TUSCALOOSA, Ala — Call it a breakout game if you want, but Nick Saban doesn’t see it that way.
Jase McClellan rushed for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries during Alabama’s 34-0 victory over Austin Peay. However, the junior running back’s performance Saturday was nothing new to his head coach.
“I haven’t learned anything about him,” Saban said when asked about McClellan’s recent success following the game. “I’ve always thought he was a really good player. I think y’all are just starting to figure it out.”
Anyone unaware of McClellan’s talents at this point isn’t looking hard enough. Stepping up for an injured Jahmyr Gibbs the past two weeks, McClellan has combined for 240 yards on 36 carries in wins against Ole Miss and Austin Peay.
Those yards haven’t been easy either.
Against Ole Miss, McClellan racked up 66 of his 84 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. He also lowered his shoulder plenty of times against Austin Peay as well, including a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to cap off Alabama’s opening drive.
“A guy like Jace, you know what he brings in the backfield,” Alabama center Seth McLaughlin said. “He’s the guy that’s gonna run downhill, run through somebody, that can make somebody miss. He’s got a lot of explosive runs. It’s a pleasure blocking for him.”
Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o knows what it’s like facing McClellan on the other side of the field and doesn’t envy opposing defenders who are tasked with wrapping up the 5-foot-11, 212-pound back during games.
“Shoot, it’s hard,” To’oTo’o said. “I ain’t gonna lie, trying to get him down, trying to thud him up in practice and get a grip on him, you can’t arm tackle him. You’ve got to be able to [go] chest to chest and put your nose in him.”
Saturday marked the first time McClellan has eclipsed 100 yards in a game at Alabama. The junior came close a handful of times, rushing for 95 or more yards in four previous games throughout his three-year career while falling short of the century mark each time.
“It felt good just doing what the team asked me for, what coaches asked me for,” McClellan said. “It felt good just to go over 100 yards.”
McClellan appeared to be on the verge of breaking out during his sophomore season last year, rushing for 191 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries while pulling in 10 receptions for 97 yards and three scores through the air before tearing his ACL in against Ole Miss in Week 5. Despite hitting a lull in the middle of the season this year, the junior back is second on the team with 569 yards and five touchdowns on 93 carries through 11 games.
And if you haven’t seen enough yet, McClellan is eager to show off his talents even more moving forward.
“Just showing what I’m capable of,” McClellan said. “Just showing my run style and what I can do for the team.”
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