Football Preview: Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon stars for the 2013 Tide

Alabama's offense will depend on T.J. Yeldon in its 2013 season.

Alabama’s offense will depend on T.J. Yeldon in its 2013 season.

This is part 2 of our Alabama Football Preview. Here is the first part of our 2013 Alabama Football Preview where we examined Alabama’s quarterback situation. Today we take a look at T.J. Yeldon and the Alabama running back situation. Guest Post by Joshua

At running back this season, T.J. Yeldon set fire to the gridiron as a freshman, racking over 1,000 yards rushing last season. His numbers combined with junior Eddie Lacy gave Bama two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time. Add this to his 11 touchdowns and you have more than hope for the Bama football as we look to 2013.

Yeldon became the first true freshman to run for more than 100 yards in his debut game in a 41-14 victory over Michigan. Though Eddie Lacey was the bell cow of the 2012 Alabama team, Yeldon provided the “2” in the “1-2″ punch we’ve come to expect from Nick Saban’s offenses. Being just a true sophomore, Yeldon can elevate his game. Gaining more tutorship from Tide running back coach Burton Burns means further development, and if it’s an area Alabama football excels over other programs, it’s in player development. What we saw of Yeldon in 2012 was somewhat raw. Now we get to see the player develop under the positions coach who has sent incumbents Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Eddie Lacey into the early rounds of the NFL draft.

With Yeldon obviously assuming the role as the starter, he’s flanked by someone unknown and unproven bevy of backs. Kenyon Drake is an exciting runner who showed flashes of promise in 2012, averaging 6.7 yards a touch. Junior Jalston Fowler, a jackhammer of sorts, possesses power behind his 242 lb. frame, averaging 7.2 yards a carry in his career at Bama. The highly touted Dee Hart has shown elusive quickness, but like Fowler saw his 2012 season end in injury. So as Bama enters 2013, with Drake’s need to improve his blocking protection, and the other two experienced backs needing to prove they can sustain a season without significant injury, there are definitely question marks.

Tide fans are excited about the crowd of new running backs from the 2013 signing class, which include the mammoth Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, Alvin Samara, and Altee Tenpenny, all freshmen. But like Fowler and Hart, Henry’s spring was cut short due to injury.

If he returns healthy this year Fowler will be great addition to Yeldon in the backfield. Alabama looked impressive when it ran the I-formation before Fowler’s injury. Fowlers ACL tear last season was one of the worst that Alabama athletic trainers had experienced and that says a lot with ACL tears taking an average of more than 12 months to recover from. Realistically, it is safe to worry that Fowler will not return to 100 percent health by the beginning of the 2013 season.

Unfortunately, H-Back Dee Hart may face the same fate. This opens the door for competition between the incoming freshmen running backs. However, this could be expected regardless of the situation due to the fact that the running back position tends to be one that at a certain level, can’t be coached and relies on raw natural talent. 2013’s batch of recruits includes 4 backs that were among the top 100 players by Rivals.com. With all this being said, this really is a race to see who gets the second spot in the running back rotation.

Alabama may suffer if it is forced to rely heavily on Yeldon if the incoming freshmen don’t quite step up to the plate. With eight running backs on the team this competition for playing time will most likely become a game of numbers in the form of yards, touchdowns and yards per carry. With Yeldon setting the bar so high and the Fowler/Hart combo seemingly out of commission, this will more than likely mean a move to outside linebacker for someone in the running back slot. Evidence of Bama’s running strength can be seen in the fact that combined, all of Bama’s running backs suffered less than 80 yards lost on plays from scrimmage which is an average of 5.5 yards per game. This is a testament to good running backs and great offensive line play. We’ll examine the offensive line in a future edition of the Alabama football preview.

What do you think about Alabama’s running back situation? Will Fowler be ready for the start of the season? Who will share time in the backfield the way Saban likes similar to the Ingram/Richardson and Richardson/Lacy and Lacy/Yeldon dynamic duos? Share your thoughts below.

6 Responses to “Football Preview: Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon stars for the 2013 Tide” Subscribe

  1. Quintilian B. Nasty May 17, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I hope Fowler is ready by the first game. Like you related, the I-formation with him was a welcome wrinkle, one I missed after he went down.

    Regardless, the way to win the no. 2 RB role is to show that you can pass protect. I know Fowler can do that. As for the Drake and the freshmen, I have no idea.

    The easy bet is Yeldon and Drake as 1-2, with Fowler and a freshman being the third back. However, I wonder if it turns out to be Yeldon at 1, one of the freshmen at 2, and Fowler as the change-of-pace back like Upchurch was in ’09?

  2. The Conduit May 17, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    I think every one of us wants to see Derrick Henry out there and find out what he can do. That guy looks like The Predator. I was looking forward to seeing him play at A-Day this year, but instead he broke his leg and sat on the sideline laughing and learning with Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson.

    I would break my own leg(s) for that opportunity.

    Everything I don’t know about Henry it seems like I already know about Yeldon. He’s fearless, responsible, quick, sticky hands, and he’s strong for his size, which leads me to the off-season. We’ve seen Yeldon perform as a fresman made of crimson lightning, but you know what he’s been doing since January?

    Training. Lifting weights. Eating right. Bulking up. He won’t ever be a giant like Henry, but oh, what a difference a year makes in the Alabama weight room being “conditioned” by Scott Cochran (don’t forget, Cochran is an LSU grad, and I’m sure none of us will soon forget Yeldon’s game-winning TD @LSU last season). Yeldon will be stronger, he’ll be better able to block and to run farther after hits. He’ll be TJ Yeldon 2012 plus forty, and in the meantime he’ll be helping train the X-Men-like crew that is the Alabama ball-carrier core.

    So the question is who will be Yeldon’s #2, so to speak, but the answer for me is I worry about QB and not Alabama’s backs. Every doubt I ever have about Alabama ball-carriers is smashed by week two so now I just give them the benefit of the doubt. I certainly didn’t expect too much out of TJ Yeldon the first time I saw him last year, and going into 2013 the only difference is he’ll be bigger and better. Seriously. I can’t wait. Roll Tide.

  3. moose May 18, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    I love Jalston’s game. Sure hope he is fully recovered. That was an injury that flat made me sick. Same with Derrick’s – I couldn’t believe it.
    There is a wildcard other than the Flash, Kenyan Drake that you guys aren’t talking about. From all indications Altee Tenpenny is the real deal. It’s going to be interesting to see if he makes an impact this fall.

  4. Wes May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Before the coming season is finished, Tenpenny will become a household name in Alabama. He shows the same electricity that Yeldon had last year. Hopefully Fowler will be able to go as the #2 back. Yeldon and Fowler are a powerful tandem. If you add Tenpenny in late in the game, you could have something special.

  5. almightytmc1 May 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    If Fowler is healthy he will be the back this year. He is large, powerful, has decent speed and most of all he is efficient. He gets the job done.
    Fowler is probably the most underrated back of the Saban era.
    He sits patiently out of the spotlight that guys like Richardson, Lacey and Yeldon constantly live in. He works quielty in the background. If you watch the game films, you notice quickly that (of course) he can tote the rock, But what’s more is the way he plays when he doesn’t have the ball in hs hands. Fowler is an unsung hero who rarely misses a block or an assignment everything he does oozes skill. He can catch the ball coming out of the back field and he can punish a would be tackler.
    While Fowler has not shown a lot of flashy moves he has been a good change of pace back. Fowler is instrumental in establishing dominance in the 3rd and 4rth quarter. Guys like Jalston Fowler are the guys who “make his ass quit!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Football Preview: T.J. Yeldon : BamaFootball4Life - May 18, 2013

    […] Being just a true sophomore, Yeldon can elevate his game. Gaining more tutorship from Tide running back coach Burton Burns means further development, and if it’s an area Alabama football excels over other programs, it’s in player development. What we saw of Yeldon in 2012 was somewhat raw. Now we get to see the player develop under the positions coach who has sent incumbents Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Eddie Lacey into the early rounds of the NFL draft. With Yeldon obviously assuming the role as the starter, he’s flanked by unknown and unproven backs. Kenyon Drake is an exciting runner who showed flashes of promise in 2012, averaging 6.7 yards a touch. Junior Jalston Fowler, a jackhammer of sorts, possesses power behind his 242 lb. frame, averaging 7.2 yards a carry in his career at Bama. [More] […]

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