Alabama Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon was thrown immediately into the fire last season, earning a significant amount of playing time as a true freshman. Yeldon went from Alabama’s Mr. Football as a senior in high school to a 1,000-yard rusher in the backfield for the BCS national champions.
The Tide’s primary rusher last season, Eddie Lacy, has moved on to the NFL, and Yeldon will now be the featured back on a team that is expected to be in the hunt for yet another national championship.
The 6-foo-2, 218-pound Yeldon made his presence known immediately last season when he rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown in his first career game, which happened to be against the Michigan Wolverines.
Later in the season, Yeldon posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Southeastern Conference opponents. Against the Missouri Tigers, Yeldon had 18 carries for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his next game, Yeldon rushed 15 times for 129 yards and two more scores, this time against the Tennessee Volunteers.
Yeldon saved his biggest effort for the biggest game of the season, the Tide’s SEC Championship Game win over the Georgia Bulldogs. In that contest, Yeldon got a career-high 25 carries for a season-best 153 yards and a touchdown, as the Tide moved into the BCS title game.
In the national championship win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Yeldon had 21 carries for 108 yards and a score, helping the Tide secure the title.
With Lacy gone, Yeldon will be the primary rusher for the Tide this season. That means he’ll be the focus of SEC defenses who are trying to upset Alabama. But with A.J. McCarron back at quarterback and Amari Cooper returning at wide receiver, defenses will have to respect the passing game as well, which should open holes for Yeldon to rush through.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban loves to win with defense and the running game, and that means plenty of touches for Yeldon in 2013. Look for Yeldon to have an even better campaign this fall, one that might land him in the Heisman Trophy race at the end of the year.