TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Before the season, there were question marks about Alabama's backfield. Who would emerge with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake both gone? The only running backs left on the roster were inexperienced and unproven. They had all of 75 carries between them last year.
So you can imagine the fans' reaction when the Crimson Tide's top two backs, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, both went down with an injury during the first quarter of Saturday's 48-0 win over Kent State.
Panic likely set in.
Not to worry. True freshmen Joshua Jacobs and B.J. Emmons stepped in and didn't miss a beat. Jacobs, in particular, showed why the coaches took a chance on him. The three-star recruit, who didn't receive his first Power 5 offer until just weeks before signing day, led Alabama with 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 11 carries. On Monday, he was recognized as one of the team's players of the week for his performance against Kent State.
"We were searching last year in recruiting for running backs, because we knew we had a little bit of a depth issue losing the top two guys we had last year, Derrick and Kenyan," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. "We found Josh a little late in recruiting but we were happy that we were able to get him. We were very impressed with him.
"[He's] typically a guy that shows great maturity and understanding and is very instinctive as a football player, and I think it shows up in his play and how he plays. And it's certainly showed up in how he's developed to be able to play. Hopefully he'll continue to improve and get better and he'll be able to be productive as we move forward."
Emmons, the more heralded running back in Alabama's 2016 recruiting class, added 51 yards on eight carries Saturday, but it was Jacobs who got the first snaps when Harris went down in the first quarter. Jacobs was actually the first one in when Harris went down, ahead of Scarbrough.
But regardless of the pecking order, both Jacobs and Emmons proved that they're more than capable of carrying the load if something were to happen to Harris or Scarbrough.
"All those guys have done a really nice job," Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. "It's nice knowing that if somebody like that was to go down, we have guys back there that can execute and do a really good job for us. It makes it fun for us to see those guys step up and play on a big stage like this and have that success."
Harris, who entered Saturday's game averaging 9.1 yards per carry, remains day-to-day with a sprained ankle, though Saban said he "probably wouldn't do much" at practice Monday. Scarbrough suffered a thigh bruise, but he could have returned Saturday if the Tide needed him.
Obviously, Kent State isn't Tennessee or Texas A&M. But Saturday's game proved that you better have a stable of running backs ready because you just never know.
It's also clear at this point, four games into the season, that Alabama doesn't have a bell cow like it did a year ago with Henry. This team doesn't have a player who is going to get close to 400 carries. And that's OK. Because what they do have are four running backs that are more than capable of toting the rock.
"Derrick was great, but I feel like we do some of the same things [on offense] as last year," Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. "We've got a lot of good backs, young backs who are hungry and ready to play."
So if Harris can't go against Kentucky this weekend, that just means more opportunities for Scarbrough and the two freshmen.
It's Alabama. Somebody is always going to be ready to step up.