When Trey Sanders transferred to IMG Academy for his sophomore year, he was already the No. 1 running back in the class.
That wasn’t enough to gain the starting reins from RB Noah Cain. Sanders had just 43 carries that season, but he averaged more than nine yards per touch.
His obvious talent level and efficiency forced IMG to use the star running backs in a platoon role. Over the next two seasons, Sanders had 144 carries and Cain had 158.
He thinks it’s been a mutually-beneficial setup.
“It’s been amazing. I learned stuff from Noah over the last past two years that made me good. And I made him better too. For us playing the same position man, it’s been a blessing,” Sanders said. “There’s nobody I’d want to go to war with any more than him.”
Despite the lack of touches that would predictably come with his talent level, Sanders said he’s happy with the split.
“I’m just out here doing this because I love this. This is my life,” he said. “What everybody else got to say, they ain’t roll with me, they don’t know where I come from, so it’s not really about what everybody think about the carries.”
It might be easier for him to not care about public opinion when it’s almost universally positive. Sanders, No. 11 in the Chosen 25, made the ALL-USA Offense Second Team as a senior and is committed to Alabama.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I still had a good season, I’m still doing good on my body,” he said.
Don’t take the latter part of that statement lightly. Sanders is in peak shape with minimal wear-and-tear. At Alabama, he’s likely to have a similar role.
Damien Harris, who was the No. 1 RB in the country coming out of high school in 2015, leads the Crimson Tide in carries entering the championship game with 139. Najee Harris, the No. 1 RB in 2017, is at 108. Josh Jacobs, who was a three-star back entering college, has 109 and has become a fixture of the offensive game.
In contrast, nine of the ten Division I leaders in rushing yards this year had more than 200 carries. The tenth, Travis Etienne of Clemson, will reach the 200 mark if he has 10 carries in the championship game. Three of them had at least 300.
With Damien Harris set to enter the draft and Jacobs a potential early pick if he declares, Sanders has an early idea of what the Alabama backfield will look like in 2019.
“I know me, Najee and (sophomore) Brian Robinson are gonna share the role and I can’t wait to get back there with those guys,” Sanders said.
He’s made his decisions to be in these platoon situations, but that’s not the end goal.
“I just want to be an every-down back, man,” Sanders said. “Run the ball, I want to be able to catch, block, everything. Name it, I want to do it. I want to be unstoppable.”