Alabama head coach Nick Saban is dealing with a situation he has never encountered before, and he is using it to teach a lesson about the transfer portal.
After a swath of injuries at the position, Alabama has just two scholarship running backs on their roster for the remainder of the 2021 campaign: Brian Robinson Jr. and Trey Sanders. On Thursday’s “Hey Coach & The Nick Saban Show,” the head coach sent a message to former Alabama running back Keilan Robinson, who entered the transfer portal this past offseason and is now at Texas.
“He’d be playing a lot,” Saban said of the former Tide back. “So that’s where I think sometimes these guys are a little short-sighted. When they sort of misread what their opportunity would be if they tried to stay and compete. But we just wish him well. We gotta coach the guys that are here.”
Alabama had five scholarship running backs before Robinson’s departure. As a freshman in 2019, Robinson played in eight games and had 29 carries for 254 yards and two touchdowns. The Washington D.C. native opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Saban: ‘Never’ seen an injury situation like this
In town for Saturday’s CBS matchup between Alabama and Arkansas, CBS commentator Brad Nessler joined Saban and host Eli Gold for the show and posed a question to Saban.
“Have you ever had this thin of a group because of attrition or injuries?” Nessler asked.
“No,” Saban responded without any hesitation. “Never. Never.”
Alabama was already missing backs Jase McClellan and Camar Wheaton prior to Saturday’s game against New Mexico State, and they lost Roydell Williams for the rest of the season to a knee injury against the Aggies. As a result of the injuries, the Crimson Tide have been training other players to play the position in the event something happens to Robinson or Sanders.
“We knew every player and what positions they played in high school,” Saban said. “All the guys that we are training to be running backs from other positions were guys that played that position in high school or had some background in playing that position at some point in time.”
Two of those former running backs got their first carries last weekend against New Mexico State. Linebacker Demouy Kennedy and wide receiver Christian Leary had seven and three carries, respectively.
Arkansas-Alabama kicks off on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS. If they win, Saban and Co. clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. The Crimson Tide are 20.5-point favorites.