The days of a single running back carrying the bulk of his team’s carries is over, at least for the University of Alabama football team.
The multi running back philosophy arrived in Tuscaloosa about the same time Nick Saban took over the reigns as the head coach of the Crimson Tide. In 2007, the use of multiple running backs was limited, mostly due to the Tide’s rebuilding depth after years of scholarship restrictions. Then in 2008, change came in a number of different ways.
Saban started the off-season by heading north to convince a kid from Flint, Michigan to play for the Tide, eventually securing the services of Mark Ingram. Saban then paired his newest recruit with junior Glen Coffee and the Tide began to change. A team that went 7-6 in 2007 suddenly turned into a 12-2 team, staking their claim as one of the nation’s top teams as the duo rushed for over 2000 yards.
High School running backs took notice. No longer scared of the depth chart, Saban continued to land elite running backs when Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson both signed their letters of intent and faxed them to the Mal Moore Football complex in the winter of 2009. The following January with Ingram and Richardson splitting carries Alabama eventually claimed their first Heisman Trophy and its first national championship in 17 season.
With the enormity of success in three short seasons in Tuscaloosa, recruits began to buy into the Saban philosophy even more so than they had in the past. If Saban’s NFL pedigree and success at LSU wasn’t enough to garner their attention, his accelerated success at Alabama was certainly able to do so.
Fast forward two years later, Alabama is tied with Boise State University for the most wins since 2008 with 52; now, instead of utilizing two running backs, Alabama is getting more players involved.
Alabama may be heading into their 5th game of the season Saturday against the Ole Miss Rebels but they already have 6 players with double digit carries. While Jalston Fowler will be out of the picture for the rest of 2012, the Tide will still be in good shape. Eddie Lacy, Kenyan Drake, Dee Hart, TJ Yeldon and even walk on Ben Howell have all proved to be more than serviceable.
Instead of having one guy out there every play, Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has kept opposing defensive coordinators guessing, utilizing each player’s particular skill set for the play called. Need to power through the line? Send out Lacy or Yeldon. Change the pace of the game? Hart and Drake have shown the explosiveness to pick up the pace. And if the Crimson Tide need to take the air out of the ball, who better to close out the game than former Gordo High School (23 miles from Tuscaloosa) standout Howell.
In a day and age of spread offenses, dual threat quarterbacks, and up tempo schemes, the Crimson Tide will continue to run a different style of offense.