By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – The eyes of a college football nation have turned upon Alabama, and thus upon tailback Trent Richardson.
The SEC media have picked the Crimson Tide to win the SEC title this fall, and many prognosticators foresee another national championship coming to Tuscaloosa.
That doesn’t mean a whole lot to coach Nick Saban, who facetiously praised the media’s forecasting abilities during Friday’s SEC Media Days.
“Let me first say that you all are a lot smarter than we are as coaches, because I could never pick who is going to win the SEC,” Saban said.
But the expectations can’t be denied.
“It’s like that every year, so it’s not a shock to me,” Richardson said. “But at the same time, I know if everybody’s picking us to win that, we can’t let them down.”
Now a junior, the 5-foot-11, 224-pound Richardson will be playing a central role in fulfilling those expectations. Mark Ingram is gone, so after sharing carries with the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner for two years, Richardson gets his shot at lead horse.
He seems fit for the role. Richardson has rushed for 1,451 yards in his career, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
When Ingram missed the first two games of last season with an injury, Richardson rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including a 144-yard effort versus Penn State.
Saban said Richardson “probably played his best football of the season when he was in that sort of A-back role, being the guy.”
Richardson feels quite ready to be the starter, but he doesn’t look at it quite the same way others might.
“I don’t think it feels different at all,” he said. “I think people would be like, Mark was the guy, but I think me and Mark always said we had a good rotation going. I don’t really say we had a ‘starter’ last year.”
Richardson might be the feature back this year, but he’ll again be sharing the load, which he likes because it keeps him fresh. Sophomore Eddie Lacy (411 yards last season) will be his main backup.
Alabama is trying to break in a new quarterback this season, and it’ll be either sophomore A.J. McCarron or freshman Phillip Sims. Richardson expressed confidence in both, but the unknown factor there suggests the run game will need to be in full gear from Day 1.
Having played with Ingram, Richardson feels well prepared for his increased role. He said he learned a lot from Ingram.
“We’re out there doing reps, he’d make sure I go get an extra one,” Richardson said. “He’d always tell me, ‘I want you to be ready.'”