Ingram Probably Best Tide Tailback

Here's some interesting news for defensive football players facing Alabama in 2010. Mark Ingram, who won the Heisman Trophy last year, might not be the best tailback on Alabama's football team. But he probably is, because he says he's better this year.

When the All-Southeastern Conference team was announced before the starte of Fall camp, it was no surprise that Mark Ingram was selected. It was very surprising, though, that he was joined on the All-SEC first team by his Alabama back-up, Trent Richardson, an upcoming sophomore.

At least it was surprising to most people. It wasn't surprising to Ingram.

"I think Trent should be preseason SEC, All-American, All-Everything," Ingram said. "He's a great player. He's explosive, dynamic. And he's getting smarter as a student of the game every single day. I try to teach him things I know. He's getting better and he's improving every day, and it's scary to see when he reaches his full potential what he'll be capable of doing."

As to which is the better tailback?

"That's for everybody else to judge," Ingram said. "We just go out there and compete and make each other better. That's for everybody else to judge. Everybody their similarities and their differences. Everybody has their advantages and their weaknesses. We're trying to be there for each other. We're like a family in the running back room. We all just try to be there for each other. We compete, but there is no selfishness in the group. That's how it is between all the running backs."

Last year Ingram, 5-10, 215, rushed 271 times for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. Richardson, 5-11, 220, had 145 carries for 750 yards and eight touchdowns, including some of Alabama's most dramatic runs. Ingram was the Tide's second-leading receiver with 32 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson had 16 receptions for 126 yards.

Although Ingram insists he leaves it up to others to judge him as a player, he did offer an assessment of his game as the Tide prepares for the season-opener against San Jose State on Sept. 4.

"Definitely I feel I've gotten better," Ingram said Monday evening. "I think I'm conditioned. I think I'm a better student of the game. I'm more aware of defenses, what they try to do in certain circumstances. What they do in this look. Where my read might go if there's a three technique or a shade or things like that.

"I think I've gotten better making reads on the run. My hands have gotten better. routes goten better. So I'm just trying to improve every aspect of my game, because there's always room for improvement; from A to Z."

As for an offensive set that includes both Ingram and Richardson in the backfield together: well, it sometimes happens. But as Alabama Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain pointed out, "We only have one ball."

More important, Alabama Coach Nick Saban has a history of success with several good backs, alternating so that opponents are always facing a set of fresh legs.

Alabama was back on the practice field Monday, and for the first time since Friday the Crimson Tide was joined by Ingram. Ingram had a tough weekend, home in Michigan for the funeral of his grandfather. But the upcoming junior said that he was glad to be back in Tuscaloosa and that he knew that'w where his grandfather would want him. Because of NCAA rules mandating practices in shorts before going to full gear, Ingram was the only Bama player in shorts and shells (helmets and shoulder pads) instead of full gear Monday.

That doesn't mean it was an off day. "I did everything the team did," he said Monday evening. "I just did it wearing shorts." Alabama does not tackle to the ground in practice, so full gear is not necessary. On the other hand, full contact is not avoided even when players are in shells.

It is no surprise that Ingram has been nominated for a couple of Watch Lists, the Maxwell Award and Camp Award.

"It's an honor," he said. "But that's not my focus. My main focus is just being the best player I can be. Every single day, improving, because every day you are out there you are either getting better or you are getting worse. I want to get better every single day, and put myself in the best position where I can be the best player every Saturday, to make plays for the team to put us in the best position to win games and essentially (meant eventually) championships. So that's my main goal.

"It's great to be up for awards and it's an honor to win the awards. But if you don't take care of home first then nothing really matters. For as long as I got out there and I play the best that I can play and the team wins, then everything else takes care of itself. The more the team wins, the more everybody gets recognized, the more accolades everybody gets, the more accolades the team gets. Winning is the key to everything."

While fans may be watching the Ingram-Richardson duel, Ingram pointed out that redshirt freshman tailback Eddie Lacy (6-0, 212) has "improved a lot since last year. He's doing a lot of great things so far in this camp. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do, stepping into whatever role he can play on the team I'm sure he's going to do a great job. He's been running the ball well. He's getting better. He's knowing his assignments more. So he should be able to contribute."

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