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March 3, 2011
Moving forward: With two years of experience and plenty of success, junior Trent Richardson's role as Alabama's primary ball carrier in 2011 should be secure as long as he stays healthy. His game and size are ideal for what UA coach Nick Saban and running backs coach Burton Burns prefer - power, toughness, and a one-cut, get-upfield style. Richardson is capable of taking on a larger workload than he had while sharing carries with Ingram for two seasons, but if reserves emerge behind him, that may not be necessary this fall.
Moving up: This is where things get interesting for the Crimson Tide at this position. First, Eddie Lacy's readiness to spell Richardson as UA's No.2 rusher will get its first true challenge this spring. He averaged an impressive 7.2 yards per carry (56 for 406), but wasn't fire-tested in big games at big moments. Still, his combination of size and speed has the look of an effective complement to Richardson. Alabama's third running back, often a third-down role in passing situations, requires not only a good rusher and receiver but an effective pass blocker as well. Bullish 240-pound sophomore Jalston Fowler is one option, if not the prototypical third-down back in terms of size. As smaller, quicker backs, Corey Grant and Demetrius Goode more naturally fit the typical third-down mold, though Grant practiced at cornerback for part of last year and may get a look there again in the spring. Also keep an eye on redshirt freshman Blake Sims.
Moving day: Five-star recruit Dee Hart graduated in December from Orlando Dr. Phillips High, and is the only running back among nine mid-term enrollers joining the team for spring drills. At just 190 pounds, it's hard to imagine Hart being immediately ready for the pounding that goes with regular carries in SEC play. But more reasonable might be his ability to challenge for the third-down role.
Position overview: Alabama's stable of running backs is in good hands at the top with Richardson. Cultivating Lacy, or someone else, as a reliable No.2 back is no doubt a priority for Burns this spring. The emergence of a third running back would be ideal for UA, but as last season showed, UA's No.3 rusher isn't guaranteed regular playing time, either.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ChaseGoodbread.