Position Analysis: Tide's running backs
Other top backs include incoming all-world talent Trent Richardson and possible qualifier Dutchtown, La. native Eddie Lacy. Terry Grant had a solid spring subbing in for an injured Mark Ingram, when combined with Saban's praise for the Mississippi native, might leave a feeling of optimism for the 2007 Bama rushing leader.
Ingram, a Michigan native, rushed for 728 yards on 143 attempts in 2008 and managed to break the University of Alabama record for most rushing touchdowns by a freshman with 12.
Ingram came to Alabama a 5-10, 195-pound track star with legit 4.4 speed, but was quickly transformed into a 215-pound SEC ready bowling ball. Ingram offers an enticing combination of excellent speed, brute strength, and impressive field vision.
Ingram's coming out party occurred in the first week of the season where he repeatedly gashed the overmatched Clemson defense racking up 96 yards on 17 carries. Ingram never looked back subsequent to that performance.
As the season progressed he demonstrated a consistent ability to turn in runs of three to five yards when healthy. In his second collegiate performance he managed to average just shy of six yards per carry against Tulane with a revamped and underwhelming Alabama offensive line.
During the next four games of the season Ingram's rushing stats remained very close to the six yards per carry mark excluding the Arkansas game where he ripped the Razorbacks defense for close to nine yards per carry.
Coffee and Upchurch did most of the damage against Tennessee which segued into Ingram's field day against Arkansas State where he amassed 113 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
By the time the Crimson Tide rolled into Baton Rouge Ingram had been hit enough to be relatively banged up and in need of a break. He did not have a big game rushing for only six yards on five attempts against a bruising Tigers front 7.
He was back to his old form against Mississippi State rushing for 78 yards, one touchdown, and an average of six ypc. He had another solid night against Auburn rushing for 50-plus yards and two touchdowns.
By the time the SEC Championship Game and Sugar Bowl had arrived Ingram was in obvious pain. He was clearly not himself, and his stats made these concepts abundantly clear.
Ingram's body of work during his freshman campaign speaks for itself. He is clearly the frontrunner for the Tide's starting running back position in 2009.
Upchurch is a relative x-factor heading into the 2009 season due to a history of chronic injury problems. If he can stay healthy for the majority of the season, Alabama will have an adroit running back at its disposal.
Upchurch is in the twilight of his Alabama playing days which isn't necessarily a bad thing. His attitude is no longer a factor; he shows up for workouts and is a diligent student of the game.
It became evident sometime around the Tennessee game last year that when actually on the field Upchurch could be a huge part of the Alabama offense. His body of work is eloquent in its brevity, but intriguing none the less.
Coach Saban's short run Upchurch fullback package was performing brilliantly at one point last season, but how frequently that package will be employed this season remains a mystery.
At 6-0, 201 Upchurch is a typical Nick Saban back. He gets downhill and hits the hole in a hurry. He runs very hard and has good lateral quickness. He isn't an extreme burner, but has solid 4.5 speed.
Flashback to the 'Blackout' game in Athens where Upchurch made several Bulldog defenders look foolish via his sharp cuts and impressive shiftiness. It was obvious to anyone closely watching the game that Upchurch was a hidden weapon in the Alabama running back stable.
All the glory thus far had been directed towards Mark Ingram and Glen Coffee, but a new star had emerged. Roy Upchurch was capable of carrying the ball and creating a significant positive impact for the Alabama offense.
We knew Roy Upchurch had the talent as a feature back in the SEC. He came to Alabama a highly-touted recruit with all the measurables, but intangibles have dominated his career. If he remains injury-free in 2009, Alabama will receive a significant boost in the backfield.
Richardson was a man among boys during his tenure in Pensacola. With the loss of Glen Coffee Tuscaloosa welcomes Richardson with open arms and hopes he will generate major offensive production as a true freshman.
Richardson was a power-lifting champion in the state of Florida. He boasts a 405-pound bench press and 585-pound squat to go along with legit 10.6 (100 meter) and 4.45 speed.
During his senior season Richardson weighed around 210-pounds, but reported to Tuscaloosa at a more hefty 230 pounds. Watch for him to get carries early and often in 2009.
He has great strength, speed, and field vision. If he can use that impressive strength and field vision to sustain downfield blocks then Alabama will be forced to use Richardson frequently in 2009.
Grant returns to the Crimson Tide backfield for his junior campaign in 2009. An explosive running back with excellent passing catching skills out of the backfield.
Grant becomes the 49th player in Alabama history with 1,000 career rushing yards and now has 1,001 yards on 217 carries.
Grant has played in 28 career games making nine starts. He tallied 891 yards and eight touchdowns as Alabama's starting running back in 2007.
Goode will compete for playing time in the Tide's backfield in 2009. The sophomore has played three career games and has nine career carries for 24 yards.
Sophomre Jeramie Griffin will battle for playing time at running back in 2009. He has played in two career games. He has six career rushes for 29 yards and one interception.
Griffin helped lead South Panola (Mississippi) High School to its fourth straight state championship where he never lost a game in his high school career.
Matchett comes into the 2009 season on the outside looking in. At 5-10, 215-pounds Matchett is a bowling bowl who lacks impressive speed, but makes up for it with solid field vision and strength.
Matchett had a few runs during the A-Day game which probably left some Tide fans wondering what "the hatchet" could do if given playing time.
Preyear, from Mobile Davidson, enrolled at The University in January. He rushed for 1,026 yards a s a senior in high school with eight touchdowns.
Lacy comes to Alabama from Dutchtown Geismar, La., where he garnered significant national attention from recruiting analysts. The state of Lacy's academics threw up red flags for several coaches and talent evaluators, but he appears close to qualifying as the end of July approaches as he awaits news from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
If Lacy makes it onto the Alabama roster he will immediately become one of the talented running backs on campus. He offers legit 4.43 speed with blazing lateral quickness and at 5-11, 210-pounds he has an ideal Nick Saban back frame.
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