By the (star) numbers: Running backs

This week we're going through every position and analyzing the accuracy of's star ratings on Alabama's actual performance at that position. Up next: running backs.

Eddie Lacy – four star

Jalston Fowler – four star

Dee Hart – four star

Blake Sims – four star

T.J. Yeldon – four star

Alabama clearly knows how to produce running backs.

Mark Ingram won the Heisman in 2009 and Trent Richardson was a finalist in '11. Both have set and reset the bar for the Crimson Tide's running game over the years. So who's the next special player? Who will replace the most recently departed Richardson?

The Tide has a stable of capable runners in Eddie Lacy, Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart, Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon, all of whom were rated as four-star recruits by (Ingram was listed as a three-star in '08 and Richardson a five-star in '09, by the way.)

First we'll start with Lacy, who although was out this spring with turf toe, is expected to be the man in 2012. In his first two years as a backup, Lacy, now a junior, rushed for 1,080 yards on just 151 carries, averaging 7.15 yards per carry, and scored 13 touchdowns. For predictive purposes, 2012 should be a breakout year for him if recent Alabama history repeats itself (Ingram and Richardson both had stellar junior seasons).

Luckily Lacy has some of the most talented backups in the nation who won't allow for any drop-off when the starter needs rest.

Jalston Fowler, who stands a 6-foot-1, 242 lbs., is a big, physical, hard-to-tackle downhill runner. He was the No. 1 option this spring with Lacy sitting out. Last season coming in behind Richardson and Lacy, Fowler rushed for 385 yards on 56 carries and scored four touchdowns.

"He's been such a big load," Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones told the Associated Press earlier this spring. "I've really been pleased with the way he's stepped in and become the No. 1 guy for us this spring. Just really become a leader, too. He sets a good example. He works hard every day. You can always count on him to do his job."

Then there's sophomore Blake Sims, who moves around so much it's hard to get a read on him (he's been a quarterback, running back and wide receiver at Bama and because of his passing ability, he may be a wildcat tailback), but he didn't participate this spring (hip).

Dee Hart hasn't played in a college game yet due to a knee injury he sustained last summer, but he's fine now. And finally, the Tide has incoming freshman T.J. Yeldon, who although can't be evaluated for the purposes of this article because he hasn't played in a game yet (even though he was an early enrollee and did participate in the A-Day game where he led the team with 16 rushes for 88 yards and caught five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown) is built more like Adrian Peterson than Ingram/Richardson and has the potential to eventually be better than his four-star rating.

Alabama's running back depth chart averages just over 6-feet and roughly 216 lbs.

Those who have seen the field (Lacy, Fowler, Sims), though it hasn't been as much as they'll see in 2012, have shown glimpses into living up to the expectations set by their star ratings. And those who haven't taken a handoff from A.J. McCarron just yet (Hart, Yeldon) are players to get excited about (as if fans weren't already).

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