Posted September 06, 2012 on
AP on Fox
.J. Yeldon's Alabama teammates weren't surprised by the freshman's praiseworthy debut for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Tight end Michael Williams said he realized Yeldon was special in his first spring practice. Center Barrett Jones believes he might claim the title of Alabama's ''next great running back'' and knows he's not alone in that regard.
With starter Eddie Lacy limited by a gimpy ankle, Yeldon was the star of a running game that spread the carries four ways in an opening win over Michigan.
He broke tackles, sometimes several, on a number of his 11 carries, gained 111 yards and had a 26-yard catch. Jalston Fowler and Lacy also showed some brawn in a backfield that clearly is in good hands even with the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson going into Saturday's visit by Western Kentucky.
Yeldon was the star of the show, just like he was in earning MVP honors during the spring game after enrolling in January.
''Honestly, we weren't surprised,'' Jones said. ''We had been seeing that out of him for a long time. I don't think it's a secret that he might be the next one kind of in line to take over that title of our great running back. We feel good about the future with him.''
The present appears pretty strong too, for both Yeldon and `Bama's backfield. Tide coach Nick Saban said he didn't decide to start Lacy (36 yards, one touchdown) until the junior tested his ankle before the game. Yeldon would have taken his place.
''We had total faith, trust and confidence in T.J.,'' Saban said. ''If Eddie couldn't have gone, T.J. was going to start. Eddie played well in pre-game and in practice for two or three days, so we played Eddie.''
Lacy also thrived as Richardson's backup last season and has averaged 7.1 yards a carry the past two seasons. However, he was limited the past two weeks of preseason camp by the ankle injury.
Yeldon proved a capable understudy, as Williams quickly figured out in the spring.
''We saw he had the hips, he had the speed, he had the agility to make big plays in this league,'' Williams said. ''And we saw (Saturday) night he got off to a good start and we're looking forward to him doing that the rest of the year.''
It's a deep position for Alabama. The bruising Fowler gained 67 yards on eight carries. Dee Hart was one of the nation's top running back prospects in 2011 before missing his freshman season with a knee injury. All told, the Tide racked up 232 yards on the ground.
Yeldon broke several arm tackles on a 40-yard run against Michigan.
That's when Alabama guard Anthony Steen said teammates felt sure they had another backfield star in the making.
''When we got in the huddle, we all were smiling,'' Steen said, ''and we knew what was about to happen.''
Yeldon also showed patience and vision before darting through holes, besides the physical attributes.
At the least, there's the promise of another formidable tailback duo following in the footsteps of Richardson-Mark Ingram and Richardson-Lacy.
Yeldon was Alabama's Mr. Football and one of the nation's top recruits. He flipped his verbal commitment from Tide rival Auburn last December.
''Hopefully we'll get Eddie more and more healthy and he and T.J. can continue to maybe develop into a really good tandem with some other guys being able to contribute to that as well,'' Saban said.
Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Lance Guidry said Yeldon ''is the best one'' among Alabama's tailbacks.
''Not to short any of the other guys but I think he's really explosive,'' Guidry said.
The backs' success allowed quarterback AJ McCarron to have some success on the play-action passes.
''You can tell there's a little more play action in the future,'' Williams said.
AP Sports Writer Gary Graves in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
When you're the defending national champions, and you're coming off a 41-14 shellacking of a Top 10 team, and you've just climbed to #1 in the polls once again... you'd think that Nick Saban could smile for just one second of his life.
Last we saw Nick Saban, he was being a jerk to Heather Cox for asking a simple question during a simple sideline interview...
Nick Saban blew up on the media during his press conference on Wednesday in what appeared to be an attempt to control the media’s coverage of his team.
The Alabama coach is upset that his team is getting pumped up by the media and fans after one big win over Michigan, and he’s fearful that his players may get too cocky and be thrown off in their quest to win another national...
In week one, I went a perfect 13-0 (because my upset special picks are just for fun and I don't count Twitter predictions), including a perfect 24-17 pick for the Florida-Bowling Green game. Pretty good start, I'd say.
But it wasn't the start I wanted in other respects, if you get what I'm saying. I'd trade 100% on picks for a real win any day. Should I try...
Alabama coach Nick Saban always preaches about respecting the opponent, whether it's Michigan or Western Kentucky. Prepare, stay focused and don't get swept up in the positive things people are saying about the Crimson Tide.
Still, it's hard to be humble for a team that just dispatched the preseason top 10 Wolverines, rose to No. 1 and now welcomes a six-touchdown underdog...
Alabama head coach Nick Saban ripped into reporters after practice Wednesday evening. He felt like the Tide's opponent this week--Western Kentucky--was not receiving enough respectful or positive coverage and he wanted to make sure his opinion on that matter was heard.
"I'll show you where you can shove that microphone..."
College football’s ruling tyrant, Nick Saban, is ordering you, members of the media, to spare him all your love and adoration.
On the heels of his team’s dismantling of Michigan over the weekend, Saban berated the hacks in attendance at his Wednesday media session, letting them know...
Check out the video. Alabama head football coach Nick Saban isn’t a happy camper. The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 1 in the country after pounding the Michigan Wolverines. Alabama is a 40-point favorite to beat Western Kentucky on Saturday. That prompted Saban to go off on the media for not showing the Hilltoppers any respect.
Right guard Anthony Steen said he didn't know Alabama was ranked No. 1 in both polls after practice Tuesday night. Clearly, the news is not a hot topic of conversation among the Tide.
As we ended the first week of college football, not many teams jumped in or out of the rankings. Only one team entered the AP Top 25 poll and that was Notre Dame at 21, who moved in when Boise State fell out. I will use the AP Top 25 for my weekly capsules on teams. Since this is the first week, I will not be using the Pre-Season ranks and will instead just go from the...
One of the goals of the Alabama offense is “to end every drive with a kick.” Ideally, of course, that kick is an extra point. Next best usually is a field goal try. The third option is a punt. No disrespect to Western Kentucky, but Bama would hope to not have too many punts when the Crimson Tide has its home opener Saturday.
For all its recruiting mite, Alabama hadn't secured a verbal commitment in the class of 2014 until Friday when Bo Scarborough confirmed his pledge to the Crimson Tide.