It’s just less than five months until the 2016 season begins and just less than 10 months until the recruiting class of 2017 can sign their National Letters of Intent. With fierce recruiting battles underway for the top recruits in the country, it’s a good time to get to know the players who appear poised to become college football stars in the near future. This Friday, it’s Najee Harris, the top-rated recruit in the class of 2017, according to Scout.com.
Scouting Evaluation (from Scout.com)
The top back in the region, regardless of class and an easy top 10 player nationally. Has been compared to his former workout partner Joe Mixon (OU) and it's easy to see why. He has size, power, toughness, speed and great hands out of the backfield. He runs with patience and balance, can make that first guy miss and does a great job making yards after contact. He has the length of a WR and can be moved around to cause matchup problems. Strengths: Balance, Power, Size. Weaknesses: Breakaway Speed.
The one-year anniversary of Harris’s commitment to Alabama is approaching, but that hasn’t stopped other major programs from doing everything they can to try to flip the No. 1 prospect. Harris visited UCLA twice in March and stopped by USC to meet with Clay Helton and his coaching staff, too. He’ll visit Ohio State next weekend and also plans to take a trip to Texas A&M this month.
Despite the intense effort from other schools, Harris still says he’s committed to the Crimson Tide. He spent a weekend in Tuscaloosa as part of Alabama’s junior day event at the end of February and said he felt very comfortable there. Harris spoke with former five-star recruit and current Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Barnett—another California product who spurned a host of West Coast offers to head to Alabama—who told him, “they treat you like you’re a king.”
On the field, Harris is coming off of a sensational junior season in which he rushed for 2,744 yards, scored 39 touchdowns and was named CalHiSports.com’s state player of the year. He’ll head to The Opening Oakland Regional in May, where he is expected to earn an invite to The Opening Finals for the second consecutive year.
How he fits
Assuming Harris sticks with his commitment to Alabama, he could follow in the lengthy line of star running backs to come out of Nick Saban’s program. Rising sophomore Bo Scarbrough appears poised to assume the No. 1 running back duties this fall from Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. A former five-star recruit, Scarbrough has impressed this spring. Based on admittedly very early results and Alabama’s track record at running back, it’s not hard to envision that Scarbrough will remain with the Tide for the next two seasons before moving on to the NFL.
If Scarbrough follows that trajectory, Harris would likely be used in a supporting role as a true freshman before getting the opportunity to compete with four-star class of 2015 signee Damien Harris, four-star class of 2016 signee B.J. Emmons and four-star class of 2017 commit Brian Robinson for the role of primary back. With Najee Harris’s elite mix of power and speed, he seems well positioned to shine in an Alabama offense that knows how to spotlight its running backs.