New No.1 Recruit Najee Harris Further Strengthens Alabama's Case as 'RB U'

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterFebruary 23, 2016

5-Star Alabama RB Commit Najee Harris
5-Star Alabama RB Commit Najee HarrisIsaiah Hole / 247Sports

Miami claims the title of "RB U" over the course of history; USC certainly has an argument, and Auburn has a strong case for the same within the SEC.

Over the last decade, though, the program that stakes the strongest claim in the nation to that illustrious title is Alabama.

And it's not even a close race.

The next in line at the new "RB U" appears to be 5-star class of 2016 running back and Crimson Tide commit Najee Harris. Harris, a 6'2", 220-pound rising high school senior from Antioch, California, has been committed to the program since April 18, 2015, and he has everything it takes to be the next great 'Bama back.

He was recently named the top prospect in the country, according to 247Sports, supplanting IMG Academy linebacker and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native Dylan Moses.

Harris is already being compared to some of the best SEC running backs over the last few years.

Najee Harris' coach calls the 6-2 RB "a slasher". 9 and 10 man boxes couldn't slow him down in 2015: https://t.co/ufSl0Aevch

— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) February 10, 2016

More Derrick Henry comparisons for Scout's (now others') No. 1 player in 2017 Najee Harris.I see more Todd Gurley for those wondering. #Bama

— John Garcia, Jr. (@JohnGarcia_Jr) February 10, 2016

Those are all fine comparisons, and Harris should be flattered. But one look at his highlight tape, and Alabama fans should be struck with how familiar he looks to former Crimson Tide star T.J. Yeldon.

Yeldon played his final year at Alabama at 6'2", 221-pounds, only one pound heavier than Harris is heading into his senior year of high school. Like Yeldon, Harris is smooth in traffic, has the wiggle to make defenders look foolish, has that same forward lean and looks effortless when he gets into space. 

Also similar to Yeldon, Harris doesn't appear to be much of a bruiser on the surface but will dole out punishment in the hole when the time is right.

He's the next in line in the stellar running back tradition Alabama has developed since Nick Saban arrived in 2007.

It has produced two of the three Heisman Trophy-winning running backs this century (Mark Ingram in 2009 and Henry in 2015), routinely produces some of the best in the country and sends its running backs to the next level on an annual basis.

Alabama RBs Under Nick Saban
YearPlayerRushing Yds.Rushing TDs
2007Terry Grant8918
2008Glen Coffee1,38310
2009Mark Ingram1,65817
2009Trent Richardson7498
2010Mark Ingram87513
2010Trent Richardson7006
2011Trent Richardson1,67921
2012Eddie Lacy1,32217
2012T.J. Yeldon1,10812
2013T.J. Yeldon1,23514
2014Derrick Henry99011
2014T.J. Yeldon97911
2015Derrick Henry2,21928
CFBStats.com / Highlighted players won Heisman Trophy

No other team in the country can boast that type of top-tier success in terms of the Heisman Trophy and the ability to plug-and-play running backs on an annual basis.

Not Auburn. Not Miami. Not USC. Not LSU. Not Wisconsin.

Nobody.

This year, Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris will vie for the top spot on the depth chart, with both bringing something different to the table. Scarbrough is more in the mold of Henry—a tall, bruising running back who forces opposing defenders to make "business decisions" regarding how much they really want to bring him down. Harris is more of an all-purpose back, with enough power to dish out some punishment but more wiggle than Scarbrough.

They'll hold down the fort for the next year or two, and then Harris will step right in, first as a reserve and then as a starter to become the next superstar in the Capstone.

He'll cap off a full decade of running back dominance under Saban and keep that momentum going into another 10 years that, even if Saban does decide to hang up the headset at some point, shows no sign of slowing down.

This is the golden age of Alabama running backs.

It's impossible to say if he'll be the best of the bunch right now, but he certainly has the tools to present a strong case once he gets to Tuscaloosa. 

Even if he's not, being one of the biggest contributors to the new "RB U" is a strong legacy to have.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.