It's Nice To Have Tailback Tandem
Whether Alabama "could" use Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson together in the same backfield is really not the correct question. Of course Alabama could do that. Would Coach Nick Saban use them together?
History says it's not likely. When Saban was leading LSU back from mediocrity to national championship level, he used a number of outstanding running backs, but not together. And when Alabama went 14-0 and won the national championship last year, Saban elected to hammer opponents with Ingram, followed by a fresh Richardson, bring a fresh Ingram back, another dose of fresh Richardson, maybe a look at Roy Upchurch, and then more pounding by Ingram and Richardson.
Ingram, an upcoming junior, earned the starting job last year and parlayed the opportunity into being name the nation's best football player. The 5-10, 215-pounder set a Crimson Tide record with 1,658 rushing yards. He also had 32 pass receptions. He accounted for 20 touchdowns, 17 rushing and three on passes.
He became the first running back to capture the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the same year since Tony Dorsett in 1976.
No one can say with certainty how many college football teams Richardson would have started on last year, but it would have been a bunch. Even as a second team player, Richardson was Freshman All-Southeastern Conference. The 5-11, 220-pounder rushed for 751 yards and eight touchdowns. Among his memorable moments were a a52-yard, tackle-busting run against Arkansas for a touchdown; a 17-yard reception on a third down play in Bama's game-winning touchdown drive at Auburn; and a 49-yard touchdown burst, part of his 109 yards rushing, against Texas.
Ingram was winner of the Offensive MVP Award in the BCS Championship Game and was winner of the Dixie Howell Award as the outstanding player in the A-Day Game. Richardson was selected by Tide coaches as winner of the spring's Johnny Musso Most Improved Running Back Award.
During one of Coach Saban's press briefings during the spring a student reporter asked him about having the best one-two tailback situation in the nation for 2010. Saban, predictably, threw one of his little tantrums over that. Not a down has been played in 2010, he explained. Maybe they can be if they do all the right things and don't get hurt, he conceded.
A reasonably legitimate question in Crimson Tide fan circles is whether Richardson has a chance to beat out Ingram in the fall. Well, of course he has a chance. There will be good competition at many positions.
But it's difficult to make the case that Richardson is better than Ingram. Right now, at least. That's not to say that in 2011, when Ingram is probably playing in the NFL and Richardson is getting the start in his third season of Bama, that Richardson won't be better than Ingram.
As for now – and keep this to yourself – Alabama has the best one-two tailback punch that any college team could possibly have. Perhaps ever.
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