Alabama football position outlook: Running backs
The 2012 version of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team will be in a familiar position when fall camp opens in early August. The Tide has replaced a star running back twice over the course of head coach Nick Saban’s time at Alabama. This season, the Tide will be replacing Trent Richardson.
Junior running back Eddie Lacy will be the starting running back for the Crimson Tide in 2012. The talented running back has gained a wealth of experience over the past few seasons, but this will be his first time being the go-to running back in the Alabama offense.
Lacy carried the ball 95 times in 2011 and tallied 674 yards and seven touchdowns. His 7.09 yards per carry average was the highest on the team. He was used as the primary backup to Richardson and was highly effective against defenses that were often worn down.
A minor turf toe injury hobbled Lacy towards the end of the season. Offseason surgery worked to correct the issue, and Lacy spent all of the spring in a black, no-contact jersey. Coach Saban recently noted at SEC Media Days that Lacy is back to 100% and doing “extremely well.” Barring any setbacks, the Crimson Tide will have a talented anchor in its backfield.
Alabama’s offense over the past few seasons has always featured a number of running backs, so behind Lacy is where the competition will primarily begin. Junior Jalston Fowler and sophomore Blake Sims are the only returning backs with game experience. Redshirt freshman Dee Hart was forced to sit out the 2011 season due to a knee injury, and true freshman T.J. Yeldon will be entering his first season at the Capstone.
Fowler carried the ball 56 times for 385 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. His role within the Alabama offense is likely to be similar to what it was in 2011, but this year he will probably earn a few more carries.
His north-to-south, bowling ball running style can be deceiving at times. While not known for his speed and shiftiness, Fowler displayed a wide variety of skills during the spring and will likely be an added dimension to the Crimson Tide backfield.
Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon both performed quite nicely during the spring, too. Hart’s shifty, speedy running style may allow the Tide to have a different “change of pace” back than it has had in recent seasons. Yeldon was the offensive MVP of the A-Day Game and showed a lot of promise for the future of the Alabama backfield.
Sophomore Blake Sims is another Alabama running back who could find his way onto the field in 2012. Sims saw a bit of playing time, primarily in the fourth quarter of blowout wins, in 2012. It remains to be seen how new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will use him, but he could be utilized in a wildcat formation or as an option as a slot receiver in four or five-wide sets.
Nick Saban has never been shy about playing a young running back, but with the talent Alabama has in its stable it would not be surprising if Yeldon begins the season as a redshirt candidate. However, if he performs as well as he did during the spring, then it will be hard to keep him off the field.
Overall, the running back position is not a point of concern for Alabama entering 2012. The combination of Lacy, Fowler, Hart and Yeldon should shoulder a large percentage of the Alabama offense this season. While the Tide may choose to go to the air more often, the running back stable Alabama has put together should leave the Crimson Tide coaching staff with very few worries.
This season’s corps of backs has the privilege of running behind one of the most talented offensive lines in America. Regardless of Yeldon and Hart’s inexperience, that should help pave the way to success for the Alabama backfield in 2012.
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