Kirk McNair has covered Alabama football since 1969.
"If you cover football, (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) is a good place to be," he said.
Tush currently works for Scout.com's BamaMag.com and he seemed the go-to guy to talk to about running back Trent Richardson. Richardson, as many Cleveland Browns fans are well aware, is considered to be one of targets for the No. 4 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 26.
Questions surround the idea of Richardson at No. 4. He is not a lock for the Browns at No. 4. Why?
Well, is No. 4 too high to take a running back or is Richardson the exception to the rule?
"Anybody who follows football knows there are no guarantees," McNair said. "Running backs have been the hardest ones to pick. I know in the NFL running the ball is tough. Two Super Bowls ago, I couldn't remember one running play. Every play was a pass. It's a different game, but I know one thing, if I have had to have a running back, I wouldn't mind having him."
Last fall, Richardson, in his first and only season starting at Alabama, emerged from the shadows of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Richardson finished with 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on 283 carries (5.9 yard per carry average) and he also caught 29 balls for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He set the school's single-season record for all-purpose yards (2,083). In three seasons with the Crimson Tide, Richardson had 3,128 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns on 539 carries (5.8 average) and caught 68 balls for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.
"He is an extraordinary back," McNair said. "He played in the same backfield as a Heisman Trophy winner (Ingram), but we never considered him a backup, he was more of a side-kick to Ingram. He didn't come out of no where, he was a big-time back."
Scouts agree. Richardson is 5-foot-9, 227 pounds with speed (4.58 40-yard dash), strength and he has shown the ability to do everything as a running back.
"I don't know who to compare Trent to," McNair said. "He has a lot of ability to run people down. I couldn't help notice the first time Honeybadger (Tyrann Mathieu) at LSU tried to come up to tackle Richardson, it looked like (Mathieu) ran into a rubber wall."
Also during his college career, Richardson showcased his game-breaking and his game-enduring abilities.
Richardson had a 49-yard touchdown run in the 2009 National Championship game. Last November, he rushed 23 times for 203 yards in a 42-14 route of arch-rival Auburn.
"He can juke defenders like he did against Ole Miss," McNair said. "He has a burst of speed like we saw when he was a freshman in the 2009 National Championship game against Texas. This year against Auburn he manhandled people late in the game when a lot of backs would be getting tired. He was still 100 percent."
Richardson's talent is head and shoulders above other potential draft picks at running back in 2012. Is that enough to be selected at No. 4? As McNair referenced earlier, today's NFL is no longer a run-first league. Moreover, the running back by committee approach is gaining in popularity.
Meanwhile, according to theOBR's Lane Adkins, the Browns are not too keen of taking a running back at No. 4. Some of the best running backs in the league today were taken outside the first round. Last season, only Richardson's former teammate, Ingram, went in the first round and that was at No. 28.
After losing Peyton Hillis in free agency, the Browns' running back duties currently fall upon the shoulders of Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya. The hard-nose running style of Hillis did the Browns' well in 2010 and Richardson, if selected, could be a boost to the Browns' lackluster offense.
"He's a durable back," McNair said. "He's not prone to get hurt, but he's prone to hurt somebody."
Just ask Browns running backs coach Gary Brown.