Alabama keeping Harris, losing Payne, Ridley and Scarbrough

Alabama keeping Harris, losing Payne, Ridley and Scarbrough

January 11th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama running back Damien Harris, shown running onto the field to celebrate Monday night's 26-23 overtime win against Georgia in the national title game, announced Wednesday he will return for his senior season.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

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Alabama has never had a running back rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Damien Harris is apparently giving himself that chance.

The 5-foot-11, 221-pounder from Richmond, Ky., has decided to return for his senior season, according to multiple media outlets, including and ESPN. Harris has yet to make a public announcement, but several of his teammates reacted with excitement on social media Wednesday.

Harris rushed for 1,037 yards as a sophomore in 2016 and 1,000 this past season, which ended with Monday night's 26-23 overtime win over Georgia that yielded Alabama's fifth national title in the past nine seasons under coach Nick Saban. Harris averaged a sizzling 7.4 yards per carry this past season and scored 11 touchdowns.

While Harris made the decision to come back, backup running back Bo Scarbrough, receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne have decided to forgo their final seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Harris, Scarbrough, Ridley and Payne were five-star signees when they arrived in 2015.

Ridley was the only player to announce his intention publicly, choosing the social media route.

"Having been thoroughly prepared for the next step, I am truly ready, because in the beginning, I chose the right school," Ridley said. "Coach Saban and his entire staff of caring experts and professionals have created a culture of winning and forged an unprecedented legacy for this program. My experience at Alabama has been exceptional, and I have a lifetime of unforgettable memories and friendships that shall endure forever.

"In announcing my entrance into the upcoming 2018 NFL draft, I know that those who come after me will take this program to even greater heights."

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Ridley had at least one reception in all 44 games he played at Alabama, and his 63 catches this past season were more than the 61 combined from the Crimson Tide's next five receivers — Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Cam Sims, Robert Foster and DeVonta Smith. Ridley amassed 1,045 receiving yards as a freshman in 2015 and another 967 this past season, which included a 7-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-goal that produced a 20-20 tie in the fourth quarter of Monday's title game.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper lists Ridley as his top-rated receiver prospect for the 2018 NFL draft.

Payne, who is Kiper's No. 3 defensive tackle prospect, racked up 53 tackles this past season and was the defensive MVP of Alabama's Sugar Bowl national semifinal win over Clemson and again Monday night. He had six tackles against Georgia, while his performance against Clemson included an interception and a touchdown reception.

Scarbrough was Alabama's top offensive threat during its playoff run after the 2016 season, shredding Washington for 180 yards on 19 carries in the Peach Bowl national semifinal. He added 93 yards in the first half of last January's championship game against Clemson before breaking his leg early in the third quarter.

After rushing for 812 yards and 6.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, Scarbrough was not as effective this past season, rushing for 596 yards and averaging 4.8 per carry.

Scarbrough is not listed among the top 20 running back prospects, according to CBS, which had a recent top five of Penn State's Saquon Barkley, LSU's Derrius Guice, Stanford's Bryce Love, Southern California's Ronald Jones and Harris. All five of those players are juniors, with Barkley, Guice and Jones having announced they are turning pro.

Love has yet to reveal his decision, and that list will have to be revised with Harris returning. Harris is the sixth Alabama running back with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, joining Johnny Musso, Bobby Humphrey, Shaun Alexander, Kenneth Darby and T.J. Yeldon.

Two Alabama defensive backs, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison, are expected to make decisions regarding the NFL within the next few days. Kiper rates Fitzpatrick as his No. 1 safety prospect and Harrison at No. 3.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Monday.

Roundtree retires

Georgia's Rashad Roundtree, who spent time as a reserve safety and a reserve inside linebacker, announced Wednesday he must give up football.

The 6-1, 204-pounder from Evans, Ga., did not play this past season after getting in 24 games his first two years with the Bulldogs and recording 12 tackles. He was a top-100 prospect nationally in the 2015 signing class, according to ESPN and

"As a result of a number of concussions, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that my journey in the path of football has come to an end," Roundtree posted on social media. "As a child, all of my dreams involved playing football, and it deeply saddens me that I can't play anymore."

Auburn gets Nix

Bo Nix, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 signing class, committed Wednesday to Auburn, where he will follow in his father's footsteps.

Patrick Nix came off the bench for an injured Stan White and helped lead Auburn to a 22-14 win over Alabama that capped an 11-0 season in 1993. Nix started the next two seasons and guided the Tigers to a 17-5-1 record.

The younger Nix is a 6-2, 194-pounder from the Birmingham, Ala., suburb of Pinson. He is the No. 57 overall prospect in the 2019 class, according to He follows 6-4, 232-pound quarterback Joey Gatewood of Jacksonville, Fla., the No. 108 overall prospect in this year's class, who signed with Auburn last month.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.