Four top Alabama players including Najee Harris suspended for at least part of opener, per report
Some key players won't see the field until the second half -- or perhaps at all -- on Saturday
No. 2 Alabama will play Duke on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, but four of its top players will not see action for at least a portion of the game. Junior running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson will be serving suspensions for the first half against the Blue Devils after missing a team function, according to 247Sports. The report also notes that linebacker Terrell Lewis will serve a punishment for the same reason. Furthermore, BamaInsider reports that wide receiver DeVonta Smith will also be suspended, though it does not state a length of time.
Harris is a former five-star prospect who was the No. 2 overall player in the Class of 2017. He rushed for 783 yards and four touchdowns a year ago but was consistently fighting for carries behind former Crimson Tide running backs Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs. His best game came against Arkansas State in Week 2 when he rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown. He played a big part in Alabama's comeback victory over Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship after the 2017 season, rushing for 64 yards on six carries -- all in the second half.
With the top two backs from last season gone, Harris is scheduled to get his first shot at No. 1 running back carries in 2019. As of Monday, he was listed as having 80-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy in 2019 by Westgate -- the same odds as teammate and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Robinson had 272 yards and two touchdowns as a reserve last year along with 165 yards and two more touchdowns as a freshman in 2017. The 6-foot-1, 226-pounder had earned the praise from coach Nick Saban this summer after patiently awaiting his turn in the Tide running back rotation.
The news comes just a few weeks after Trey Sanders, a five-star running back in the Class of 2019, broke his foot, leaving him out indefinitely. Expect redshirt freshman Jerome Ford, true freshman Keilan Robinson and redshirt sophomore Chadarius Townsend to get the bulk of carries in the first half.
Smith gained notoriety as a true freshman in 2017 when he caught the walk-off touchdown on 2nd-and-26 in overtime of the national championship game to give the Tide the national title. He caught 42 passes for 693 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore as part of one of the top wide receiving corps in the country.
Lewis has had an injury-riddled career during his three years with the program. He notched 11 tackles and one sack as a freshman in 2016, which set the tone for what was slated to be a breakout 2017 campaign. Instead, he suffered what was thought to be a season-ending arm injury in the opener vs. Florida State. He ended up returning late in the season and had seven tackles in the win over Georgia that earned the Crimson Tide the 2017 national title. A knee injury kept him out of the entire 2018 season.
The Crimson Tide and Blue Devils will tee it up Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
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