Yeldon Enrolls, Impresses, Makes Statement During Spring
Spring practice is largely a trial period. It’s a time for the coaching staff to get players back into the mindset of improvement and success after a brief offseason. It’s also a time for young players to get their first stab at making an impact on a revamped team.
That’s exactly what Alabama’s spring practice was for early enrollee T.J. Yeldon.
Yeldon committed to the Crimson Tide on December 18th, 2011. That wasn’t the big story with Yeldon’s commitment, though. The Daphne, Ala. native previously committed to Auburn on June 14th, 2011. Somewhere along the way, things went awry for the Tigers during Yeldon’s recruitment. Perhaps it was Auburn’s less-than-stellar 2011 season, or maybe it was the efforts of Alabama’s then-committed class urging Yeldon to switch his commitment. Whatever the case was, Yeldon ultimately changed his tune, and chose to play his college football in Tuscaloosa.
The freshman arrived on campus to begin the spring semester with a mindset that would prove to greatly help his production during spring practice. His hardworking and competitive nature made his spring that much more fruitful.
When it was announced that senior Eddie Lacy would not be participating in spring practice as he recovered from an injury it was immediately evident that Yeldon would have an opportunity to contribute. And he did just that.
“A lot of young guys come in and they’re kind of scared,” Alabama senior defensive lineman Jesse Williams said. “He runs pretty fearless and hits those holes pretty hard.”
Yeldon’s ability to learn what is expected of him and contribute is largely why he had such an impressive performance during the Tide’s annual A-Day game. The 6-foot-2, 216 pound freshman finished the game with 179 total yards. He ran for 88 yards and caught five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. It was that performance that made him the Dixie Howell Award winner, given to the most valuable player during the A-Day game.
His performance drew the attention of the 78,526 fans in attendance who came to the game not knowing what to expect from a backfield replacing Trent Richardson. What they saw was perhaps the best imitation of Richardson any Tide back could have done.
But the fans weren’t the only ones to notice Yeldon’s performac. Teammates commented on numerous occasions about his abilities during the spring, and following the A-Day game it was hard for Alabama head coach Nick Saban to not smile when talking about what Yeldon brings to the table for the Tide.
“T.J. is one of those guys that can do everything. He’s a good runner. He’s got some power,” Saban said. “He’s got some speed. He’s a really good receiver. So, hopefully he’ll continue to mature and have a pretty significant role in helping our offense next year.”
In fact, wide receiver Kenny Bell seemed to think Yeldon will play a significant role in the offense in 2012.
“He reminds me a lot of Roy Upchurch. He’s got the power and the speed,” Bell said. “Even though he’s a freshman he’s coming in and taking every practice serious – like it’s a game. He’s coming in and working hard so he can help Jalston Fowler and [Eddie] Lacy when they get a blow.”
If that’s what Alabama needs in 2012, then Yeldon should fit in quite nicely.
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