They keep a top-notch tailback in Tuscaloosa.
From Mark Ingram to Trent Richardson to Eddie Lacy, the ground game hasn’t been anything to play with in Alabama’s run of three national championships in four seasons.
But sophomore T.J. Yeldon isn’t just picking up where the rest of these backs left off. He’s creating his own lane and reimaging the ‘Bama-back identity.
Ingram, Richardson and Lacy are all similar; shifty and stocky, with a burst not to be slept on, but mostly power backs.
T.J. is more of an O.J. type.
Calm down. We’re just talking how at 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, he glides past the defense, rather than bulldoze through it. Kid can take a hit, though.
Even as a freshman playing behind Lacy in 2012, Yeldon stood alone as a star in his own right.
The two backs emasculated Manti Te’o before we heard anything about getting “Catfished.”
Yeldon’s first 11 carries at Alabama yielded 10.1 yards per carry against Michigan. Dig how he stepped onto the scene.
Against LSU, Yeldon took a screen pass to the house that still has upperclassmen defensive backs explaining themselves.
Alabama is the only SEC team that returns a quarterback (AJ McCarron) who passed for 30 touchdowns, a running back (Yeldon) who rushed for more than 10 touchdowns and a receiver (Amari Cooper) who caught more than 10 touchdown passes.
The fact that Yeldon was a backup is what makes that line so ridiculous.
Alabama sent its No. 1 running back to the NFL and only retained perhaps the next best in the conference (Georgia sophomore tandem Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are in this conversation, too).
Playing for Alabama, particularly this season, gives Yeldon the perfect platform to snag the Heisman Trophy. The spotlight is on them, but everything is well-put in place for Yeldon to do his thing.
It’s almost impossible to predict in August who’s going to win that award in December. No one had Johnny Manziel as a Heisman hopeful a year ago.
Still, if there’s a guy you can track with expectations for, it’s T.J. Yeldon.
Alabama’s reputation has shown they know something about harnessing premiere running back talent. The big question for the Crimson Tide is the always reliable offensive line. They’ve enjoyed continuity in those positions, but this year, only two starters return from the championship squad.
Yeldon could have a sophomore slump, or the line could force him to reemerge in 2014.
That’s why they play the games on the field. But right now, the writing’s on the wall for a candidacy trip to Times Square.