Richardson Honored To Be With Ingram

Dean Smith, the old joke went, was the only one who could hold down Michael Jordan's scoring. Smith was the legendary basketball coach at North Carolina when Jordan, equally legendary as a player, played for the Tar Heels.

It's interesting that many are suggesting Alabama tailback Mark Ingram won't repeat as Heisman Trophy winner in 2010 because of – not an opponent, but a teammate – Trent Richardson.

Of course, the event of early this week, in which Ingram suffered a knee injury that required an arthroscopic procedure and knocked him out of at least the San Jose State game, may be the dynamic change in Alabama's backfield.

The setback notwithstanding, there is no question that Ingram, an upcoming junior who set the Alabama rushing record last year with 1,658 yards, is number one. It is just as certain that Richardson, who was Ingram's back-up as a freshman last year, is the top sub for Ingram.

Richardson will be the starter Saturday, and perhaps for a few Saturdays beyond. When Ingram returns he will go to the top of the Bama depth chart.

At this time last year, there was a question among those attempting to guess the starting tailback for the Tide when Alabama opened the season against Virginia Tech. Most attempting to make that prediction were divided between Ingram and Richardson, but the guessing was complicated by Ingram facing a possible eligibility problem based on a fishing trip and on Richardson being listed fourth on the pre-season depth chart issued by Alabama. Roy Upchurch and Terry Grant were the other possibilities.

Ingram was the starter, had a great first game, an outstanding season, and was consensus All-America.

But Richardson wasn't bad. When Southeastern Conference head coaches were asked to select a pre-season All-Southeastern Conference team, they included Richardson alongside Ingram. So did the media.

Many believe that Richardson will get even more touches this year, prompting the suggestion that carries Richardson gets will cost Ingram the opportunities he needs to repeat as Heisman winner.

Ingram, Richardson and the rest of the Crimson Tide begin to show their stuff this Saturday when Bama hosts San Jose State at 6 p.m. CDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Ingram and Richardson claim to be the biggest fans of one another, working to help each other get better even while competing for playing time.

Richardson thinks that Ingram might miss only the San Jose State. Teammates weren't even aware of the injury in the Monday evening practice.

" No, it didn't bring practice to a stop," Richardson said. "We were still going, but it shocked us when we heard it that night. I heard it that night. I talked to him, but it kind of shocked me.

" We shared a good prayer together and made sure his head was right. It gives him more to work for. It makes him want to work harder.  

" I don't know what it was. I just know they said his knee was hurting a little bit. He got off the field real quick. We didn't think it was that bad. It's really not that bad anyway. Just had a little scope.

"He's doing good. "He's a player. He had surgery [Tuesday] morning and came in this afternoon for meetings. It's like he's ready to get back on the field already."  

As for the mood of the team, Richardson said, "It's different not having him out there. At the same time, the team is in a good mood. We're not losing Mark. Mark is still going to be there. He's going to be back and he won't be gone for a long time. They know we have to do what we have to do.  Mark depends on us and we depend on Mark. Mark supports us and we support him, too."

Richardson said, "Mark's like a big brother to me. And you're always going to have a younger brother that comes along and tries to do the same thing he's doing. I'm going to look up to him and do whatever he does. We compete, but we're not competing where, man, i hope he gets hurt, or something like that. We're out there having fun with it. When he's on the field I'm his biggest cheerleader out there. If I'm out the field I see him out there cheering me on. He tells me, stay in the game and stuff like that."

Ingram was recently asked about Richardson. Ingram said, "He's explosive, he's dynamic, and he's getting smarter as a student of the game. I'm trying to teach him things I know. He's getting better and improving every day. It will be scary to see when he reaches his full potential."

Richardson said, "I have to fight for my brother. He's my brother, and I'm my brother's keeper. He's his brother's keeper, too. It gives me something extra to push for.

I just have to step it up. They took me off some special teams, but they kept me on some. Other than that, I have to step up and play my role.  I'm going to still return kickoffs, still be on the hands team."

Last year, Richardson had 145 rushes for 751 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. In the BCS National Championship game victory over Texas he rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including a 49-yard burst. He is more remembered, though, for a remarkable 52-yard touchdown rush against Arkansas, a run in which he broke five tackles, then out-raced a defensive back to the end zone. A pattern to Richardson's performance as a freshman was the number of times he gained significant yardage after being contacted by the defense.

The 5-11, 220-pound Richardson thinks he has improved since last season.

"We practice to get better," he said. "The coaches help me to get better in protection, getting used to the offensive and defensive lines, being ready for blitzes coming through. I think I'm better on my reads. I picking up my blocks better. I think I did a pretty good job of picking up my blocks last year, but seeing my reads, and accelerating through the hole faster."

Richardson thinks the offense this year can be better than last year. "Way better," he said, "because we've got a lot coming back, a lot who know the game. We were very talented last year, but I think we're more talented this year, if anything. We've got some fast guys. We've got a couple freshmen that're going to come in and do some stuff with us. Everybody's just used to the system now. I know I'm better because I'm used to the playbook. Seeing how I was last year just ready to go at it this year."

Richardson is the first man mentioned when Coach Nick Saban talks about potential kickoff return men. "I love kickoff return," Richardson said. "I didn't get many in high school because they all kicked it away from me. When they did, I'd bring it back. Hopefully I'll get a chance to contribute a lot to the team this year."

He said the key to being good on kickoff returns is "You've got to be patient. You've got to set your blocks up. You've got to be quick on your feet and have good instincts."

Javier Arenas was Bama's primary kickoff return man the past four years. Richardson said, "Javy's style is different than mine. Of course, he doesn't weigh as much, so he's going to be quicker. He taught me how to make my one cut and go; how to set my blocks up on the kickoff return.

"I like being in the open field. Open field is one of my biggest things. A lot of people just think I've got power. I like to use my speed a little bit more, and my quickness."

Saban said, "I think Trent played extremely well for us last year, especially as the season progressed. He has not done a thing that would say he isn't going to continue to improve and progress. He is in great shape and worked really hard in fall camp, and has been very productive in everything that we have asked him to do."

As for being the man that can keep Mark Ingram from winning the Heisman Trophy?

"Mark's not worried about it," Richardson said. "I'm not worried about it, either. It's an individual thing, and this is a team effort.

"It's an honor for me to be in the backfield with him. He just won the Heisman. He's the best player in football right now. It's an honor sharing the backfield with him, having him back there and getting taught the game by him."

  The injury to Ingram moves Eddie Lacy up to back-up tailback. Richardson said, " Everybody just has to scoot over one, but it's going to be the same roles that we have. Eddie just has to be ready. I know he will be because he's been out there working all summer, all spring. I know (Demetrius) Goode is ready, too. All of us will be ready. We just have to step up and play our role.

 Lacy looks pretty good. Lacy is doing real good. We had a lot of backs last year, and it wasn't like he couldn't play last year. All the backs we have can play somewhere. Everybody has a role to play.

  "His style is just about like me and Mark's. It's not too much of a fall-off with Lacy in the game."

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