Scouting Spotlight: RB Bo Scarbrough
Watching Bo Scarbrough, a 6’1” 235-lb. bruising back from Alabama, it’s hard to not think of another Tide running back, Derrick Henry. Scarbrough is another in a long line of bruising, powerful Alabama running backs. Whether it’s Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, or the aforementioned Henry, Alabama has a history of producing tough, strong running backs. Scarbrough offers a powerful running style, with the ability to wear down defenses if fed continuously. Coming out of high school as a five-star recruit, expectations were high for Scarbrough. After redshirting most of his freshman season because of an ACL tear, he served mostly in a backup role. He broke out in his sophomore season. In his final three games that season, Scarbrough rushed 46 times for 364 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. A lot was expected of him heading into his junior season after dominating down the stretch the season prior. 2017 was sort of a letdown for Scarbrough as he never could get in a rhythm, losing carries to Damien Harris as the season went on. Despite not finishing his career on a great note, Scarbrough will still garner NFL interest because of the bruising running style he possesses.
Tackle Shedder and Chain Mover
One of Scarbrough’s biggest strengths is the ability to consistently get positive yards by shedding tackles and falling forward. He runs with a downhill style that enables him to grind out yards in a way like other big, bruising backs in the league, such as Derrick Henry and LeGarrette Blount. This is a trait that will earn Scarbrough playing time as teams are always looking for guys who can wear down defenses.
Speed size and Power Combo
Scarbrough’s size simply can’t be ignored. He’s a 6’1” 235-lb beast of a man packed full of muscle. While not a speed demon, his speed is excellent for his size. This alone is a reason for NFL interest. There just aren’t many guys in the world with the size speed combination that he possesses. There were many times where Scarbrough would bull over defenders then break away for a long touchdown showcasing the bruising power coupled with his speed.
Short Yardage Closer
One of the areas where Scarbrough excelled at Alabama was converting short yardage chances. He utilized his big body to find ways to either pick up first downs or score touchdowns. This will allow Scarbrough to carve out, at a minimum, a role as a short yardage back à la LeGarrette Blount.
Decisive One-Cut Runner
Although the physical traits are impressive, you can’t be a successful running back without the ability to be a decisive runner. Scarbrough makes up his mind, and then explodes through the hole extremely well and decisively. When he reads the right hole, he can do serious damage with a hard cut through it. It’s imperative for backs to be decisive confident runners. Without that ability, even the most physically gifted running backs amount to nothing.
Scarbrough is by no means expected to have the agility of a Devontae Freeman; however, it is an important part of being a good runner. Scarbrough doesn’t have great side-to-side agility but he does display the ability to make move side-to-side a little. He is not a kind of guy that will be juking side-to-side running laterally. Scarbrough knows that getting downhill is his strength and doesn’t rely on being shifty to gain yardage. He can however, make a quick little change of direction at a less-exaggerated angle.
On this play, Scarbrough shows the ability to make a quick change of direction move to evade the pursuing defender allowing him to make a cut up field. As I said earlier, Scarbrough is capable of this type of cut just not the really exaggerated sharp cuts.
This is an example of what he can’t do. It shows that he doesn’t have the ability to really sit in a chair and change directions at a dramatic angle. This is not a big deficiency for me though as he won’t be asked to be that kind of runner in the pros. It just means that he’s not elite in this area.
Vision is arguably the most important trait when scouting running backs. Without the ability to see a hole, there’s absolutely no chance for success. I see Scarbrough’s vision as average. He often times picks the right hole, hits it, and gains good yardage, but there are also times when I see him miss opportunities for bigger gains.
In this clip, Scarbrough misses an opportunity. He should run through the middle hole created by the pulling, right tackle and down-blocking left guard. Instead he goes to the outside shoulder of the LG instead of reading his blocks and cutting inside. This is just one example of Scarbrough missing opportunities for a bigger play.
One of the biggest knocks on Scarbrough is his inability to be a factor in the passing game. The days are gone when running backs can just pound the ball repeatedly without doing anything else. Especially in today’s NFL, backs need to fulfill a multitude of responsibilities. Scarbrough hasn’t shown the pass catching skills that are needed to be a complete back in the modern NFL. When he has caught the ball, it has been mostly using his chest rather than plucking the ball out of the air. The route running skills were not displayed either. At Alabama, Scarbrough was asked mainly to run check down routes, not showing the skills to run a multitude of routes. If somehow Scarbrough can be a factor in the passing game, I wouldn’t be surprised if he developed into a good piece, barring injury.
As we all know, running back is a position that wears out quickly. Scarbrough has struggled to stay on the field all throughout his career with various injuries. It doesn’t matter how good of a player you are, if you can’t stay on the field, you won’t be helping the team.
When it comes down to it, being a running back is about being able to see the hole, hit the hole, then stay balanced through contact. Scarbrough has shown two of those three things consistently well. Scarbrough is an athletic specimen in the mold of an old-fashioned power back. He has the chance to be a guy that can be given 15 or more carries warring out defenses then hitting them with a knockout punch, much like another former Alabama back, Derrick Henry. Ultimately, he doesn’t possess modern day skills to be drafted very high. Lack of passing game skills and durability concerns will most likely keep him available into the last day of the draft, but if a team that really emphasizes the run and will line up in power formations similar to the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette, Scarbrough should be a tremendous value if he stays healthy. Scarbrough will fulfill the role of a backup back, occasionally spelling the starter. If he can stay healthy, his ceiling is that of a grinder that can wear down defenses while getting a lot of carries.