Trent Richardson is gone. Alabama’s bruising rusher who was tasked with following Heisman winner Mark Ingram and was a key part of the Tide’s last two BCS titles has made it to the NFL, where he could have probably been playing for the last two years.
The torch has been passed. Alabama is reloading in the backfield.
Alabama fans don’t seem to be worried at all though. With four running backs that would likely be starters on almost any team in the country, the Tide has depth that is unmatched.
The role of starter at this point is Eddie Lacy’s to lose. Lacy is the most experienced of the Tide tailbacks, with 13 touchdowns over the last two seasons and an impressive performance against North Texas in 2011 when he gained 161 yards on only 9 rushing attempts. “Circle-Button,” as he is called by the team, has a PlayStation-like spin move as well as the size and speed to continue the tradition of running over defenses like those who came before him.
Lacy sat out during spring practice due to surgery on a nagging turf-toe injury, but looks to bounce back for fall practice and will be more than ready to take on the Michigan defense on September 1. However, his absence during the spring gave other Alabama running backs a chance to develop more and make an impact on A-Day.
Jalston Fowler has progressed into a capable runner that can do more than just run through defenders. His 6’1, 246 lb. frame hides a deceptive speed. In 2011 he had touchdowns of 69 and 49 yards, and will see much more action in 2012 as a good compliment to Lacy.
Not only does Fowler serve as a sturdy understudy, the running back that has almost been overlooked is Dee Hart. Hart never got a chance to showcase his talents in 2011 because of an ACL injury during the summer; however, after completing rehab, he was able to participate in spring practice and A-Day. His role could end up being a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield for the Crimson Tide, like Roy Upchurch in 2009, which adds texture and an extra dimension to Alabama’s ground-and-pound rushing attack.
Last but certainly not least, fans will definitely have their eye on the highly-touted freshman T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon stole the show on A-Day with 16 rushes for 88 yards and 5 pass catches for 91 yards with a receiving touchdown. He immediately drew comparisons to Trent Richardson and is going to be one of the most exciting players to watch in 2012. He has a chance to move up the depth chart and earn significant playing time this year, and could become the starter by the 2013 season.
If Alabama continues its recent trend of utilizing the wildcat formation on occasion, Blake Sims looks to be the logical choice to run it. Currently listed as a running back on the official roster, Sims was a quarterback in high school and could provide the wildcat passing threat that Marquis Maze and Mark Ingram lacked.
Even if Alabama is leaning towards throwing the ball around a little more this year, don’t expect Saban to stray too far from the punishing rushing attack he has used over the past few seasons to wear defenses down. He has too many weapons in the backfield to not find a use for all of them.
If Lacy doesn’t split time too much with the other running backs, he could be Alabama’s next Heisman contender, but he would more than likely settle for just a BCS title. Either way, the tradition of formidable and feared Crimson Tide running backs doesn’t look to end anytime soon.
More 2012 Alabama Football Previews
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