HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Long before Marlon Watson saw running back Jordan Bentley up close and personal, he had heard about him.

Watson, Alabama A&M’s second-year defensive line coach, heard about the 6-foot-1, 200-pound freshman that was running circles around the competition. He had also watched Bentley on film, but Watson had to see him for himself.

He wasn’t disappointed.

As a senior at Guntersville (Alabama) High School, Bentley rushed for almost 300 yards in one half against Arab High. He could have gone for a lot more had Guntersville coach Lance Reese not pulled him from the game.

Watson, who recruited Bentley out of Guntersville, was mesmerized watching him play.

He was so enamored with Bentley, that he called A&M head coach James Spady during the game.

“We need to offer this kid tonight,” Watson told Spady.

Spady told him to do it.

It turned out to be a good decision.

When Bentley signed with the Bulldogs in February, A&M had its running back of the future.

All Bentley did was rush for almost 6,000 yards while scoring 104 touchdowns in high school. For his efforts, he was named Alabama Class 5A Back of the Year and was named to the state’s Super 12 team, which honors Alabama’s top 12 players among all classifications.

“We got a steal,” Watson said. “I didn’t know Jordan would be this good this early, but you could see the potential he had. He’s a good fit for this school, this team and this league.”

Bentley hasn’t disappointed through the Bulldogs’ first three games.

Currently, Bentley is second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in rushing behind Southern’s Lenard Tillery with 236 yards on 38 carries. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and 78.7 yards per game to go along with two touchdowns. Bentley and Tillery will put their talents on display Saturday when A&M (1-2, 1-1) hosts Southern (1-2, 1-0) at Louis Crews Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s been a lot of fun getting to play here,” Bentley said. “It’s been a big adjustment from high school to college, but I love competition. Competition drives me.”

That competitive spirit helped Bentley overtake two-year starter Harvey Harris to become A&M’s starting running back.

Bulldogs quarterbacks/running backs coach Willie Totten said Bentley took advantage of an opportunity during preseason practice and never looked back.

“Harvey tweaked his knee in camp and that opened the door for Bentley,” Totten said. “He picked up the system really quick and he’s perfect for the Pistol offense because he’s a downhill runner. He didn’t look like a freshman. He looked like a veteran. He impressed the entire staff. As his coach, I've got to be very careful in what I tell him because he’s going to do it exactly the way you tell him to do it.”

Bentley is coming off of his best game in an A&M uniform, posting his first 100-yard game with 126 yards on just 12 carries last week in a 41-20 loss to Prairie View. He ripped off a 62-yard touchdown with 3:45 left in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs tie the game at 7.

“The offensive line did a great job on that play,” said Bentley, who said his best attributes include his vision and quickness. “All I had to do was hit the hole and run.”

Totten wasn’t surprised to see Bentley score.

“He had a 60- or 70-yard touchdown in every scrimmage we had,” he said. “Jordan has a chance to be special. He knows football and he plays with great passion. It’s hard to teach a lot of the things he does because he’s blessed with a lot of natural ability.”

Southern coach Dawson Odums has taken notice.

“Very powerful; good vision; a downhill runner,” Odums said earlier this week. “He’s a one-cut guy. He runs behind his pads. It’s going to be a physical football game. We understand that it starts with him. He’s going to get his touches, and he’s very good when they put it in his hands. We’ve got to pay attention to him. Guys have to wrap up.

“I think we’re getting better at our fits, and if we do what we’re supposed to do, hopefully we’ll be in position to get him on the ground, because he falls forward for yards. You rarely see him get tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He’s a good running back, and he’s going to be a challenge for us.”