TUSCALOOSA, Ala . — In their first season as full-time starters, Alabama tailbacks aren’t really expected to top 1,500 yards and get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
It just seems that way.
Eddie Lacy enters the season as the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s new front-runner in the backfield after performing well as a backup. Just like predecessors Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman Trophy winner, national champion, first-round NFL draft pick) and Trent Richardson (2011 Heisman finalist, national champion and first-round draft pick).
Lacy, the former Dutchtown High star, insists he and his fellow Alabama tailbacks haven’t spent much time discussing how they’d live up to those lofty standards going into Saturday night’s opener with No. 8 Michigan in Arlington, Texas.
“We don’t talk about it much,” he said. “We basically just go out there and push each other to be the best we can be.”
Lacy greeted most reporters’ questions this week with grins and similarly unrevealing answers. He’ll get to show a little more about his abilities as the successor to Ingram and Richardson in his first start.
So far, so good. He has run for 1,071 yards and 13 touchdowns, while averaging 7.1 yards per carry, the past two seasons. The 6-foot, 220-pound Lacy even drew the nickname “Circle Button” from teammates for his spin move, a nod to video game controls.
“He’s a big, tough running back,” Michigan linebacker Kenny Demens said. “He’s not just powerful, he’s elusive. He spins, jumps and jukes. He’s going to be a tough guy to get down.”
Demens said Lacy is very similar in one respect to Ingram and Richardson.
“He’s just like those guys,” Demens said. “He’s good.”
Lacy’s counterpart, Fitzgerald Toussaint, is a question mark in this game for a different reason. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke wouldn’t say Wednesday if Toussaint will play in the opener, four days after he pleaded guilty to drunken driving.
Lacy has dealt with nagging injuries. He sat out the spring after surgery for a toe injury that plagued him since Game 4 last season against Arkansas. He was somewhat limited as a precaution last week with an ankle injury.
“Eddie looks good,” quarterback AJ McCarron said. “I don’t think his toe is bothering him at all. If it is, I can’t tell. He’s cutting fast. He looks light on his feet. He’s picking up blitzes really well. We’re going to need Eddie to play well on Saturday for us to be successful.”
Lacy is coy on his health, except for saying the toe is “very good.”
“I never put a percent on it,” he said, “but I rehab and progress every day.”
Ingram and Richardson averaged 1,573 yards and 19 touchdowns in their first seasons as full-time starters. Before that, Glen Coffee gained 1,383 yards in 2008. Lacy has plenty of potential help to share the load.
Freshman T.J. Yeldon was MVP of the spring game after enrolling in January. He and redshirt freshman Dee Hart are both former five-star prospects who haven’t gotten onto the field for a game yet.
Lacy brings more than runs to the team, though. He also provides comic relief. Teammates describe him as one of the funniest Tide players.
“People don’t realize that he brings a lot of energy to the offense, not only in his rushes but more so in his personality,” Alabama guard Chance Warmack said. “Of course, he rushes for a lot of yards, but he’s a very positive person. He brings a lot of people up in the huddle.”
First and foremost, very athletic, tremendous running back. But his personality is amazing.”