Tide Must Replace Prominent Tailback
Mark Ingram left Alabama a year ago after his junior season and was a first round NFL draft choice of the New Orleans Saints. Trent Richardson announced after his junior season, Bama's national championship campaign, that he would opt for the draft this year, and he will be a first round selection in April.
Meanwhile, Alabama will begin the process of finding the next great Alabama tailback in spring practice, although it is likely that the number one candidate will not be competing.
Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Practice is scheduled to begin Friday, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.
Although any depth chart at tailback would ordinarily begin with the man who was Richardson's back-up and the number two Crimson Tide rusher last year, there is a good chance that junior Eddie Lacy (6-0, 220) will not be participating in spring practice. Although there has been no official announcement, it is hardly a secret that Lacy was to undergo surgery for a turf toe injury that limited his play in 2011.
When he is healthy, Lacy is outstanding. Last year he rushed 95 times for 674 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. That didn't compare to Richardson's performance of 283 rushes for 1,679 yards (breaking Ingram's previous school record of 1,658 yards) and 21 touchdowns (breaking Shaun Alexander's Bama mark of 19). Lacy also had 11 pass receptions for 131 yards.
With Lacy out, the obvious number one tailback in the spring is the man who was behind Lacy last season. The third tailback doesn't get a lot of game action if everyone stays healthy, and that was the case for Jalston Fowler last year. Nevertheless, the 6-1, 246-pound junior – known to his teammates as "The Beast" – has had his moments, such as the 69-yard touchdown sprint against Ole Miss and the 15-yard TD burst against Auburn to wrap up the scoring in the 42-14 romp over the Tigers in Auburn. For the year, Fowler had 56 carries for 385 yards (a 6.9 yards per carry average, even though he was usually playing at a time in the game when everyone knew he was going to be running the football) and four touchdowns.
After Fowler, it gets interesting.
Dee Hart was definitely in contention for playing time last season as a true freshman after entering The University last January and participating in spring practice. But in the summer before the start of fall camp, the 5-9, 189-pound Hart suffered a summer knee injury that required surgery. Although he was back on the sidelines for a handful of games during the season, he was never ticketed to play in 2011. Now as a redshirt freshman going through his second spring, the former national prep player of the year is believed to be ready to compete. Hart is also likely to be involved in Alabama's kickoff return game in 2012.
Just as Hart enrolled at mid-term in order to participate in spring practice last year, the 2011 Mr. Football in Alabama, T.J. Yeldon, will be in the mix at tailback this spring. Yeldon is 6-1, 215 pounds and was selected as the state's top player by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. As a senior he had 232 rushes for 2,193 yards with 31 touchdowns and 19 pass receptions for 244 yards and a touchdown.
Don't be surprised to see Blake Sims in the competition at tailback. Of course, don't be surprised to see the 6-0, 212-pound sophomore at quarterback or wide receiver or in the secondary. Sims is a very talented and quite versatile player. Last year he had 22 carries for 107 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 18 yards. The big surprise was that he was not used at wildcat where his talents as either a runner or passer might be utilized.
Another man who might be at tailback or might be somewhere else – notably linebacker – is redshirt freshman Brent Calloway (6-1, 217). Calloway was late arriving at Alabama last summer, but is expected to be able to compete for playing time wherever he ends up. Although most projected him as a college linebacker, he expressed an interest in playing tailback and got his first opportunity on offense.
This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.
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