Following an act like Trent Richardson is quite a tall order, but it looks as though the Crimson Tide may be able to do so by committee — a mighty strong one, at that.
Redshirt junior Eddie Lacy will assume the role as starter, and he has a good deal of experience, the physical tools and the size to be one of the best backs in the league. He had some fumbling issues in the 2010 season, but seemed to have the kinks worked out last year.
He’s a big, bruising back with lots of power, lots of skill and, hopefully, lots of confidence after rushing for 674 yards on 95 carries last season — a 7.1 yard per carry average.
Behind him are junior Jalston Fowler, newcomer T.J. Yeldon, redshirt freshman Dee Hart and redshirt sophomore Blake Sims.
The stable of backs brings a mix of speed, power, depth and receiving ability that could be lethal, and though the Mark Ingram-Trent Richardson duo was one of the strongest in the history of the sport, Alabama will have one of the deepest and most talented running back corps in the country.
Here’s how the five will more than likely be listed on the depth chart and what skill set each brings to the Crimson Tide offense:
Class: Redshirt Junior
Spec’s: 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
2011 Stats: 95 carries, 674 yards, 7.1 yard per carry average
Breakdown: Lacy really grew into his backup role last year, saw lots of playing time and impressed nearly every time he had the ball. He showed power, agility, speed and quickness — valuable assets for a back his size. Given the keys to the starting role and the amount of carries that come with it, he shouldn’t disappoint. He’s got the size and skill to excel in any situation in the game. He’ll also be able to stay fresh while backs with different skill sets take the field. One concern is his bout with turf toe; his recovery will be key to Alabama’s rotation.
Spec’s: 6-foot-1, 245 pounds
2011 Stats: 56 carries, 385 yards, 6.9 yard per carry average
Breakdown: Fowler’s size may be his biggest strength, but it could be a detriment. Can a running back his size also have the speed and quickness to do proper backup duty for a guy like Eddie Lacy? Fowler’s only been seen on the field a few times, mostly after the work had already been done by Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. He did tally up 125 yards on just nine carries in the game at the Tide’s game against Mississippi State in 2011. He was a highly regarded recruit coming out of Mobile’s Vigor High School in 2010, ranking No. 2 overall in Scout.com’s position rankings. If the speed and moves are there, he could be a knockout punch to defenses worn down by Lacy.
Class: Redshirt freshman
Spec’s: 5-foot-9, 190 pounds
2011 Stats: No carries (injured)
Breakdown: Kind of a tossup as to which of the next two backs — Hart and Yeldon — will get more carries. Hart is a scatback, but he’s built similarly to Trent Richardson, just a bit smaller. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and he’s looked great in both of his spring games, running for 44 yards on five carries and catching four passes for 32 yards this year. He probably would have seen more playing time in 2011 had he not been sidelined with an ACL tear. The contrast he offers from Lacy and Fowler — and his size — make him a valuable addition to the backfield.
Spec’s: 6-foot-1, 215 pounds
2011 Stats: N/A
Breakdown: Yeldon enrolled early, starting school this spring after de-committing from Auburn in December and signing with the Tide in February. Yeldon’s skills are a mixed bag of speed, size and moves, and he showcased his ability as the runaway star of the the 2012 A-Day game. He rolled up 174 all-purpose yards, running for 88 on 16 carries and catching five passes for 91 yards. Depending on how Yeldon’s fall practices go and how the other backs perform the first few games, he could shoot up the depth chart quickly, potentially all the way to the No. 2 spot directly behind Lacy. If the spring game offered any indication of what’s to come, Yeldon has the chance to be a very special back over the next three years.
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Spec’s: 6-foot-1, 212 pounds
2011 Stats: 22 carries, 107 yards, 4.9 yard per carry average
Breakdown: Sims played quarterback in high school and was recruited in 2010 as an athlete (a utility guy, of sorts, without a defined position.) He’s only seen playing time in mop-up duty and could be used in the wildcat formation in the future — he may be the most overall fastest and athletic guy the Tide has on the roster; Coach Nick Saban just hasn’t found the right place for him yet. He’s officially listed as a running back, but once fall practice starts, he might wind up in the receiving corps or even on the other side of the ball.
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