Ingram Semifinalist For Doak Walker
As Alabama went through spring practice, and even into fall work, Mark Ingram was certainly a candidate to replace Glen Coffee as the Crimson Tide's top tailback. But it wasn't a given. Roy Upchurch had his supporters. There was even a school of thought that true freshman Trent Patterson might come in as the new tailback.
But Ingram won the job. And after rushing for 150 yards and picking up another 35 yards on pass receptions and scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns in a dramatic 34-24 come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech in the high-profile season-opening game, Ingram cemented the job.
Since then he has become one of the most high profile running backs in the nation, a viable Heisman Trophy candidate in just his second year of college football. That candidacy got a little boost Thursday when it was announced that he is one of 10 semifinalists for the 2009 Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's best running back.
Ingram joins junior Donald Buckram (UTEP), junior Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech), senior Toby Gerhart (Stanford), freshman Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh), junior Ryan Mathews (Fresno State), sophomore Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), senior C.J. Spiller (Clemson), senior Ben Tate (Auburn) and freshman Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech) on this year's list.
"It's an honor," Ingram said. "Every running back, since he was younger, has a goal of being the best running back in the country. Anyone who didn't say that was a goal of his would be lying. But it's just an honor to be considered one of the top running backs in the country. I want to thank my teammates and my offensive line because they are the reason for my success."
In nine games this season, Ingram has 175 rushing attempts for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns. He leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally with 127.6 rushing yards per game. Ingram has also added 24 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 11 total touchdowns. He tied Shuan Alexander as the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 yards, accomplishing the feat in eight games.
He leads the nation with 38 rushes of 10 or more yards this season and has nine receptions of 10 or more yards for a total of 47 plays of 10 or more yards. Of Ingram's 199 touches (175 rushes, 24 receptions), almost a quarter (23.6 percent) have gone for at least 10 yards. He ripped off an impressive eight runs and one reception of 10 or more yards against South Carolina, including five runs and one reception of 20 or more yards. He also had six runs and one reception of 10 yards or more vs. LSU's tough defense. Those big runs have also shown in Ingram's 6.56 yards per carry, which leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks fifth nationally among rushers with at least 135 carries.
A two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Week winner, Ingram has been at his best against top-25 teams this season. In the Tide's four games with No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Mississippi, No. 22 South Carolina and No. 9 LSU, Ingram has accounted for 712 yards on the ground (178.0 ypg) with three rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown to account for 831 all-purpose yards (203.25 ypg) in those four contests.
Ingram has also proven difficult to bring down on first contact as he has gained an astonishing 752 yards after contact this season, accounting for 55.1 percent of his total yards. He reeled off a season-best 167 total yards after contact against South Carolina on 24 rushes and two receptions. He also broke the 100-yard barrier on yards after contact vs. Virginia Tech (115) and LSU (107) and got close at Mississippi (95).
In the win over South Carolina, Ingram set the Bryant-Denny Stadium rushing record with 246 yards on Oct. 17. His signature drive of the season also came against the Gamecocks, as he carried the ball on all six plays of the Tide's final touchdown drive that sealed the game. Five of the plays came out of the ‘Wildcat' formation with the runs covering 24, 4, 5, 9, 22 and 4 yards (TD). The yardage exceeded Ingram's 172-yard outing at Mississippi, his previous career high.
The award is named after three-time SMU All-America running back and 1948 Heisman Trophy winner, Doak Walker. Walker, who also punted, returned kicks and kicked extra points, led the Mustangs to two Southwest Conference Championships. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions and led the league in scoring his rookie year. During his six years with the Lions, he led the team to two NFL championships and was chosen All-Pro four times. Walker is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The 130-member voting panel will announce the finalists on Monday, Nov. 23. The 2009 Doak Walker Award winner will be announced live on The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, December 10.
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