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Crimson Tide’s Josh Jacobs prepares to face home-state Sooners

In summer 2016, Josh Jacobs left his Oklahoma residence to begin a career as an Alabama Crimson Tide running back.

Now, Jacobs finds his home-state Sooners in the way of another trip to the championship game of the College Football Playoff. Top-seeded Alabama (13-0) and fourth-seeded Oklahoma (12-1) will vie in the Orange Bowl national semifinal on Dec. 29.

“It’s a game you always dream of, but I’m going to treat it like every other game,” Jacobs said Friday night in a news conference after the Tide started on-campus preparations.

Alabama held its second on-campus workout Saturday.

Jacobs was a late addition to Alabama’s star-studded 2016 signing class that included offensive tackle Jonah Williams, inside linebacker Mack Wilson and a quarterback from Texas named Jalen Hurts. Jacobs was a three-star prospect out of Tulsa who defined “late bloomer” in the recruiting process after rushing for a staggering 245.8 yards per game and 15.1 yards per carry as a McLain High School senior.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma’s coach at the time, made an 11th-hour visit to McLain during a late flurry of attention, but Jacobs tabbed Nick Saban’s Southeastern Conference kingpin over the Big 12 power.

So who will the Tulsa folks be pulling for in less than two weeks?

“A lot of people there are fans of Oklahoma, but they’re also fans of me,” Jacobs said with a smile. “Whenever we go against each other, which we are, they’ll be rooting for me. They have some dogs over there, and we have some dogs over here.

“It’s going to be an interesting matchup.”

Jacobs will be facing his home-state team with plenty of momentum, having been named MVP of the SEC championship game against Georgia this month in Atlanta after rushing eight times for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the 35-28 comeback triumph. Although Hurts will forever be remembered for replacing an injured Tua Tagovailoa early in the fourth quarter and rallying Alabama from a 28-21 deficit, the Tide even being within striking distance at that point was largely due to Jacobs.

After the Bulldogs took a 21- 7 lead late in the second quarter to silence the Alabama contingent at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Jacobs reeled off a 59-yard run to stem Georgia’s surge and pull the Tide back within a touchdown. As he sat alongside Hurts and Saban in a news conference afterward, Jacobs made his coach proud by admitting he didn’t think he played that well.

“I like Josh’s comment about how he’s going to look at the things he needs to do to get better,” Saban said. “That’s what we need all our players to do. It’s not always good when you play bad and win, because sometimes people aren’t thinking they’ve got to do something different.”

Jacobs has been a success in different ways ever since he suited up for Alabama. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound junior has 225 career rushes for 1,346 yards (6.0 per carry) and 16 touchdowns, and he also has 43 career receptions for 495 yards (11.5) and four scores.

On special teams, Jacobs has a 29-yard average on 16 career kickoff returns, scoring from 77 yards out in this season’s opening rout of Louisville.

Jacobs has compiled his offensive numbers under the guidance of four different coordinators — Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Brian Daboll and Mike Locksley. After being introduced early this month as Maryland’s new head coach, Locksley has returned to Tuscaloosa and will remain with the Tide through their playoff run.

“With him deciding to stay, that’s huge,” Jacobs said. “I just think that will help our offense keep rolling.”

Whether Jacobs will roll with Alabama’s 2019 offense, which will be under the guidance of current quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, is something he will have to address within the next month. His versatility and his performance in clutch games such as the SEC title contest will make him attractive to multiple NFL general managers.

It has not been a fun subject to address to this point.

“I really haven’t thought about it,” Jacobs said. “The little bit of the time I did think about it, it kind of stressed me out, so I left it alone.”

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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