Richardson Pleased As Ingram Returns

Backs and linemen, backs and linemen. Go together like a...Well, maybe it's not the stuff of a Broadway musical, but Alabama's offense depends on linemen blocking and tailbacks running. And the two are a mutual admiration society.



Alabama worked for two hours in full gear Tuesday, the Tide's first full gear practice since Saturday's 24-3 victory over Penn State. Bama, ranked number one in the nation, makes its first road trip this week, going to Duke. Kickoff Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham is 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central time) with television coverage by ABC.

A difference in Alabama practice this week is that tailback Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, is back in action after having missed the first two games with a knee injury that required arthrocopic surgery. In Ingram's absence, Trent Richardson, the Tide's back-up tailback last year as a true freshman, has been carrying the load. Richardson carried it very well last Saturday, rushing 22 times for 144 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for 46 yards.

Richardson was honored by the Southeastern Conference as the co-offensive player of the week. The week before he made the cover of Sports Illustrated running against San Jose State. (Following Wednesday's meeting with sportswriters, Richardson got his first look at the oversized copy of the cover framed outside the media center in Alabama's athletics building All of the SI covers featuring Alabama have been copied in an 8 1/2 x 24 format and framed and put on display.

With the return of Ingram, Richardson's role may be reduced. But the sophomore from Pensacola remains crimson, not green with envy.

"I'm very excited to have him back," Richardson said. "I'm glad. I wrote him just last night and said, ‘Glad to have you back here, Brother.' There's nothing like having him in the backfield with me."

Wrote him? Pen and paper?

"Texted him on the phone."

Richardson said that Ingram looks good. "Mark's doing great," Richardson said. "He's doing pretty good. It's like he didn't have surgery, like he didn't have anything happen to him."

Richardson said it's a compliment just to be mentioned with Ingram. "He's the Heisman Trophy winner," Richardson said. "To fill his shoes and to hear people say that we didn't miss a step at all... Mark was a big issue last year, a big role on our team. So if we filled his shoes, took up the slack, I think we're doing pretty good."

Richardson explained his unselfish attitude. "Everyone's got to eat," he said. "You can't be selfish or you won't have a family. It's not every man for himself. it's a team. You've got to have unity. You have to come together as a team and be one person."

The same goes for Eddie Lacy, the freshman who has been backing up Richardson. Lacy now drops to third.

Richardson is a known quantity as a runner. Against Penn State he made the highlight reel for a block, flipping a Nittany Lions defensive lineman. Richardson said it was more exciting than his touchdown run. Following the block he looked up at one of the jumbotrons to catch the replay and saw himself catch the lineman at the knees and flip him onto his head. "I looked at it and said, ‘I did all that?'."

He said the block got more views in the running backs film room than the touchdown run did.

Alabama center William Vlachos said, "I think the great thing about having those two guys is they are kind of the same guy. They look similar, they run similar. Mark has a little bit more experience, but other than that it's not like we have a thunder and lightning one-two punch. It's kind of like thunder and thunder. They are both strong power backs, make great reads, have great strength, and have really good speed. That's what our offense is focused around, those guys having success.

"They probably don't even need an offensive line, really; they are that good.

"Trent is extremely good; fabulous. He works just like Mark works. They never get complacent, they never let off the pedal, and the sky's the limit for both of them."

Don't need an offensive line?

"I think Nachos--I call him Nachos--is talking a little too much smack," Richardson said. "I think the offensive line does all the work for us. We just run behind them and just make moves as we get down the field and get to the second level."

One aspect of offensive line play in the first two games has been an unbalanced line with tackles D.J. Fluker and James Carpenter side-by-side, Carpenter essentially in a tight end spot. Richardson said, "When they are next to each other, I don't feel like anyone can touch me. They work real hard, always in the film room, working in the weight room. Even when we're going through walk-throughs, they are going 100 per cent full throttle. It's not like they are slowing down. So I know when I get behind them, I don't need to worry about anyone hitting me, about any big defensive lineman getting through and hitting me."

As for the return of Ingram, Vlachos said, "He's good. He looks good. He's excited to be back. We're certainly thrilled to have him back. How much he'll play I don't know, but he's practiced the last two days and he's looked good. His spirits are high and he's excited to be back there, as are we."

Richardson said he has a good relationship with Bama Offensive Line Coach Joe Pendry. He said Pendry coaches the running backs on blocking. "He does a real good job with the offensive line," Richardson said. "The offensive line, as you've seen, they barely mess up, they don't make many mistakes, and that's because he stays on them all the time because he's an old school dude, and you know how old school they want to hit you in the mouth all the time, down hill running, smash mouth football."

Richardson said there is no danger of Alabama overlooking Duke, a team that gave up 54 points to Wake Forest a week ago. "We have to take them seriously," he said. "You can't take a day off or a team off. You don't want to slip up and mess up and miss an opportunity we have. We've got to go out there and play ball."

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