No team has stopped Najee Harris

KrAzY3

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I stumbled across an interested stat, and felt like it was worth sharing. Full disclosure, I do think Alabama has been under-utilizing their running game. I probably feel like some people felt about the receivers during Hurts time at Alabama. That there's just too much talent there not to be doing more. Jacobs for instance already has more 100 yard rushing games in the NFL than he had in three years at Alabama. I'd like to see Alabama establish the running game a bit more, I think it could both take the pressure off Tua and the defense.

This isn't a claim that Najee is the best Saban running back or anything like that. He's huge and hard to stop, that won't necessarily translate to the NFL. I'm just impressed by this stat considering all the talented running backs at Alabama. Since the sample size is smaller it favors the lower use backs, but Najee is one heck of a running back.

I wanted to get an idea of how effective Najee has been when he had 10+ carries (less carries can heavily skew the average with one tackle for loss or the like) and I realized he'd never been held under 4 yards per carry average in those games. I started checking other Alabama running backs, and I didn't find another running back, who had at least 10 carries under Saban but didn't average under 4 at least once. It's enough to make me wonder what he might have done if he'd been playing a few years earlier, or what happens if Alabama turns to him more in upcoming games. Anyway, I cut this list off at running backs with at least 10 games of 10+ carries, sorry if I missed someone. Also, because this is fun to include Alabama held Fournette to 3.8, 1.6 and 2.1.

Glen Coffee: 19 10+ carry games. Low: 2.8
Terry Grant: 12 10+ carry games. Low: 1.2
Mark Ingram: 30 10+ carry games. Low: 1.9
Trent Richardson: 27 10+ carry games. Low 1.9
Eddie Lacy: 18 10+ carry games. Low 2.6
T.J. Yeldon: 32 10+ carry games. Low 2.8
Kenyan Drake: 10 10+ carry games. Low 3
Derrick Henry: 24 10+ carry games. Low 2.2
Bo Scarbrough: 13 10+ carry games. Low 2.0
Damien Harris: 20 10+ carry games. Low 3.7
Najee Harris: 12 10+ carry games. Low 4.3


For some running backs a lower average was fairly consistent, which is no surprise considering some averaged close to 4 YPC. The lowest output from Yeldon in 2013 was 4.2. I was a little surprised by how consistent Damien Harris was. Jacobs didn't have enough 10 carry games, but he also had one where he averaged 3 (Brain Robinson fell short in both respects). Also, Trent Richardson had 10+ carries in every single game of the 2011 season and Henry surpassed that mark 14 times in 2015 (both of course were national championship seasons).

It's not fair to compare him to someone like Mark, Trent, T.J. or Henry who had so many carries, but it does demonstrate just how consistently effective he has been when he's been given the ball.
 

BamaNWE

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I wanted to see Najee in the wildcat ala Ingram in 09. No idea why we wouldn't have done that in several of those 3rd & 4th and short situations. I think he picks up those few first downs and we have an entirely different outcome.
 

AlexanderFan

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I stumbled across an interested stat, and felt like it was worth sharing. Full disclosure, I do think Alabama has been under-utilizing their running game. I probably feel like some people felt about the receivers during Hurts time at Alabama. That there's just too much talent there not to be doing more. Jacobs for instance already has more 100 yard rushing games in the NFL than he had in three years at Alabama. I'd like to see Alabama establish the running game a bit more, I think it could both take the pressure off Tua and the defense.

This isn't a claim that Najee is the best Saban running back or anything like that. He's huge and hard to stop, that won't necessarily translate to the NFL. I'm just impressed by this stat considering all the talented running backs at Alabama. Since the sample size is smaller it favors the lower use backs, but Najee is one heck of a running back.

I wanted to get an idea of how effective Najee has been when he had 10+ carries (less carries can heavily skew the average with one tackle for loss or the like) and I realized he'd never been held under 4 yards per carry average in those games. I started checking other Alabama running backs, and I didn't find another running back, who had at least 10 carries under Saban but didn't average under 4 at least once. It's enough to make me wonder what he might have done if he'd been playing a few years earlier, or what happens if Alabama turns to him more in upcoming games. Anyway, I cut this list off at running backs with at least 10 games of 10+ carries, sorry if I missed someone. Also, because this is fun to include Alabama held Fournette to 3.8, 1.6 and 2.1.

Glen Coffee: 19 10+ carry games. Low: 2.8
Terry Grant: 12 10+ carry games. Low: 1.2
Mark Ingram: 30 10+ carry games. Low: 1.9
Trent Richardson: 27 10+ carry games. Low 1.9
Eddie Lacy: 18 10+ carry games. Low 2.6
T.J. Yeldon: 32 10+ carry games. Low 2.8
Kenyan Drake: 10 10+ carry games. Low 3
Derrick Henry: 24 10+ carry games. Low 2.2
Bo Scarbrough: 13 10+ carry games. Low 2.0
Damien Harris: 20 10+ carry games. Low 3.7
Najee Harris: 12 10+ carry games. Low 4.3


For some running backs a lower average was fairly consistent, which is no surprise considering some averaged close to 4 YPC. The lowest output from Yeldon in 2013 was 4.2. I was a little surprised by how consistent Damien Harris was. Jacobs didn't have enough 10 carry games, but he also had one where he averaged 3 (Brain Robinson fell short in both respects). Also, Trent Richardson had 10+ carries in every single game of the 2011 season and Henry surpassed that mark 14 times in 2015 (both of course were national championship seasons).

It's not fair to compare him to someone like Mark, Trent, T.J. or Henry who had so many carries, but it does demonstrate just how consistently effective he has been when he's been given the ball.
Could some of his effectiveness be attributed to his sporadic use, like how sometimes you get a big play on a draw because everyone is thinking pass?

I love the idea of an effective running game. I want the physical line play back on both sides.


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theballguy

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While Tua is phenomenally talented, I have felt like we have passed way too much. I've always thought we should have been run first to set up the pass and only go mostly pass when we absolutely needed to. This is a big part of why we did so well against Georgia in the NC game. With the approach we've used, it's small wonder that it worked with no issues against teams like Ole Miss, Miss State, SC, and a few others but then when we face teams with good defenses it's such a struggle and seems to be a head scratcher. I feel like if we would have used the same approach that we did when AJ, Coker/Sims and Hurts was running the show but with Tua, we would have been almost unstoppable on offense even against the better defenses. If you think about it, this is very much what Joe Burrow & co. is doing now. I feel like we missed the boat and we needn't have missed it.
 

KrAzY3

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I was wishing we would run the ball in the first half like we did in the second. If we could have run even a little bit in the first half would have changed the entire complexion of the game.
I think part of it just gets into the clock management aspect to. Just one or two more runs from Najee in the first half and LSU doesn't have enough time for that last TD. Even if those runs somehow erased the single Alabama offensive TD, it doesn't make things any worse off. If you get him a few more carries, LSU probably doesn't have enough time to get that next to the last TD either. So, just running a little more and eating a little more clock would have had a tremendous impact. Now, if Alabama had gotten Najee going in the first half? That could have been a massive change in the outcome. This isn't to say abandon the pass of course, but I really expected to see more to protect Tua in the first half anyway.

Could some of his effectiveness be attributed to his sporadic use, like how sometimes you get a big play on a draw because everyone is thinking pass?

I love the idea of an effective running game. I want the physical line play back on both sides.
Yes, I do think that the light use running backs shall we say, are favored in this stat because not only is the defense more likely to be caught off guard, but they're more likely to get playing time when they're already playing well. A 2011 Trent Richardson or 2015 Derrick Henry was going to get their carries no matter what.

However, Najee still stands apart from the light use group to, and there's some quality NFL backs on that list. Terry Grant, Kenyan Drake, Bo Scarbrough, and since I looked their stats up to we can add Josh Jacobs and Brian Robinson to that list to. So just standing out from that pack if pretty darn impressive.

I feel like if we would have used the same approach that we did when AJ, Coker/Sims and Hurts was running the show but with Tua, we would have been almost unstoppable on offense even against the better defenses. If you think about it, this is very much what Joe Burrow & co. is doing now. I feel like we missed the boat and we needn't have missed it.
I think one reason why people were so hyped about Tua is they imagined Alabama doing all the things they were doing on offense, only now they were going to be a lot better passing the ball to. I don't think they really realized the drop off in running production, red zone struggles, clock management issues, and even turnovers in big games that would come out of this type of offense. While I think you do have to use Tua, you have to use a weapon like that, I do think Alabama shouldn't have been as quick to get away from what had worked for some many years.
 
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RammerJammer15

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While Tua is phenomenally talented, I have felt like we have passed way too much. I've always thought we should have been run first to set up the pass and only go mostly pass when we absolutely needed to. This is a big part of why we did so well against Georgia in the NC game. With the approach we've used, it's small wonder that it worked with no issues against teams like Ole Miss, Miss State, SC, and a few others but then when we face teams with good defenses it's such a struggle and seems to be a head scratcher. I feel like if we would have used the same approach that we did when AJ, Coker/Sims and Hurts was running the show but with Tua, we would have been almost unstoppable on offense even against the better defenses. If you think about it, this is very much what Joe Burrow & co. is doing now. I feel like we missed the boat and we needn't have missed it.
I still say 2012’s offense was the best overall offense of the Saban era, it’s crazy to think that we had a 3k yard passer, 2 1k yard rushers, and a 1k yard receiver, granted a lot of that had to do with the outstanding OL but still we were so balanced.

Look at the teams that have beaten us this decade, besides 2013 Oklahoma, 2014/15 Ole Miss and 2012 Texas A&M, and 2016 Clemson, every team that’s beaten us has had a dominant tailback, despite the QBs getting all the fanfare.

Marcus Lattimore
Spencer Ware
Tre Mason
Ezekiel Elliott
Kerryon Johnson
Travis Etienne

The running game is a very important aspect in the game of College Football.
 
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AlexanderFan

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I think part of it just gets into the clock management aspect to. Just one or two more runs from Najee in the first half and LSU doesn't have enough time for that last TD. Even if those runs somehow erased the single Alabama offensive TD, it doesn't make things any worse off. If you get him a few more carries, LSU probably doesn't have enough time to get that next to the last TD either. So, just running a little more and eating a little more clock would have had a tremendous impact. Now, if Alabama had gotten Najee going in the first half? That could have been a massive change in the outcome. This isn't to say abandon the pass of course, but I really expected to see more to protect Tua in the first half anyway.


Yes, I do think that the light use running backs shall we say, are favored in this stat because not only is the defense more likely to be caught off guard, but they're more likely to get playing time when they're already playing well. A 2011 Trent Richardson or 2015 Derrick Henry was going to get their carries no matter what.

However, Najee still stands apart from the light use group to, and there's some quality NFL backs on that list. Terry Grant, Kenyan Drake, Bo Scarbrough, and since I looked their stats up to we can add Josh Jacobs and Brian Robinson to that list to. So just standing out from that pack if pretty darn impressive.


I think one reason why people were so hyped about Tua is they imagined Alabama doing all the things they were doing on offense, only now they were going to be a lot better passing the ball to. I don't think they really realized the drop off in running production, red zone struggles, clock management issues, and even turnovers in big games that would come out of this type of offense. While I think you do have to use Tua, you have to use a weapon like that, I do think Alabama shouldn't have been as quick to get away from what had worked for some many years.
I agree, people saw a more efficient AJ with wheels and multiple deep threats to play action with.


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rgw

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It may be forgotten if this isn't a championship season considering the expectations around him and this team but two of his touchdown plays this season are among the most athletic and skilled I've seen from any tailback here. The SCAR catch and run was impressive but that back shoulder catch against LSU looked like he was Julio Jones. High pointed the ball. Got two feet tap in bounds. Impressive ball skills from a back.
 

GrayTide

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While Tua is phenomenally talented, I have felt like we have passed way too much. I've always thought we should have been run first to set up the pass and only go mostly pass when we absolutely needed to. This is a big part of why we did so well against Georgia in the NC game. With the approach we've used, it's small wonder that it worked with no issues against teams like Ole Miss, Miss State, SC, and a few others but then when we face teams with good defenses it's such a struggle and seems to be a head scratcher. I feel like if we would have used the same approach that we did when AJ, Coker/Sims and Hurts was running the show but with Tua, we would have been almost unstoppable on offense even against the better defenses. If you think about it, this is very much what Joe Burrow & co. is doing now. I feel like we missed the boat and we needn't have missed it.
I have said this many times. No doubt Tua and our WRs are all generational players and we needed to use their talents, but since they have been here we have lost our real identity. Losing this identity did not matter until we played playoff caliber teams. More important its ability for quick strike touchdowns has put added pressure on a seriously depleted defense. I hope CNS returns to an offense that relies on ball control, clock control and more balance.
 

Ldlane

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I have said this many times. No doubt Tua and our WRs are all generational players and we needed to use their talents, but since they have been here we have lost our real identity. Losing this identity did not matter until we played playoff caliber teams. More important its ability for quick strike touchdowns has put added pressure on a seriously depleted defense. I hope CNS returns to an offense that relies on ball control, clock control and more balance.
I believe the other night they talked about him saying that he wasn't hitting the holes early in the year and was trying to run wide too often. That wasn't the game plan. Three yards and a cloud of dust is dead.

"You have to put the past behind you before you can move on."
 

78Alum

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Our running game definitely was struggling early in the year, both it seemed due to the OL and to the RB's not hitting the holes that were there. It is clicking now, both with the OL blocking and especially with Najee running. I expect we are going to get heavy doses of him these next few games. Hopefully, he keeps running like he has been recently.
 

BamaInBham

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We can likely go back to losses under the "old" approach and see that if we had only passed a bit more Alabama would have won or if Bama had a dual threat QB or if... To blame the last second of the first half TD on not running the ball more earlier is ridiculous. Who knows how the game would have unfolded. If Tua simply doesn't drop the ball early the game would have developed differently. No one was complaining about Bama's run/pass mix then. If Bama doesn't drop the snap on a punt.... If Bama had gotten one more stop... If LSU hadn't gotten a favorable call.... If Bama had made one more tackle... If Bama had attempted a short pass rather than "stubbornly" running the ball on short yardage... If....

The second guessing here is predictable but makes little sense though some have made a legitimate effort. Bama is using it's generational passing game which was compromised somewhat (early timing and mobility) by an injury. LSU's defensive strength is it's rushing D, their weakness their passing D; conversely, Bama's strength.... Yes, "defeat has 1000 faces."

Is Bama's strategy perfect and perfectly implemented? Impossible. Is it the best for 2019 Alabama? Almost surely.

If you demand perfection in as complex a game, with as many moving parts as college football has, then you will always be disappointed after any loss. Win and everything is fine, all blemishes are glossed over, lose and all real and perceived blemishes comes to the fore. Moreso, with a passionate but uninformed (99.99% of us are uninformed relative to Bama's highly paid and high-level, though imperfect, coaching staff) fan base.
 

KrAzY3

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More important its ability for quick strike touchdowns has put added pressure on a seriously depleted defense.
Bingo
To blame the last second of the first half TD on not running the ball more earlier is ridiculous.
No, it's not, I don't think a lot of people grasp what you're doing to your defense when you put them right back onto the field. It's not just that one play either, it's the cumulative effect.

This is probably hard for a lot of people to accept, but a slow methodical drive that results in 3 points can be better than a quick TD. That sounds nuts, but if you don't let your defense rest they might go back out there and give up a TD instead of getting a stop. You still want TDs obviously, but eventually the offense has to look at a one minute possession like it's giving the other team points. I said this and then checked the stats, and it's sad how true that statement is.

I went back and looked, Alabama had the ball for 1:10, LSU kicks a field goal. Alabama had the ball for 1:23 and LSU scored a touchdown. Alabama had the ball for 1:20 and LSU scored a field goal. Alabama had the ball for 1:41 and LSU scored a touchdown. Alabama had the ball for 15 seconds and LSU scored a touchdown.
Second half, Alabama had the ball for 1:15 and LSU punted the ball.

Just look at that. LSU scored 5 out of 6 times when Alabama's offense had the ball for less than two minutes. How can anyone not accept that short possessions were a factor? LSU won time of possession and the only reason they scored so much in the first half is because Alabama didn't run more time off the clock. Look at how much better the defense played in the second half when they just ran the ball more and took more time off the clock! Granted part of that is the result of more offensive success, but you set your defense up for failure if you're not doing anything to burn time off the clock.
 
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BamaInBham

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Bingo

No, it's not, I don't think a lot of people grasp what you're doing to your defense when you put them right back onto the field. It's not just that one play either, it's the cumulative effect.

This is probably hard for a lot of people to accept, but a slow methodical drive that results in 3 points can be better than a quick TD. That sounds nuts, but if you don't let your defense rest they might go back out there and give up a TD instead of getting a stop. You still want TDs obviously, but eventually the offense has to look at a one minute possession like it's giving the other team points. I said this and then checked the stats, and it's sad how true that statement is.
I don't think most would disagree that more rest is usually better. This is no novel concept. But look below and you will see that in this game Bama actually performed better with less rest.

I went back and looked, Alabama had the ball for 1:10, LSU kicks a field goal. Alabama had the ball for 1:23 and LSU scored a touchdown. Alabama had the ball for 1:20 and LSU scored a field goal. Alabama had the ball for 1:41 and LSU scored a touchdown. Alabama had the ball for 15 seconds and LSU scored a touchdown.
Second half, Alabama had the ball for 1:15 and LSU punted the ball.

Just look at that. LSU scored 5 out of 6 times when Alabama's offense had the ball for less than two minutes. How can anyone not accept that short possessions were a factor? LSU won time of possession and the only reason they scored so much in the first half is because Alabama didn't run more time off the clock. Look at how much better the defense played in the second half when they just ran the ball more and took more time off the clock! Granted part of that is the result of more offensive success, but you set your defense up for failure if you're not doing anything to burn time off the clock.
LSU scored 4 TDs out of 6 possessions when there was 2+ minutes of offensive possession between Bama defensive appearances. (Note: Bama had the ball 1:23 and LSU 2:17 between Bama defensive poss when Bama had the PR TD, so that's 3:40. Not counting commercials, etc. with additional change of poss/TD.)

That is 28 pts total (assuming 7 per TD) and 4.7 pts per poss after more than 2 minutes of poss.

LSU scored 2 TD and 2 FGs out of 6 possessions when there was less than 2 minutes of possession between Bama defensive appearances.

LSU scored 20 pts total and 3.3 pts per poss after < 2 min of Bama poss. This does not even take into account that both of the extremely short fields (+13 TD, +40 FG) were after < 2 min possessions. A big advantage.

Don't want to make too big of a deal about the defensive superiority in this game after short rests because I would not make the argument that it's better to have less rest, even though it appears that way in this one game. But when we look at why a team loses we can blame it on almost anything including success, especially when it supports a slant we have. When in reality the difference is more likely things like how well/bad either team is playing and good or bad bounces. When teams are close or games are close, luck and psychological factors (fear, courage, hunger, etc.) are usually a big reason for the outcome.

In summary in this game time between possessions mattered little to the Alabama defense. If you want to make a distinction it actually performed better with less rest but I personally would never make that argument. It was just how the game unfolded.
 

GeorgiaTider

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I think one reason why people were so hyped about Tua is they imagined Alabama doing all the things they were doing on offense, only now they were going to be a lot better passing the ball to. I don't think they really realized the drop off in running production, red zone struggles, clock management issues, and even turnovers in big games that would come out of this type of offense. While I think you do have to use Tua, you have to use a weapon like that, I do think Alabama shouldn't have been as quick to get away from what had worked for some many years.
^^^^This.
 

KrAzY3

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In summary in this game time between possessions mattered little to the Alabama defense. If you want to make a distinction it actually performed better with less rest but I personally would never make that argument. It was just how the game unfolded.
I'd have to double check because I'm not sure our numbers completely align. I had it at Alabama giving up 27 points on 6 possessions that were less than 2 minutes Alabama possessions, which accounted for almost all of LSU's first half offense. Counting the time Alabama never got the ball back on offense shouldn't aid your argument though I know that much, Alabama's defense didn't get to rest and LSU got a touchdown.

That aside, you're also not counting cumulative effects and the simple fact that the more you have the ball the less the other team has the ball. Alabama lost the first half because LSU had the ball longer. Alabama won the second half because Alabama held onto the ball more. It's not rocket science. 33 in the points first half, mostly coming off of short possessions, 13 point in the second half when among other things Alabama ran the ball more.

Alabama lost time of possession by 9 minutes. That's not small thing, and and a quick glance sure makes it seem like a lot of that occurred in the first half. The numbers you are showing are especially misleading though, because a big chunk of those scores came late in the game. I'd argue it would have been worse if not for the fact that Alabama was able to burn more clock in the second half and in doing some delay the complete exhaustion of their defense a bit. LSU had the ball 8 times in the first half, 6 times in the second half and LSU got the ball first in the second half! That's a big, big difference.

Exhaustion it not something you can come back from in a short period of time. Once you are totally spent, you're toast. We've seen it before, it's not some new result of this defense or something, we saw it in 2015 to. Even an elite defense, once completely exhausted is done. That's why you want to do all in your power to avoid a shootout. That's why you want to control time of possession more. That's why you want to keep your defense off the field quite as much and want them to get more rest between plays. Once you're too tired to defend, then it's just a shootout and that's exactly how the LSU game ended. I have always said you have to do all you can to avoid a shootout. A shootout basically turns an outcome to a coin flip, and you can't afford to let chance decide your fate.

Most of the scores I alluded to happened in the first half, when Alabama was still relatively fresh but not getting a chance to rest. A lot of the offense you alluded to happened late in the game, when Alabama had already been pushed past the point of exhaustion due to factors that started earlier in the game! Alabama didn't protect their defense early, and it bit them, not just in the first half but late in the second half to, because now they're worn out. They just needed a stop but LSU had the ball about 10 minutes longer, they'd run about 10 more plays, Alabama's defense just didn't have it in them late. If Alabama could have protected the defense a bit more, it's far less likely they give up TDs the last two drives. We saw better play from them earlier.

There were 5 possessions in a row in which Alabama and LSU traded touchdowns. 5! That's the classic hallmark of a shootout, at that point both teams are exhausted on defense and they don't have anything left in the tank. Alabama wore them out with a relentless barrage in the second half (including finally using Najee), but LSU had already done a lot of the work of wearing Alabama down in the first half. 5 straight touchdowns tells a story, and the best way to avoid something like that is to work on protecting your defense earlier in the game. You have a running back to, use him.
 
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