Jinx? What Jinx? Yeldon Takes Cover

Once upon a time, T.J. Yeldon might have been nervous about being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. If not Yeldon, then perhaps Coach Nick Saban. Mostly, though, probably Crimson Tide fans, who were aware of the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.

Alabama under Nick Saban has done a lot to destroy the myth of the jinx.

Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon is featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated College Football Preview issue. It is the 15th cover for the Alabama football program since Nick Saban arrived at the Capstone in 2007. The Crimson Tide also has three other national championship commemorative issues.

So much for a jinx.

Yeldon, a sophomore from Daphne, rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago. His cover is one of six regional covers for Sports Illustrated this week. It is the

Yeldon is also the fifth straight starting running back at Alabama to grace the front cover of Sports Illustrated. Glenn Coffee was on the cover after the Tide defeated Clemson to open the 2008 season. Mark Ingram was then featured twice during the 2009 campaign while Trent Richardson was on the cover in 2010 and 2011. Eddie Lacy was highlighted twice in 2012, with a cover leading up to the BCS National Championship Game and another following the Alabama win.

I laugh at your jinx.

Yeldon and his Alabama teammates are preparing for Saturday's second (and final) scrimmage of fall camp at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bama will open the season Aug. 31 against Virginia Tech in Atlanta.

Yeldon said that camp has gone "pretty good. I'm just trying to get better day after day, so it's going really good."

He said he is trying to improve on "a couple of things. My pad level, just bursting through the hole, acceleration, whatever the coaches tell me I need to work on. I'm always going to be motivated. I'm just trying to be the best I can be, the best running back to ever come through here. So I'm just doing what I can do to be the best."

the 6-2, 218-pound Yeldon isn't even sure who holds that "best back ever" title, but he knows it is someone good. "A whole bunch of guys have come through here," he said, and named Mark Ingram, Shaun Alexander, and Trent Richardson.

"I couldn't say who's the best," Yeldon said. "They all run different."

Yeldon expects to be in a two-back rotation, as he was last year. Eddie Lacy has moved on to the NFL, and Yeldon figures to move into that featured running back role. If he knows who the back-up will be, he isn't saying. "I'm just hoping Coach (Nick Saban) can find a guy who can run behind me the way I did for Eddie."

Yeldon sees home from the freshman class that included four outstanding running back prospects – Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones, and Alvin Kamara

Yeldon said he likes running back/H-back Jalston Fowler running at H-back, where he is often a lead blocker for the tailback. He said that Dee Hart, who like Fowler missed almost al of last season with a knee injury, has recovered nicely.

As for the newcomers, Yeldon said, "Every guy is different. They have different running abilities. All of them are looking pretty good.

Yeldon has been pretty good for a full year. As might be expected, he is often questioned by classmates about the 2012 game in Baton Rouge. LSU had a 17-14 lead with less und´r a minute to play when Yeldon took a screen pass from quarterback A McCarron and raced 28 yards to the end zone for what would prove to best the game-winning score.

As might be expected, Yeldon is often asked about that play by classmates. "I've been asked about it a lot, and I just give everybody the same answer," he said. "Coach dialed up the right play at the right time."

Yeldon will be worried about opposing defenses beginning in a few weeks. For now, the guy he hates most to collide with is defensive end Ed Stinson (6-4, 292). Yeldon said Stinson is big and solid, like a brick wall."

Yeldon said that Derrick Henry, who entered The University last January, could benefit from the expereince – as Yeldon did last year. He said that Tenpenny ran well in last week's scrimmage. "He's picking it up pretty fast for him being here for only a week," Yeldon said. "He's doing really good."

Yeldon said his goals for the season are "All-America and a leader on the team. Little goals like that."

Saban said, "T.J.'s had a good spring. He's had a good fall camp. He works hard. He's kind of a quiet guy who just sets a good example on a daily basis in terms of how he goes about what he does. He's bright. He learns well. He understands the offense. He's a good blocker. He's a complete player. He's a really good receiver, and he's a good runner. And he understands what he's doing, and he's played enough that his knowledge and experience certainly helps him with the rest of the players.

"We expect him to have a great year, and we're hopeful that he'll be able to stay healthy. He's just kind of very consistent in what he does, consistent in how he works, very consistent in how he pays attention to detail, how he prepares for a game. The effort that he plays with. The toughness that he plays with. The kind of competitor that he is. He started the Michigan game. Eddie (Lacy) was hurt. (Actually, Lacy started the game, but Yeldon was the leading rusher with 11 carries for 111 yards.) He played well all season."

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