Being Content With Tailback Depth

Socrates knew a lot, but the Greek philosopher of the fifth century BC wasn't thinking about running backs depth when he opined that "He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have."

At Alabama these days, Socrates might be scratching his head over the contentment level relative to "what formerly had." Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban has to be content with what remains of the Bama running backs corps following the reported knee injury suffered by freshman tailback Dee Hart.

Although there has been no official word on the status of Hart, who entered The University in January and participated in spring practice, the rumor mill has it that Hart suffered a knee injury Tuesday, that it was diagnosed as a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), that he was to undergo surgery today, and that he will miss the upcoming football season while rehabilitating.

Official word is expected following the surgery.

Hart, 5-9, 189, from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., had been projected as a third team tailback and possible punt return and/or kickoff return man for the Crimson Tide.

Years ago it was noted that "Alabama seems to be the only place where everyone worries about who is going to be the second team quarterback." These days that concern is over the third team tailback – and beyond.

There is no question about number one, and probably none regarding number two. Trent Richardson has been a capable back the past two years while in the shadow of 2009 Heisman Trophy winner and 2011 NFL first round draft choice Mark Ingram. Richardson, a 5-11, 224-pound junior, is on the watch list for the Maxwell Award given to the nation's most outstanding football player. Behind him is Eddie Lacy, a 6-0, 212-pound sophomore, who has overcome his early problems with ball security and emerged as the likely sidekick to Richardson.

Traditionally Saban likes to use at least two backs to keep fresh legs running the football.

Alabama depth at the position was eroded before the injury to Hart.

Demetrius Goode, who had been a journeyman back-up for three years, elected to play his final season at North Alabama. Corey Grant, a redshirt freshman who had been listed no better than sixth on the depth chart at tailback, has transferred to Auburn in his hometown.

Jalston Fowler, a 6-1, 236-pound sophomore, showed powerful running ability as a true freshman last season, but may need to improve other skills (notably blocking) if he is going to be a factor at tailback. Fowler had 14 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown and caught one pass for 36 yards in mop-up appearances last year.

Last year's recruiting wars included the bizarre case of Brent Calloway of Russellville. Calloway, 6-1, 217, was the first prospect to commit to Bama. He was universally listed as an outstanding linebacker prospect. But after a trip to Auburn, he decided he was a tailback and changed his commitment to the Tigers. After returning to his home and family, he flipped back to a running back.

That may have been one of those "Sure, you're a running back, but if you want to play you might want to look at linebacker" situations. The Hart injury now may put Callaway in the tailback picture. He had 1,974 yards and 29 touchdowns as a runner his senior year.

Also possible is a move of Blake Sims to running back, which wouldn't be much of a move. Sims, a 6-0, 195-pound redshirt freshman, is an outstanding athlete who has worked at running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and quarterback in his brief time at Bama. He was at quarterback in the spring as what Saban called depth insurance. That policy may be on running back, now.

It's a relatively short list of candidates, but headed by Richardson the Crimson Tide running back corps probably has the ability to make Saban as content as he gets.

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