as Scarbrough faced.
Harris’ first carry of the day, a 19-yard run over right guard, came behind Alphonse Taylor, who found himself with the second team offensive line after starting all 15 games at right guard last season.
Scarbrough’s long rush of 6 yards was behind the left side of the offensive line. With Robinson sidelined, Scarbrough's blockers were left tackle Korren Kirven and left guard Lester Cotton, two players who have zero career starts. Last season’s starting left guard, Ross Pierschbacher, is now the team’s center.
Harris did show the growth and maturity that Saban recently mentioned. He ran with more patience than a season ago, waiting on his linemen to help set up blocks to maximize his runs.
“Damien Harris had a really nice day, looked quick and explosive and did a nice job,” Saban said.
The Crimson team offensive line was Kirven, Cotton, Pierschbacher, Brandon Kennedy (right guard) and Jonah Williams (right tackle). The unit is far from settled and Saban highlighted that in his post-scrimmage remarks.
“Lester Cotton would have probably played right tackle better than the right tackle today, but we’re trying to develop him as a guard because we think that’s where he’s going to end up playing next year,” Saban said.
He also mentioned Taylor’s drop to second-team, a move precipitated by Taylor’s lack of conditioning.
All in all, it wasn’t a day to make wide-ranging assumptions about Alabama’s running game.
"Don't draw conclusions. Because if you do, you're going to be wrong," Saban said.